With the subway fast approaching, Autry left his two daughters on the platform and jumped onto the tracks, hoping to pull Hollopeter to safety. With the subway mere seconds away, Autry threw his body over Hollopeter’s frame, as it nested in the 12-inch depression between the tracks, in order to shield him from moving until the subway passed.
Although the subway conductor tried to stop the subway, he could not do so prior to passing over the two-tiered bodies. In fact, five subway cars passed over them. Through bystanders’ frantic screams and screeching brakes, the subway finally came to a halt. Amazingly, both Autry and Hollopeter emerged from the tracks unscathed. The distance between the top of Autry’s cap and the subway above was less than the length of a subway ticket.
Why would a complete stranger do something for someone else at such great risk to his own life? Answer: In that split second decision, Autry valued this young man’s life above his own. As we think about Calvary’s cross, why would God send His only Son to die for us? The Bible tells us that, “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” (John 3:16). Paul wrote to the Roman church: “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Paul declared to the Galatian church: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). The reason God sent His Son to die for us is that in eternity past, God knew that all humanity would need to be restored into right relationship with God through forgiveness of their sins. Jesus came to take upon Himself the sins of the entire world. The One who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Although many were involved in Christ’s death (i.e., the betrayer Judas Iscariot, complicit Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, and Pilate), the Scriptures makes clear that Jesus voluntarily gave Himself to fulfill the Father’s will “so that by the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19b).
In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott puts it simply (pp. 63-66). First, Christ died for us as the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep. Second, Christ died for us that He might bring us to God through salvation, as we believe in Him. Third, Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3), taking upon Himself the punishment for our sins. And fourth, Christ died our death. The Bible makes clear that the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The sinless Son of God died the death that we deserved.
Like Cameron Hollopeter, I was laying helpless on the subway tracks with the subway fast approaching. Jesus sacrificially jumped on the tracks of my life (leaving the 99 sheep to reach the one, who had gone astray), just as Autry left his two daughters on the subway platform to save Hollopeter. Jesus shielded me from certain death.
In preparing for Easter during this Lenten season, how do you respond when you think about Christ’s forgiveness of sin and His sacrifice on the cross for you personally?