Chapter 3: The Cave

You’re in the dark. You feel lost and you’re definitely alone. It was to be the adventure of a lifetime. You’d always wanted to do it. You’d seen the TV, filled up your adrenalin and anyway, who needs it easy on a beach? So the mind’s made up. It’s an activity holiday for you this year. No worries about all those calories that go with the big English breakfast and the three course evening meal. No token treadmilling in the hotels leisure centre so you can enjoy eating more and not feel fat! Not you. This year it’s a journey to the centre of the earth. Long drops, tight spaces, dark places. You’re going caving, you’re going to feel the fear and pothole anyway.  The time to go spelunking is now!

You will need to trust others – experts with many years of experience and knowledge of this subterranean world. Their guidance will keep you thrilled and safe throughout the adventure.

But now, its real time and the excitement has gone. You called “Hang on!” whilst you adjusted your kit and next thing the lights had gone, the voices had faded and you didn’t notice which of the many cave passages they’d taken. You called out “Is anybody there?” but no one answered. Deserted, on your own, they weren’t bothered that you couldn’t keep up.

It’s not all bad news you say. You’ve got some light, some food and your waterproofs will keep you dry. But as you sit there all the doubts get hold of your head. You’re clothes will eventually let in the cold, you’ll run out of food, you won’t have enough to drink. What will the next step bring? Is it safe, are rocks going to fall on me, will I slip and fall? It’s getting cold. It’s you on your own with just a small circle of light to see a few feet in front, beyond which is utter darkness.

How do you feel?
Scared – who wouldn’t be surrounded by this dark, unfriendly world!
Angry – of course you are. You relied on others and they’ve let you down!
Hopeless – Is this it?  Is this all there is? Will I die here?

How many feel this way on their journey through life? Frightened when things happen or what might happen and you’ve no control over your future. Angry, heartbroken, disillusioned because who can you really rely on? Look after ‘number one’ you say. Because who else will never deceive you and always be there for you?

You despair. You see a world that doesn’t care. Hurting children, hurting adults, cruelty, cancer, dementia and death. If only there was an escape from this reality.

Many people are lost in a system of tunnels. Many find it dark, uncertain underfoot, what will the next step bring? Our fear is the darkness. Our small circle of light doesn’t let us see enough. The rocks are poor self-esteem, the cold is heartless people. The next step could bring a fall into debt, job loss or a care home.  In front of you is any number of cave passages, all different depending on how you look at them. Which one brings safety? Oh dear! How did you get yourself into this position? You no longer feel like a spelunker more like a plonker!

The bag on your back isn’t any good. Once it was full of excitement, expectation, but now, faced with the prospect of death, you have nothing. Your life is worth nothing, and at the end of it there is – nothing.

Hold on! Someone’s coming. That is one very bright light he’s got! It shows up so much more. This is your chance. This person is offering to rescue you. Your spirit is lifting. You feel your life may not have to end in this dangerous, dark, damp world that has been your prison for so long. You’re feeling better. Now you’re not alone. Someone thinks you’re important enough to come and save you.  But even more exciting this person has a plan, a way out, all you need do is trust and follow and you’ll be safe.

God says he has: Plans to give you hope

We live in a world where we can follow any number of cave systems - passages that look as if they could lead us to safety but are just a dead end. Some estimates state there are as many as 4200 different religions in the world.

If you’re feeling lost then why not try animism, atheism or paganism? How about a Gnostic, Druid or Confucian? Ok. Maybe a Jedi Knight, a Mennonite or a Freedomite? Ouch we haven’t even mentioned Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs yet! 

Are all these just different paths up a mountain leading to the same place or are they like many passages in a cave that lead nowhere? 

For many, the Christian faith is just another great religion and Jesus, another great human teacher. But Christianity is different because you cannot just say Jesus is like any other religious leader.

CS Lewis is quite blunt about this view:
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would…either be a lunatic--on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg--or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

There is a uniqueness about Jesus. The things he said about his life, things that no other has claimed. Either he was a deluded lunatic or the greatest conman in the world’s history. As someone more succinctly put it – mad, bad or God!

Imagine you’ve been invited to see your friend baptised. As the final person comes out of the water you hear a voice that says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

EEK! Everyone else is looking surprised. Who said that? This same person talks with you after the ceremony. He tells you that now you’ve seen him, you’ve seen God that God and him are one and no one gets to God except through him.

As you’re nodding politely, thinking what excuse can I use to go, he tells you that three years from now he’ll be killed by the leaders of the church but will rise again and death will be defeated for all who believe in him. He brings the conversation to an end by saying that when all this has happened, he will come back to judge the world at the end of time!

Now you either want to know more or just think this bloke’s a wierdo and try and get away?

But you keep hearing about him repeating time and time again the very things he told you and it’s not all talk. Because of this person deaf people hear, blind people see and the dead are brought to life. Then you hear he’s been killed. The breaking news story is that though he was buried the body has gone and loads of people have seen him walking around.

Wouldn’t you think if he’s not a liar or a lunatic then there is only one other answer and shouldn’t you be listening to the one who knows? Even so you manage to ignore it especially as you’ve heard scientists and philosophers saying it’s a delusion and after all they’re clever people so they must know.

You’ve got a headache – it’s really bad! You ask your friends advice and they say try some paracetemol and an early night. You wake up the next morning and its worse. It’s time to go to the doctor. He sends you to a specialist. You’ve got a very serious condition, it can be sorted but you need to take action. You say actually doctor I’m not sure because my friend told me I look ok and it will sort itself out. Who are you going to believe? Your friend who has no specialist medical knowledge or the one who has the qualifications to provide you with the truth?

A lawyer, a little boy and a priest are on a small private plane. Suddenly, the plane develops engine trouble and starts to go down. Unfortunately, there are only two parachutes. The lawyer says, "I'm a lawyer and I’m one the smartest people in the world. I deserve to live." He grabs a parachute and jumps. The priest looks at the little boy and says, "My son, I've lived a long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Take the last parachute and live in peace." The little boy hands the parachute back to the priest and says, "Not to worry, Father. The 'smartest man in the world' just jumped out with my backpack.

Many smart people have offered their view on the big questions of life:  Epicurus, Confucius, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, but they simply don’t know and because they don’t know they are unqualified to comment. All of us are unqualified to comment. There is only one who has the authority to speak. There is only one who died and then danced on the grave.

One day I will die. My heart will stop, I will no longer breathe, my lungs won’t work anymore and my brain will cease to control the life in me. There is no escape. From the moment I was born my body has been heading towards the final countdown. The number of days allotted me in this life will have been used up:

“Everyone has to die once and then face the consequences.”
Hebrews 9.27 MSG

I can walk 30 minutes a day, take supplements, visit a gym or even have cosmetic surgery. I can be wealthy, famous or infamous but none of it will postpone the appointed time and when its all been said and done, what then?

I have plans to give you hope.

Can you share the awe that the creator of an earth which has existed in numbers of years beyond our imagination or a universe made up of stars which would blow the mind of every computer ever made, was prepared to give up the glory of heaven, reach out and show his plans in Jesus to give you historical, visible hope?
Here is a God that holds you so special that he is prepared to go a long way just for you. He will never give up on you. He is the essence of goodness.
When he hugged the world by sending Jesus, he was saying I’m hugging you with that same love, every day, every step you take and every moment you experience.

In this world of half-truths, empty promises, mistaken ideas and open lies, plans to give you hope mean that you can trust the solidity of his promise, the certainty of biblical truth and his readiness to come such a long way to save you so you don’t have to end your life lost in a cave.