On July 24, 2002, disaster struck the Quecreek coal mine in Somerset, Pennsylvania. A poorly documented underground reservoir was breached and within minutes fifty million gallons of water gushed through the walls and flooded the entire mine. Incredibly, nine men found refuge 240 feet underground in a cramped, partially flooded chamber where they waited for more than three days. They knew that since the air supply was limited their survival was unlikely but a frantic rescue effort was unfolding above.
Mine officials determined exactly where the trapped men would be if they had fled to the highest point underground. Painstakingly they drilled a small hole 240 feet straight down to that spot and then lowered a microphone to determine if the men were still alive.
When they heard movement and voices below an official asked what would later prove to be a laughable question, “Are you the nine trapped miners?” One of them quipped, “Well there’s no one else walking around down here!” When the news that the men were still alive reached the surface family members and the citizens of Somerset were euphoric. However, it was one thing to communicate with the trapped men, it was still another to rescue them before it was too late.
Another much larger shaft had to be drilled, wide enough to lower a 22 inch rescue capsule that could lift the men to safety. Even though a drill bit broke, delaying the procedure, the rescue workers were finally able to lower a cage down to where the men had languished in fear and anticipation for seventy seven hours. At 2:45 a.m. on July 28, 2002 the last of the nine men was pulled to safety and the entire nation rejoiced.
Can you imagine one of those trapped men asking, “Is this the only way out?” Or saying, “Getting into that narrow capsule frightens me, I ‘m going to see if I can’t make it on my own.” Of course not! Every trapped miner was elated to have a way out and snatched the opportunity.
The Psalmist wrote, “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, save me!” The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:3-9)
Like those miners, spiritually we are all hopelessly trapped - “dead in trespasses and sins.” But God planned a dramatic rescue from the foundation of time and at just the right time and exactly the right place He descended into our world and provided a way of escape through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross.
Hebrews 2:3 asks, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” How ludicrous for anyone to ask, “Isn’t there another way out?” Or to protest, “It makes me uncomfortable to make a confession of my faith and be baptized in front of people. I’m going to rely on my own efforts to get out.”
Christian apologists Ravi Zacharias suggests that people who object to Jesus being the only way do so not because there is only one way but because it its God’s way not their way. If God had prepared two ways to salvation they’d be upset there weren’t three.
David suggested there was only one logical response to God’s compassionate and merciful rescue. “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. (Psalm 116:12-14)