The Ultimate Sacrifice

Taken from the intimation sheet: Sunday 9 November 2014

This week past I’ve been involved in Remembrance Assemblies at Caldervale High School. The pupils, as is always the case, participated and contributed much to the events. They told us of their experiences at the Battlefields in Belgium, took part in a very moving Act of Remembrance (culminating in Rowan Cook playing the Last Post) and performed a song.

The song was one I had never heard before ‘The Green Fields of France’. It asks poignant and reflective questions to Willie McBride – a young man who died at 19 in World War I. It’s only as you come to the last verse that you discover it’s actually an anti-war song. I’m in no position to make a political statement about what the Great War did and did not achieve, but I was very moved by that verse:

And I can’t help but wonder, no Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you ‘The Cause?’
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again and again and again and again.

What do you think as you read these words?

I find myself contrasting William McBride’s death to the death of Jesus.

The song asks “Do all those who lie here know why they died?”

Jesus knew exactly why he died.

He knew His Cause, he knew His Mission. He knew why God the Father sent Him to a place of unimaginable suffering and pain and death.

Jesus was sent on a mission by His Father in Heaven. A mission of redeeming love, to seek and to save that which was lost. The only way he could do it was by stepping into the battlefield of this broken world, living a sinless and spotless and perfect and pure life in our place. And dying a sinner’s death for us, in our place, on the cross.

He knew it. He believed it. He achieved it. To many who stood at the foot of the cross that day, it must have looked like a tragic and pointless death – but nothing could be further from the truth, He did not die in vain.

Neither did it have to happen ‘again and again and again’.

2,000 years ago Temple priests would offer sacrifice after sacrifice as a way of asking for God’s forgiveness, but there was never a perfect priest nor a perfect sacrifice. It never really did the job. The priest could never sit down because the work was never complete, like painting the Forth Road Bridge as soon as it was done, it had to be redone. Until Christ came; the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice:

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God
Hebrews 10:11-13

He sat down. His atoning work complete – when he cried ‘it is finished’ on the cross, he meant it. His death is sufficient to bring life and peace with God forever, for whosoever will come to him in repentance and faith.

In this period of Remembrance we give thanks for those who have suffered and sacrificed much for our freedom. Above all, we thank God for Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us (Eph 5:2).

Yours in His service