In October 1962, my family and I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. While I was trying to navigate my first year in high school, President John F. Kennedy was leading us through the very stressful “13 Days of October.”
The Russians had parked a bunch of missiles in Cuba and aimed them at the Florida coast. Kennedy and his staff spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out a peaceful solution to a very scary situation.
During those two weeks, there were several “What if” moments. One of them involved a Russian submarine that was patrolling the waters around Cuba. Specifically, Soviet submarine B-59 was suffering from the depth charges the American ships were dropping trying to get them to surface. Captain Savitsky wanted to shoot off the nuclear torpedoes on his sub.
But in their navy, it takes 3 officers to agree to start such a massive military engagement. Although Savitsky’s third in command wanted to “blow us out of the sky” with a nuclear missile, his second in command, Vasili Arkhipov disagreed. He argued vehemently and the missiles were not fired. So, I sat blissfully in class memorizing Latin conjugations.
But what if…what if Vasili wasn’t so outspoken? These kinds of “what ifs” fascinate me. And there is a very powerful one in the scriptures. Take a look at I Corinthians chapter 15 where the apostle Paul postulates that important question, “What if there was no resurrection?”
The limitation that Paul recounts include: if there had been no resurrection, Christ would not have been risen. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then death has power over Him. If death has power over Jesus, He is not God. If Jesus is not God, He cannot offer a complete sacrifice for our sins. If He cannot completely pay for our sins, we are still condemned.
The “What ifs” of life can be brutal. And this theological one is devastating…. until you realize that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (died).”
Likely I would not have lived if Vasili Arkhipov had not spoken up so intensely. Those silly exercises of “ducking under our desk” would not have helped. Likewise, if Christ had not died in my place, my best efforts would not have saved me. I would spend all eternity paying for those sins in hell.
So, this week, I am thinking about the most important “What if” in all the Bible. And I encourage you to join me in thanking Christ for His sacrifice. It mattered!