Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they couldn’t because the sea was raging against them more and more.Jonah 1:13 (HCSB)
Here we see the sad truth of human nature. Jonah had already offered them a way to calm the storm and save themselves. All they had to do is throw him overboard and trust that his death would bring their peace and safety. It was simple, it was easy. The way of life was given to them on a plate, with no if’s and no but’s. Yet what did the sailors do? Did they accept this gracious offer? No, they foolishly ignored it and tried even harder to save themselves. They put in more effort, more time, more energy. They pushed themselves more and more, till they are exhausted and breathless. But for all they did, everything they tried, they could not save themselves.
We cannot save ourselves. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much effort we put in, it will not work. None of us could ever hope or dream of doing enough good things and nice things to outweigh our debt and the burden of our guilt for sin. Trying to save yourself from judgement and hell is pointless. You might as well try to trampoline to the moon or swim through a brick wall. Trying to save ourselves brings nothing but tears of frustration and cries of exhaustion.
This is why Jesus came—Jesus alone as fully God and fully man could live a perfect life with not a single sin or blemish. Jesus did what none of us ever could or can. And the wonderful news is that, having walked as we walk and lived and we live, even having died as we die, Jesus tells us this simple truth: “If you believe in me, that I am Lord, I am God, I am the only Saviour, then I will give you my perfect record. I will step in and make sure that you are saved regardless of what you have done.” So stop trying with human effort to do the impossible. Stop exhausting yourself. Give up on frustration. Don’t try trampolining to the moon—just ask Jesus to click his fingers and take you there. Don’t try swimming through a brick wall—just ask Jesus to make and open a door for you.