By Dale VonBergen | November 9, 2019
Herbert Nitsch is an Austrian free diver who holds the world record of 830 feet. On the surface of a lake, he fills his lungs with air, then “packs” them with additional gulps and descends into the water using weights. On one attempt to set a new record, he blacked out, was pulled rapidly to the surface, boated, and airlifted to a decompression chamber. After being in a coma, then rehabbing in a wheelchair, he has recovered enough to resume free diving. He can hold his breath for more than 9 minutes.
History (His story) records how the Creator and Redeemer entered our planet, born as a typically-helpless baby, and lived and taught such powerful unselfishness that His own people spiked Him to a cross like a naked scarecrow. Such humiliation Paul describes in Philippians 2: “Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth.” What was the purpose of Jesus’ mission, His deepest dive? To rescue us from a hopelessness deeper than the Mariana Trench.
We live in a culture that encourages each of us to grab our 15 minutes of fame, to “Don’t get mad, get even,” and fight, or at least whine, for our entitlements. And other cultures burden their people with the requirement of “honor killing”—revenge against anyone who appears to threaten our individual or clan’s reputation. Everyone hates to lose face. For 33 years, Jesus voluntarily locked Himself into such a culture, having both the power and option to free Himself, but only at the cost of every life on this planet. In almost every way imaginable, He suffered the loss of what we call human dignity. But His heroically unselfish life set a pattern for us. Deep inside, perhaps each of us longs to live like Him—if only it doesn’t cost too much money, dignity, or time.
When I was a kid, I heard Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son and somehow decided that prodigal must mean “runaway.” Now I know it means “wasteful.” It is ironic that in human terms, Jesus could be considered God’s Prodigal Son. He risked everything for humans so they could choose the freedom He offers, knowing they may still reject it. Freedom of choice is an expensive proposition for the Giver. That the Father and Son could and would do no less shows the extravagance of their love… “He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV. The One who deserves the ultimate admiration and respect was not afraid to dive to the depths of sub-human existence—for us.
Dale VonBergen is a retired teacher and trail builder who lives up Nahahum Canyon in Cashmere.