THE CHILEAN MINE RESCUE:
"Good News" Parallels
by Timothy Cross
October 2010 saw the eyes of the world on the San Jose mine in Chile, South America. Thirty-three miners were trapped some 2,300 feet underground, as 700,000 tons of rock had collapsed, entombing the miners alive. On October 13, though, ‘Operation Lorenzo’ came into effect. The miners were rescued, one by one, through a newly drilled vertical shaft enabling a metal capsule – named Phoenix 2 – to be lowered to the men and bring them to the surface. The capsule only had room for one man at a time, so the operation took all day. As each miner surfaced at ground level they were warmly – even ecstatically – greeted by friends, family and the President of Chile. The jubilation and celebration were indescribable. Operation Lorenzo was a resounding success. The miners all looked surprisingly well considering they had been under ground for sixty-nine days, in temperatures of thirty degrees.
The Chilean mine rescue was good news. Thinking about it, however, we see parallels with the Good News, that is, the Christian Gospel. For the Christian Gospel is essentially a rescue operation – God’s Own rescue of perishing sinners. Four words will enable us to understand this. The words are Incarceration, Salvation, Reconciliation, and Transformation.
The thirty-three miners were trapped in the mine below. There was no way out for them apart from outside help. The Bible teaches that by nature we are trapped in sin. We are slaves to sin and under the just condemnation of God unless we are rescued from our condemned plight. We are actually powerless to help ourselves, for we lack the ability to blot out all our transgressions against God, and we lack the capacity to live in such a way that we gain a righteous status before God adequate for His perfection. In a nutshell, we are sinners who need to be saved.
Salvation means ‘rescue’ or ‘deliverance.’ It was the decent of Phoenix 2 which saved the Chilean miners from their plight, lifting them back to normal life and light. The Christian Gospel proclaims that God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, actually descended from heaven to earth to save sinners. ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). Here is the ‘outside help’ we so desperately need. And it was on the cross of Calvary that the sinless Christ paid the price for the sins of His people to set them free from their condemnation. Christ suffered the sinner’s condemnation to procure the sinner’s justification and liberation. The Bible says ‘The LORD sets the prisoners free’ (Psalm 146:7). Jesus said ‘If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36). The technical term for this is ‘redemption.’ To redeem means ‘to set free by paying a price.’ The Gospel proclaims that Jesus’ Own blood was the redemption price paid to liberate sinners. ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:7).
To reconcile means ‘to bring together two parties who were previously apart.’ No one could fail to be moved at the joyful scenes of the miners greeting and hugging their wives, children and friends after their long ordeal. They were now together again and their fears were over.
The Christian Gospel is a Gospel of reconciliation too. Jesus, by His death on the cross reconciles sinners to God. ‘We ... rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through Whom we have now received our reconciliation’ (Romans 5:11). ‘In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). ‘In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:13). The Christian church is known for its hymns of praise. There is good reason for this. The Gospel of reconciliation is a salvation to celebrate!
‘You are not the same and the country is not the same after this’ said the Chilean President to one miner. ‘I’m going to change a lot after this’ said Jimmy Sanchez, who, at nineteen, was the youngest of the miners to be rescued. The miners surely will never be the same again after their ‘death and resurrection’ experience. They will always appreciate being able to see the sky and breath fresh air. Similarly, once we have a saving encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are never the same again. Our world and our destiny is now infinitely different. The hymn writer wrote:
Heaven above is softer blue
Earth around is sweeter green
Something lives in every hue
Christ-less eyes have never seen
Birds with gladder songs o’er flow
Flowers with deeper beauties shine
Since I know, as now I know
I am His and He is mine.
Jesus brings transformation. ‘Therefore if any one is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, condemned sinners are forgiven, the children of wrath become the children of God and those heading for hell are put on the royal road to heaven. Truly, ‘He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free.’
Incarceration, Salvation, Reconciliation, Transformation. The words encapsulate the Chilean mine rescue and also encapsulate the Christian Gospel. The media, it is often said, does not often broadcast good news. Christians, though, have always had Good News to broadcast: The Gospel of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Through faith in the crucified Saviour, condemned sinners are eternally saved! The cross of Christ was and is God’s very Own rescue operation for perishing sinners.