As a pastor in Salt Lake City, UT I remember hearing a story that would become a national headline. The story was about Aron Ralston, a 27 year old, avid outdoorsman who was hiking and climbing alone in a remote area of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT on a Saturday in 2003.
At some point during Aron’s climbing adventure he became pinned in a 3-foot wide slot canyon. Apparently as he made his way through, a boulder became dislodged and slipped down the canyon wedging itself in the canyon and pinning Aron’s right arm against the canyon wall. By Tuesday he had run out of water, by Thursday he realized that it would take something quite drastic to free himself or he would die pinned there with his arm beneath the boulder. As the saying goes Aron was literally, “caught between a rock and a hard place.”
He reached for his multitool which included a dull 2-inch knife, and there, in what’s known as Blue John Canyon, Aron Ralston cut through his own arm just below the elbow. After that, he managed to apply a tourniquet, do a little first aid, rig some anchors, fix a rope, and rappel to the bottom of the canyon. Then he walked out to meet the emergency personnel who had been searching for him.
If you think about it the Bible portrays our human spiritual dilemma in much the same way. We were in quite the jam as well, caught in a similar predicament not physically but spiritually. We were unable to maneuver to free ourselves despite our frustrated efforts to do so.
The book of Romans describes our life and death struggle saying:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” Romans 5:12
This is the “rock and a hard place” for every single person. Could anything be done about it? Could we become “unhemmed” and find our way out of the predicament. Out from under the pressure of sin that threatened to destroy us?
Better question, could we do anything to be free from certain death? The Bible thankfully doesn’t call for any self-amputation. But, there would have to be an “amputation” for sure, and not just of a limb, but an entire body. Jesus Christ himself, as predicted by the prophet Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus would even walk on the earth, would be “cut off” from the land of the “living” for our sins, a “lamb” taken to slaughter. (Isaiah 53:8)
Just a few verses prior in verse 5 of Isaiah 53 Isaiah describes it even more vividly:
Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, HE was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon HIM, and by HIS wounds we are healed.”
So this passage reveals to us something absolutely crucial to the Gospel. Rather than you and I being crushed Jesus takes our place. He substituted himself. Put himself in the jam. When the weight of death was pressing on you and me, He said, let it be me and not them! I’ll take their place out of a deep profound love for them. That’s why Tim Keller says:
“All real, life-changing love is substitutionary, sacrificial love.” -Tim Keller
I’m a fan of the warehouse store COSTCO. But I always get a little paranoid that somewhere between the checkout counter where they give you your receipt and the exit where they check to see if you have a receipt that I could lose that receipt and be in trouble!
Think of the resurrection as a receipt! It shows that you’re covered. That what Jesus purchased is legit! So Jesus pays for everything then we get credit for it and then can show the receipt showing that our lives have been paid for. There’s only one way to receive the receipt and that is by declaring your belief in the legitimacy of the claims of Jesus. Here’s Paul talking about it in Romans:
9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
11“Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 …who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Whatever ROCK you been living under the RESURRECTION is a guarantee that you don’t have to LIVE under it and you don’t have to do any crude amputations.
The RESURRECTION is a RECEIPT that says it’s all been PAID and accepted in FULL. Stop living under a rock! Stop trying to save yourself. THE COST OF FREEDOM IS SIMPLY TO BELIEVE!