On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City enroute to Seattle, Washington with a stopover in Charlotte, North Carolina. The plane, being flown by two veteran pilots and carrying one hundred and fifty passengers plus three flight attendants, struck a flock of geese less than three minutes after takeoff. The collision disabled the jet’s two engines, quickly forcing Captain Chesley Sullenberger to decide the only possible recourse was to glide the huge airliner to a water landing in the Hudson River. As passengers braced for impact and riverside onlookers watched in dismay, Sullenberger steered the plane to a rough but successful landing on the water’s surface. Rescue boats quickly came to the aid of the downed airplane, and all one hundred fifty-five passengers and crew were rescued. The accident soon became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” One of the passengers later saw the heroic pilot in the terminal, approached him, and said, “Thank you, you just saved all our lives.”
The theme of one person taking on responsibility for the salvation of many people undergirded the Day of Atonement sacrifice described in Leviticus 16. Known in modern Judaism as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement was the holiest day of the Israelite calendar. It was the one day each year that the high priest—and he alone—entered the holy of holies to sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice in front of the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. Every feature of the solemn ritual pointed unmistakably to the Lord’s gracious willingness to forgive His repentant people of their sins (Lev. 16:30).
The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament saw in the Day of Atonement sacrifice a foreshadowing of the greater, more perfect atonement Jesus Christ provided for sinners in His death on the cross. The writer of Hebrews stated, “According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). He went on to say:
“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into
heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer
himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another … But
now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of
himself. And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—so also
Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear
sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (9:26b-28).
If Jesus is, as Scripture teaches, the one and only way of salvation from sin, what hinders you from trusting in Him? How can you show your gratitude to God for providing forgiveness from your sins in Jesus Christ?
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.