This past April marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Interestingly, many young people were surprised to learn that the Titanic was a real ship that really sank, instead of simply a movie plot device. In reality, over 1500 people died that night in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Greg Asimakopolous writes: “Although the death toll was staggering, the greater tragedy was that many more people could have been rescued. The Titanic was certified to offer lifeboat space to 1,178 people. But of the twenty lifeboats lowered overboard, only a few were filled to capacity. Several were less than half full. For instance, the first lifeboat lowered, boat seven, had room for 65 people, yet just 28 boarded. Boat five left with 24 spaces unfilled. Lifeboat nine left with 26 out of 65 paces unfilled. Lifeboat one could accommodate 40 people but left the Titanic with only 12 people on board. In all, only 711 passengers and crew were rescued, while 40 percent of the total lifeboat spaces remained unfilled. Meanwhile, hundreds of people floated in the open water wearing life jackets near the twenty unfilled lifeboats. Only one of the vessels went back in search of other survivors. The rest (with room to spare) remained at a safe distance observing the horrific scene, comforting one another, and praising God they'd been spared.”
I am sure the people in those lifeboats had their reasons for not doing more to save their fellow passengers. But mostly it came down to ignorance and fear; Ignorance, in that many of the crewmen falsely believed that if they filled the lifeboats to capacity, they would break in two when they were lowered. And fear, in that they were afraid that if they went back to help the hundreds of poor souls thrashing helplessly in the water, they would be swamped and sink themselves. Today, I want to talk about the possibility that many of us are guilty of the same ignorance and fear, and that the ultimate eternal cost is even greater than it was the terrible night the Titanic sank. In our Bible reading plan as part of the Radical Experiment, we come next week to the stories of Elisha, which give me lots of great stuff to choose from in preaching; the hard part has been limiting myself to just one story, one passage, per week. This Sunday we’re going to look at an event that could have been far more tragic than the Titanic, but turned out far differently. We will focus on a small subplot to that story, about four obscure men who became unlikely heroes (2 Kings 7:3-9). I’ll take some time to unpack that story for you. Then I will talk about the excuses we often use for behaving more like the survivors of the Titanic than like the men we’re reading about today.