It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve and Mike was in Washington D.C. making his final delivery of the day for his small air transport business. He knew that if he hurried he could make his D.C. delivery and be back in the air in time to get home to Johnson City before his kids went to bed. He knew it would be pushing it, but after all, it was Christmas Eve. It was snowing like crazy and the forecast was for more snow overnight, and there was no way he was going to take a chance at being stuck in a strange city on Christmas while his family celebrated without him. So as soon as his delivery was made, he jumped back in to his airplane and prepared for a quick take off.
He was nearing the end of the runway and had just gotten airborne when he realized that something was not right. The plane was having a problem gaining altitude and was heading straight for a bridge over the Potomac River; one that was filled with rush hour traffic. Somehow, miraculously, Mike was able to maneuver the small plane in such a way to miss the bridge, but he couldn’t keep it from a nosedive afterwards, straight into the icy river below. On impact the plane disintegrated into hundreds of pieces as it made a gaping hole in the icy surface of the Potomac. Mike was helpless; fighting for his life in the icy water as the debris from the plane quickly sank below the surface and out of sight. He knew with the temperature of the water that he didn’t have long before the river would claim his life as well.
Bystanders quickly responded and attempted to come to his rescue, but the ice, now shattered by the impact of the plane, was so fragile that no one could get close enough to help. They were helpless to do anything but watch and pray. Rescue workers arrived quickly on the scene as Mike was still battling for his life in the icy waters. Who knew how much longer he could stay afloat? A rescue helicopter arrived for the airport in a matter of minutes and tried to drop a basket down to him to pull him to safety. But by now Mike’s hands and arms were too frozen to be able to grasp it. There was absolutely nothing he could do to save himself. Time was running out quickly as Mike began to go under the water time after time before he would eventually pop back up to the surface again. Finally, he had given all he had to give and he went under for the last time. A collective gasp went up from the bystanders as they figured all hope was lost.
Suddenly, before anyone really knew what was happening, a figure jumped out of the helicopter and into the icy water…it was one of the rescue crew. At the risk of his own life he plunged down into the icy depths over and over again as he tried to locate Mike’s body. He dove down time after time until, at last, he appeared with a lifeless Mike in his arms. The rescuer, now on the verge of death himself somehow was able, in a valiant act of strength and courage, to miraculously drag Mike’s limp body into the rescue basket. Then he repeatedly performed CPR, trying to breathe life back into Mike’s lifeless body. Finally, with his very last breath, the rescuer was able to breathe life back into Mike’s dead body, bringing him to life once again, but at the cost of his own. The Rescuer had given his dying breath to Mike in order that he might live.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)