Occasionally, a story punctures the constant hum of the global news cycle and captures the world’s imagination.
In June, as the world’s most illustrious soccer teams competed for glory in Russia, an unknown group in Northern Thailand quickly became the world’s most famous soccer team. A young team called the “Wild Boars” got trapped by rising floodwaters at the end of a complex network of underwater caves. Over 9 long days, the world held its breath as experienced cave divers scrambled to find the boys, with both water and anxiety levels rising fast. Incredibly, they were finally located nearly 4km inside the labyrinth. And that’s when the challenges really began. How do you get 12 cold and terrified boys and their coach through a network of underwater caves in a dive lasting 5-6 hours, at freezing temperatures, with 1 foot of visibility, and tight twists that required the regular removal and maneuvering of oxygen tanks?

Thus began one of the greatest rescues in history. After the death of a diver, a former navy seal, and with floodwaters rising, the decision was made to go for it. Over 3 long days, an operation involving 16 divers and a support crew of 10,000 rescued all 12 boys and their coach. The world let out its collective breath and a week later Les Bleus lifted the World Cup in Russia. What captivated people’s imaginations, as much as the plight of the Wild Boars, was the heroism and humility of the rescuers; a group of people who had dedicated their lives to cave-diving, and risked their lives for these young strangers.

As well as the obvious drama and tension of this ordeal, the question remains: why do we find stories like this one so compelling? One answer is that this is the basic form of every great story, including the greatest story ever told, which is the story John is recounting in the Fourth Gospel. Through our own misadventure, humanity found itself trapped
in a dead-end cave, with no hope of escape. Every rescue plan seemed doomed to failure. Such was the shape of the challenge that only a human could fashion a way out. And this is John’s revelation. The Light, Jesus, has entered into the darkness for our sake. He has masterminded and mapped the way out, personally guiding us through the dark watery twists of human existence, and even death itself. The one who knows every contour of the cave has come for us. He has come to give us life, true life.

Jesus’ invitation to us is like the one the cave boys faced when the 3-day rescue began. Days of careful planning and preparation came down to the poignant moment when each boy had to put their trust in this masked stranger; to commit their destiny into his hands and follow him through the cold dark twists of the labyrinth. In a similar way, Jesus’ invitation to us is to follow Him, but as we’re going to find out through John’s Gospel, faith takes the courage of the Wild Boars. Is God calling you to trust Him with something today?

>Blessings, Rev Jonny Grant