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By Dr. James C. Denison
President, the Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, Texas
July 26, 2010

Love beyond the grave

Have you heard about the doctor who wrote a goodbye note before he died in a plane crash? Today’s MSNBC website tells the story: Dr. James Hall was flying with a sick friend to Mayo Clinic last Friday when their plane went down over Lake Michigan. The pilot was rescued; Dr. Hall apparently died, along with the co-pilot, the patient and his wife.

Imagine Dr. Hall’s position. His plane took off from Alma, Michigan about 9 AM Friday. His pilot had flown many people to Mayo Clinic over the years; he checked the plane on Thursday and had no concerns. Less than an hour later, however, he reported mechanical problems to the air traffic control tower in Minneapolis.

Battling a strong headwind over the lake, he decided to return to Michigan. The passengers prepared for an emergency landing over 68 degree water with two to four foot waves. Authorities said on Saturday that survivors could not have lasted more than a day in such waters. Just seven minutes before their plane plummeted into Lake Michigan, Dr. Hall wrote his farewell message.

His medical bag was recovered from the water. It contained this note: “Dear All, We love you. We lost power over the middle [of] Lake Michigan and [are] turning back. We are praying to God that all be taken care of. We love you. Jim.” Dr. Hall put the note in his medical bag, which was later recovered from the water. The next day, his wife shared it with the world.

Reading this remarkable story brings to mind a similar event in the life of the Lord Jesus. It was Thursday evening. Judas had already left their gathering to bring the authorities. If Jesus chose to remain where his betrayer could find him, he knew he would face a series of rigged trials culminating in his torture and crucifixion.

On his last night of earthly life, he prayed fervently for his Father to strengthen and protect his disciples. Then he turned to “those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20). He prayed that we “may be one” in order that “the world may believe that you have sent me” (v. 21). Then he prayed that we might be with him in his heavenly glory (v. 24). He continues to intercede for us this morning (Romans 8:34).

Dr. Hall’s family will never have cause to doubt his love for them. Neither do we have any reason to wonder if our Savior loves us. We were on his mind and heart even as he chose to bear our sins and die in our place. The next cross you see is his note of love, written to you in blood and grace.

A friend recently summarized the gospel in this sentence: “Jesus died for you so he would not have to live without you.” I resolve to respond to such love with grateful service today. Will you join me?

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