Jonah of the Bible has nothing on a man named Harrison Okene. On May 26, 2013 three Nigerian tug boats were towing a tanker at sea. Without warning, the tug boat Harrison Okene was on rolled over and sank in 100 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean. The tug boat came to rest on the bottom of the ocean, upside down. It was presumed by all concerned that the 12 man crew of Okene’s tug boat perished. What they did not know was Okene had found a compartment with an air pocket and he was alive in the upside down tug boat on the bottom of the ocean, 100 feet down. A diving salvage team was about 75 miles away and they were called in to recover the bodies of the crew. Imagine the surprise of the diver who swam into the compartment where Okene was and found him alive. Okene had survived some 3 days, 36 plus hours in the dark on the bottom of the ocean. Okene was rescued and according to many news outlets, gives God all the glory for hearing his prayers and delivering him from death. What an amazing story.
Okene’s rescue was recorded by a camera and lights on the helmet of the rescue diver. The image shows the light from the diver’s helmet illuminating the room and the overwhelmed look on Okene’s face at seeing another human being. Okene’s face portrayed fear, shock, relief, and exhilaration all at the same time. He was and is truly thankful to have returned to his family and friends alive after such an experience.
This story has some pretty powerful spiritual application, if we but give it some thought. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of the birth and ministry of Jesus, said, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9.2). Those who are lost in their sin are like Okene, trapped in a life of darkness with no hope of delivering themselves. We cannot atone for our sin before God nor make restitution to Him for the offense of our sin. The lost man is in essence trapped in a life that, from a human perspective, is hopeless. But wait, suddenly there is a light in our darkness. Suddenly there is one who appears in the darkness, the one who is the true light of life. Jesus stood in the temple one day and said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8.12). Like the light of that diver who illuminated Okene’s dark world, so Jesus illuminates our hearts and minds with the truth of the Gospel. Jesus came here in human form to die on the cross and pay the debt of our sin. By faith we can confess our sin, repent of our sin, and believe on Jesus by faith unto salvation and eternal life. Jesus is the light of truth that can deliver us from the darkness of our sin. All we have to do is by faith believe on Him.
No doubt Jonah has a pretty good story to tell when we get to heaven. However, I don’t think he is going to have anything on Harrison Okene who survived in an air pocket on the bottom of the ocean. How wonderful to serve a God who loves us and can hear our prayers from inside a big fish or even the bottom of the ocean.