On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed shortly after takeoff into the icy Potomac River. The crash occurred less than two miles from the White House and in view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Pentagon. The crash resulted in 78 casualties, including four motorists who were on the 14th Street Bridge. In fact, only four passengers and one flight attendant survived the crash.
They might not have survived had it not been for the heroism of a 46-year-old bank examiner named Arland D. Williams Jr. Mr. Williams was on the plane that day and he had survived the crash, but he put others before himself and assisted in the rescue of the other five survivors before succumbing to the icy waters. Instead of taking rescue lines for himself, he passed them off to other survivors. Today, when you drive across the 14th Street Bridge into Washington, you will notice that the bridge is named the “Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.”
Thank God for those who are willing to risk everything to rescue us when we are in trouble. Sometimes a rescue can be as simple as being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, a rescue is a little more daring – as in the case of Air Florida Flight 90. Sometimes, a rescue is standing up for someone who is being unjustly criticized. We have a rescuer who fills all of these roles.
In Mark 2:18-28, we meet Jesus the Rescuer. Now, this particular rescue is not so daring as Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This is not the place where Jesus rescues us from our sin. This is another rescue where Jesus comes to our defense. In this passage, Jesus’ disciples get into trouble with the religious folks. On two different occasions, their behavior is challenged by those in charge. First, their behavior is a little too raucous for good religious disciples – they are not fasting. Everybody else is fasting. Even John the Baptist and his disciples are fasting. But Jesus and his disciples are having a dinner party with tax collectors and sinners! Secondly, they show a blatant disregard for the Sabbath Day by grabbing something to eat from the field through which they were walking. Previously, only Jesus had stepped on the toes of the religious guys by forgiving sins and dining with sinners. Now, the disciples were in the hot seat.
Enter our hero, Jesus to the rescue! He runs interference between the critical Pharisees and the disciples. They weren’t fasting because it wasn’t time to fast. They couldn’t fast as long as they had Jesus with them. They were plucking grain on the sabbath because, well, because they were hungry. While this might not have been sufficient enough answers to overwhelm the Pharisees philosophical disagreements, it did redirect their irritation. The disciples were not the biggest threat to their ideals – Jesus was.
This may not be a dramatic, Hollywood rescue. This may not even be plucking crash survivors from an icy river. But it is significant, nonetheless. Jesus is our defender. We must remind ourselves that it is not our aim to please the popular majority. It is our aim to please Jesus. At the end of the day, we might find ourselves despised by the majority around us, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we please our Lord. As long as that remains our aim, we will always have a Savior who stands in our defense.
So, who are we looking to please? Our critics or our Lord? The problem with pleasing critics is that we will always have other critics. Please a Pharisee, irritate a Sadducee. Please a zealot, irritate a Roman. That’s the nature of life on this side of heaven. But as long as we please Christ, we may irritate Pharisees and Sadducees alike, but our Lord will always be ready to come to our rescue.