Mary and Joseph lay huddled under thin sleep with their warmly wrapped newborn nesting between them. Some time later in the fog of slumber three unkempt figures shuffled out of the darkness whispering loudly enough to waken them. You could smell the men before seeing them; three rough and bedraggled shepherds clutching a lamb and talking of angels appearing in the fields outside the city where they had been tending their sheep.
What an incongruous situation! Imagine the vulnerability of it all? God becoming human and submitting to a process of utter helplessness, entrusting himself into the hands of those whom he had created! Why would he do such a thing?
“Little by little, I rip through the tendon until I totally sever the twin-like filament, then switch the tool back to the knife, using my teeth to extract the blade. It’s 11:16 a.m.; I’ve been cutting for over forty minutes. With my fingers, I take an inventory of what I have left: two small clusters of muscle. Another artery, and a quarter circumference of skin nearest the wall. There is also a pale white nerve strand, as thick as a swollen piece of angel-hair pasta……. Pulling tight the remaining connective tissue of my arm, I rock the knife against the wall, and the final thin strand of flesh tears loose, tensile force rips the skin apart more than the blade cuts….. I AM FREE!”(Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Aron Ralston – Atria Books p.284-5)
That’s how Aron Ralston describes eventually extricating himself from an impossible situation. Trapped in a hiking accident in the Blue John Canyon, Utah, his arm was pinned under a fallen rock that held him prisoner for five days. Eventually with no alternative remaining he cut off his arm below the elbow with a penknife, applied a tourniquet, and hiked out.
It was a radical solution for a desperate situation where death loomed menacing and large. Friendship with the every muscle, cell, and organ of his body required sacrificing the beloved arm in order for the rest to continue living. The pain and anguish of his courageous action became ‘worth it’ as he contemplated the bigger picture – actually his very survival. Under ‘normal’ circumstance no one in their right minds would even consider such a thing.
What would you do to salvage a friendship on the rocks? It all depends how important the relationship is, doesn’t it?
God’s ‘friendship’ and love for human beings – every single one of us, demanded that he ‘do something radical’ to help his ‘friends’ be set free. Trapped under a massive boulder of darkness, rebellion, and ‘sin’ they were prevented from responding to his love. In fact the ‘blood supply’ had stopped flowing almost completely so that they, the extended limb, lost all sensitivity of being connected to a larger body. They became insensitive and indifferent to their plight and had learned to manage their plight so well that most of them did not even realize there was a problem anymore.
God took the initiative and Jesus came to the rescue! He vulnerably suffered for us, positioning himself under ‘the boulder’ and taking the pain (that would physically kill him) as he lifted its weight off you and me so that we could walk free. It was an unanticipated and unbelievable solution to a radical and life-threatening predicament.
“Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for a friend.” That’s extreme friendship modeled by God in the vulnerable human form of Jesus on earth, in history, living among people like us who scratched their heads in disbelief. We trash the treasure and he restores it……