The west Texas summers were hot and the houses weren’t air conditioned. Summers are supposed to be hot, that’s why there are lawn sprinklers. You could play in the water all up and down the block, get soaked, and in a matter of minutes be dry again. Ah, the good ole summertime, what fun!
It wasn’t such fun for my parents. I remember their guarded glances and whispered conversations one particularly hot summer. A playmate of mine, a little girl named Ruthie, fell ill. She lost the ability to move her arms and legs and she was unable to breathe on her own. She had to be placed in an “iron lung.” Polio had struck our neighborhood.
Two American physicians, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, were working feverishly and independently of each other in an attempt to develop a vaccine for this crippling and deadly disease. By the mid-1950’s both had produced a vaccine. Salk’s “killed virus” vaccine was injected while Sabin’s “live virus” vaccine was administered orally.
I still remember clearly the day we were lined up and marched to the school nurse’s station to be vaccinated for polio. Vaccinations had always meant needles and I was concerned about crying in front of my schoolmates. But instead of a syringe, the nurse handed us a little cup containing two sugar cubes to eat. Now that’s my kind of vaccination!
It was sixty-three years ago last month that health authorities announced the development of the first safe and effective vaccine for polio. Thanks to these two men, their staffs, and research facilities, the disease is unknown today in the United States and is about to be eradicated in the rest of the world.
And you want to know something else? After years of work, research, and development, neither Jonas Salk nor Albert Sabin patented their vaccines. They gave it away – it was too precious for profit!
Disease Worse Than Polio
But as bad as polio or cancer or AIDS or a host of other physical diseases are, there’s another killer out there that’s far worse – it’s called sin. Physical disease destroys the body, but that’s all it can do. Sin destroys not only the body but the soul.
The soul is the eternal essence of mankind. It is immune to physical disease. An individual may suffer from polio or cancer or have diseased coronary arteries, but those have no effect on the soul.
The soul is susceptible to only one affliction, sin. It’s wide-spread; in fact, everyone has it. It’s as pernicious a malady as one can imagine. Yet its symptoms are often eagerly embraced and its nature ignored or even made the object of lighthearted humor. But make no mistake about it, sin is no laughing matter – its terminus is eternal conscious hell.
There is only one vaccine for sin – sinless blood – the blood of a divine innocent victim, the blood of God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the long storied history of human existence, no one ever devised or developed a remedy for sin, though they’ve tried. The heavenly bodies, the sun, stars, and moon, have been made objects of veneration, as have the mountains, rivers, and forests. Animals have been offered, plants offered, even other human beings have been sacrificed to atone for sin. “Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Seeing our helplessness, our susceptibility to sin and its awful consequences, God, our Creator, offered His own Son to be our sin offering:
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.6-8).
And though the “wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.23). O! Thanks be to God who loves and cares for us so much that He gave His own Son away – we are indeed too precious for profit!
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.