11 December 2018

Welcome to Tuesday’s podcast. Yesterday we began our week by remembering that the Bible is the story of God’s plan for the world and for us, and that it is the story of Jesus the King, who changes everything.

I also said that the Bible is a story of love and of rescue; and our focus today is on Jesus the Rescuer.


The Bible passage is Matthew 27 vs45-56. Rather than having the Bible passage read at the end of the podcast, I’m going to read a paraphrase of this whole passage from The Jesus Storybook Bible at the beginning.

“Papa?” Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. “Papa? Where are you? Don’t leave me!”
And for the first time, and the last, when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn’t answer. He turned away from his Boy.
Tears rolled down Jesus’ face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.
Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world. The sun could not shine. The earth trembled and quaked. The great mountains shook. Rocks split in two. Until it seemed that the whole world would break. That creation itself would tear apart.
The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down. On his own Son. Instead of his people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.
Then Jesus shouted out in a loud voice, “It is finished!”
And it was. He had done it. Jesus had rescued the whole world.
“Father!” Jesus cried. “I give you my life.” And with a great sigh he let himself die.

Over the past few years the BBC Natural History department has made some great TV programmes, giving us real moments of drama – who can forget the racer snakes chasing newly hatched baby iguanas down the beach!

At the moment I’m watching their latest production – Dynasties – which last month had the nation in tears as it showed a lioness called Charm, make the clearly agonising decision to walk away from her 1 year old cub, leaving him to die alone. The film crew showed her twice looking back over her shoulder, before finally turning her back on him, because she knew that the rest of the pride needed her for their survival. She left her son to die, in order that the whole pride might be saved.

We see the same drama in the Bible passage today. In verse 46 Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I like the Jesus Storybook Bible language and explanation of this. Jesus cries out to God: “Don’t leave me!” But God had turned away from his one and only Son.

Jesus’ words show his humanity. That very human fear of being left, abandoned, isolated……with no-one to rescue him. And whether you are a parent or not, it is hard for any of us to imagine the pain that God the Father went through as he made the decision to turn his back, to walk away, to leave his Son and not to rescue him. Because in this moment on the cross, God left his son to die, in order that the whole world might be rescued from the consequence of sin – which is death.

Returning to the BBC Dynasties series, the week before the lion drama, we watched an emotional roller coaster of an episode all about emperor penguins. During a fierce Antartic storm, a group of penguins and their chicks were blown into a gully with sides of ice. They had no hope of survival. The programme showed one particular penguin clawing its way out of the gully, but leaving its chick behind to die. That penguin chose to save itself, rather than face death.

In the crucifixion, Jesus does the complete opposite. He could have chosen to save himself. He could have used all the power and might of heaven to pull off the most dramatic, miraculous rescue of all time. But he didn’t. For me, it is this act that proves his perfect, sinless nature. The very nature of sin is that it places us at the centre, rather than God. Selfishness and pride are at its root. However in Jesus we see something totally different – a man who was utterly selfless, who set aside everything that he had, and everything that he was, and chose to stay on the cross and experience the “full force of the storm of God’s great anger at sin” in order that the whole of humankind did not have to face death, but instead could be rescued.

In the final part of the Dynasties programme about penguins, viewers learnt how the film crew had taken the controversial decision to intervene and help the birds trapped in the gully. They couldn’t look on as they faced certain death, and not attempt to rescue them. And so, they dug a series of ledges or gentle slopes in the side of the gully, so that the penguins could walk along this path and be set free. Newsfeeds were full of debate about whether the crew should have intervened or whether they should have just let nature take its course. However, in their defence the BBC pointed out that they had not directly removed the penguins. They had made a path, but the birds themselves had to choose to walk along it.

Then Jesus shouted out in a loud voice, “It is finished!”
And it was. He had done it. Jesus had rescued the whole world.

By dying on the cross Jesus rescued the whole world from sin. However, if Jesus is to be our rescuer, then we need to reach the point where we realise that we need to be rescued.

It’s not an enforced rescue. It is a choice.

The BBC camera crew dug the path, and provided the way for the penguins to be saved. However, the penguins had to realise that they faced death and choose to take that route to freedom.

In many ways it is the same for us, except that the gully we are trapped in is of our own doing.

There are two great verses in the Gospel of John that are probably well known by many of us.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  And in John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

God gave Jesus to the world to be our rescuer, but we have to admit that we need rescuing, and then choose to follow him, and to walk in his ways, if we are to experience true freedom in this life and have the promise of eternal life when we die.

Where do you need to know Jesus as your Rescuer today?


Heavenly Father, thankyou that you are our Rescuer. Help us to follow you, show us how to walk in your ways, in order that we can experience life in all its fullness, both now and into eternity. Amen.

READING: Matthew 27: 45-56

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He’s calling Elijah.’

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.’

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.