The story was about Japanese people who have been left stranded by one of the two disasters to strike their country: the earthquake /tsunami and the compromised nuclear reactor. Some got cut off because roads were knocked out. Others are in areas that have been declared off-limits because of potential radioactive fall-out. Many elderly and sick could not be transported.
Stranded. No communication or supplies. Most likely dying.
Yet waiting. Interesting, isn’t it? Even in that devastating circumstance, there is an undercurrent of hope that someone will come to help.
But not just any someone. They wait on the merciful—people full of mercy, who have that wondrous mixture of compassion and love. Someone whose heart is so moved by the plight of the stranded that they would leave their safe place to come into the danger zone to rescue them. Someone whose mercy is larger than their fear and more compelling than self-preservation. Someone convinced that the life of the stranded is worth the risk.
The story turns on the possible encounter between the stranded and the merciful.
This is also a wonderful picture of the gospel promise of Jesus.
People like us– and those most dear to us– are the desperate ones, especially if we have no real relationship with God through Jesus. Living without Him puts us in a danger zone: ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31) The evidences of that distance are everywhere: exhausting pursuits, addictions seeking satisfaction, fractured relationships, hollow achievements and our self-centered / God-belittling default settings–not to mention the general stress of the everyday in a broken world.
And we are stranded there because we cannot produce enough to tip the scale in our favor, run far enough to escape, or improve our souls enough to get out of the trouble. “None is righteous….all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 23)
So, we are both stranded and dying. Waiting and hoping—even if we don’t have a name for the hope.
But mercy comes running in the person of Jesus. With stunning compassion and love, He left the safety of heaven to rescue us by willingly dying in our place on the cross. “When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy” (Titus 3:4-5)
And then He rose again, proving that everything He promised was true, and that our rescue is complete. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4) A whole new life — full, overflowing with heaven, deep with meaning beyond our circumstances–is given us in Jesus.
In other words, the Merciful found the stranded, brought them out and brought them Home. It’s a rescue that changes a life now and for eternity.
In a few weeks, we’ll celebrate Easter, again marking Jesus’ sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. Christ-followers will remember our merciful rescue and the hope we enjoy because of it.
But there’s more. Jesus has given us an assignment. It is stark and astonishing in its demand: “As the Father sent Me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) Why did the Father send Jesus? “…He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18) “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43) “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
So, Jesus sends us into the danger zone of the world, where people are soul-sick yet look fine, messed-up while looking all-together, God-doubting and cynically sure of some spirituality, moral yet without righteousness. Few of them look like they’ve been through a tsunami of any kind. Most aren’t yet aware that they are stranded and desperate.
We have been sent with the good news to facilitate an encounter between the Merciful Jesus and the stranded lost people we know. We do more than speak words about Jesus; we put skin on Jesus’ compassion and radical love.
Why? Why step into the mess? Why take the risk?
Because…. the stranded still await the merciful.