You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6,8
Daniel J. Habben
On Nov. 7, 1907, a boxcar containing dynamite caught fire in the village of Nacozari in Sonora, Mexico. When the flames reached the dynamite, the blast was felt ten miles away! The whole town of Nacozari should have been blown apart like dandelion seeds scattered by a single careless puff.
But it wasn’t—thanks to railroad engineer Jesús García. When Jesús noticed the flames in the boxcar, he quickly drove the train away from the town, where it exploded harmlessly. Well, harmlessly for the people of Nacozari, but not for Jesús. He gave his life to save the lives of many.
There is, of course, another “Jesús” who gave his life in a daring rescue. On Good Friday, Jesus of Nazareth hitched the world’s sins to himself and hauled them to Golgotha. Atop that hill, God’s fury exploded with a deafening silence.
Want to know why Jesus did it? Step close. Press your eye to the keyhole of the cross. Beyond that keyhole you’ll see something more than a sense of duty. You’ll see the vast room of God’s astonishing love . . . a love that is for sinners.
A LOVE FOR SINNERS
Jesús García is hailed as a hero because he saved a town of hard-working folks, of boys and girls, grandpas and grandmas. But what if he had driven the smoldering dynamite away from the mansion of a drug lord? Would newspaper headlines have read, “Jesús García demonstrates love by dying for drug lord”? More likely they would call him a fool for sacrificing his life for scum.
So consider what the apostle Paul writes about the rescue that Jesus of Nazareth pulled off: “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). We may not live outside the law like a drug lord, but we routinely step outside of God’s boundaries. God forbids stealing, but we download music we didn’t buy. God tells us to speak the truth, but we’d rather blame our teacher for our failing grade than admit we didn’t apply ourselves. God tells us to be slow to anger, but anger zips to the surface when we’re face to face with obstinate kids, a red light, or a coworker’s criticism. Are these nitpicky sins that God doesn’t really care about?
Tell me, how big a flame does it take to ignite a stick of dynamite? Won’t just a spark do? Every sin, no matter how small, is a spark that threatens to blow up our relationship with God. Humanity was a smoking carload of dynamite, licked by the flames of our own sins, when God sent his Son to our rescue . . . and to his death.
The citizens of Nacozari were so thankful to Jesús García for saving them that they renamed their town after him. Jerusalem was not renamed “Jesus-ville” in honor of the Savior’s sacrifice on Good Friday. But you, dear reader, have been renamed. Once an enemy of God, now you are part of God’s family and have peace. You really have a reason to rejoice. Why? Because God’s astonishing love is for you.
Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. Peter, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada.
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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 103, Number 6
Issue: June 2016
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