This is the true story of an extraordinary rescue attempt by Bernie Webber’s coastguard crew. When the SS Pendleton was caught in one of the worst storms off Cape Cod, the Pendleton broke in two and things began look very bad indeed for the crew. Meanwhile Webber was assigned to track down the ship, but his coastguard boat had lost its compass. The others figured it would be perfectly reasonably, having made an attempt, to head for home.
Webber decided to stick with it, to keep going in spite of the odds stacked against them. And he went down in history for it. Perseverance is one of the big themes of the Bible – it crops up time and again. People are tempted to give up and have to battle to keep going. When Moses led the people out of slavery and they faced an uncertain desert crossing it wasn’t long before oppressive Egypt began to look more like Disneyland to them. ‘Let’s go back,’ they said, ‘there were hot dogs and candy floss and rollercoasters, it was a blast!’ But Moses wouldn’t give in., and he wouldn’t let the people give in. When Naomi was so bitter she decided to change name to er… well.. Bitter (Mara), it was her daughter-in-law Ruth who refused to give up on her, ‘I’ll stick with you whatever happens,’ she said, ‘even to death.’
As we ponder the profound meaning of Easter (here’s a clue – it’s not eggs or chicks or bunnies!) it’s worth remembering that so many people made persevering promises that they could not keep. ‘Let’s go with Jesus to Bethany,’ Thomas declared, ‘so we can all die together!’ (John 11 v 16) ‘We’ll drink the same cup as you Jesus,’ said James and John, ‘even if it contains the bitter drink of suffering.’ (Matthew 20 vv 20-22) ‘I won’t deny you Jesus, I’d never do that,’ said Peter. (Matthew 26 vv 33-35) They all ran into the night when trouble came.
Jesus understands the challenge of perseverance. He wondered about giving up on one occasion. ‘Shall I pray for a way out?’ he said, as he considered what the future held. (John 12 vv 27-28) And again, in the darkness of Gethsemane, he faced the same temptation. Would he pray to be delivered out of the hands of sinful men, or into them? He wrestled with this and it was sheer agony. He understands when we want to give up, when we don’t seem to have the strength or courage to persevere. When the easy way out is just too tempting. He has been there and stayed the course. In his dying hours he was tempted by the man beside him to demonstrate the power of God and break free from the cruel cross, but he refused. Instead he demonstrated the love of God, the compassion that would set us free. An extraordinary rescue operation that would not only go down in history, it would change it forever.