For over 150 years, this solemn and hallowed day has been observed to honor those whose lives were lost for the freedoms that we experience in this great country. But why today? Why are the brothers and sisters of the military who have laid down their lives not on our mind every single day as we enjoy what we have come to know as “rights” in our freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the ability to worship freely? But what rights would we have if blood had not been shed?
Stop and think a moment about what this holiday truly stands for. We are honoring individuals that are a part of our country who have literally lost their life in battle, some by choice, some by devotion to their responsibility as a citizen, for you and me. Strangers. Sure, those in the military know that they are fighting for the ones they love. But they also are fighting for people they don’t even know, every day. And in some cases, people that don’t deserve their selflessness. They put their lives at risk, watch brothers and sisters fall, all so that we can enjoy the luxury of the life that we live each day. For me, this is a sacrifice that I can’t even begin to comprehend and literally sends chills down my spin to think about.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than someone who is willing to lay down his life for that of another. What a living testament our members of the military are to us, as they truly exhibit the kind of love God intends for us to have. Today, and every day, I pray that those who are lost are on your mind. I hope that you grieve with their loved ones, and honor their memory. But I also hope that you show your gratitude and the utmost respect for those still serving, that you take time out of your day to walk over to a man or woman in the military and say “thank you for your service.” What a small token of gratitude to show someone who has vowed their life to protect our country, a country full of people they barely know that they love and fight for every single day. Each and every one are heroes, living and breathing superheros.
But I can’t let this day pass without honoring the ultimate superhero, Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is hard to wrap our minds around his greatness and the true valor of his existence. But just as our military men and women are dedicated to protecting our great land and all of us who are a part of it, Jesus came to this Earth for that exact same quest, to save each and every one our souls.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
God loved us so much that he willing gave his son, his one and only son, to come to this Earth to pay the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus’ battlefield was much different than the ones fought on today, but his fate was the same as so many of those we honor today. He died to save us.
We are so far from the violence and horrors of war that sometimes it is easy to forget what the men and women of the military go through. And we are centuries removed from the story of Jesus and the cross, and so sometimes we can’t feel the connection in our hearts to the sacrifice he made. But the Bible recounts for us what Jesus went through on the day he was crucified. It tells us that before he even was taken to place he would take his last breath, he was beaten and bound. The guards of Pilate twisted together a crown made of thorns and placed it on Jesus’ head where I can only image the pain that he felt as the thorns ripped through his flesh as they mocked him, clothing him in the color of royalty and beat him as they pretended to honor his status.
He was then treated as a common criminal, forced to bear the intense weight of the cross on which he would be crucified. He carried the cross as far outside the city as he could bear before the weight became too much for his tattered body to support, and a man from Cyrene was seized and forced to bear the weight for him, as they dragged him to the ‘The Place of the Skull’. Once there, the cross was set and he was striped of his clothing, his beaten body was naked as nails pierced his hands, stringing him up for a mocking crowd. A sign was placed over his head, ridiculing the title they claimed for him. When he asked for a drink, he was given a sponge soaked in vinegar, bitter to the taste. All the while, the crowd and guards mocked him asking where his Heavenly Father was, and why he was not ripped from the cross. I can only image that God wept for his son, just as Mary did.
Before he gave up his spirit, Jesus made one last plea for those who tortured him. He said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The next day, the guards came to break his legs and finish the deed, but instead they found that he had already passed and instead pierced his side.
These passages from the Bible destroy my soul, and make my heart physically ache for the one I call Lord. The pain, and mockery he endured as he was crucified for no crime of his is heart wrenching. And each and every strike of his face, and breaking of his flesh was done for you and for me. He was murdered in the most gruesome way for us, people who were yet to be born but had been cursed to a life of sin before breathing air on this Earth. Jesus died so that we could live.
Today, I invite you to honor those who have lost their lives in protection of our freedoms. Extend a hand to those who have received news that someone they love would not be returning to them and grieve with them. Say thank you to those who continue to fight for us everyday, without any of the recognition they so bravely deserve. But most importantly, I pray that you do this every day that you are able, not just today because no words we say will ever be enough to express the gratitude for a lost life, but what we can do is honor them with our actions.
And if you are a Christian today, I invite you to meditate on the pain and suffering your Lord endured on a cross so many years ago. Thank him for what he gave for us, so that we could have the chance to escape the punishment of sin. And examine your actions and see that you are honoring his sacrifice by living your life in a way that honors him. I pray that every day you are reminded of the love that your God has for you, and that his love surrounds you in your times of need. You are loved, so much so that God gave his only son so that you could be free of the chains of sin.
And if you read this today and have never committed your life to God, let me tell you that his sacrifice was for you too. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or the things that you have done, God tells us that anyone who confesses with their mouth that God is their Savior will be saved from eternal damnation. Jesus died for you, he endured a gruesome death to allow you to remove that blanket of sin that weighs you down every day of your life. If you would give your life to him, you would be renewed with a light that will guide you all your days. You will be filled with the Holy Spirit that will carry you through all of the hard times. You will experience a life you never dreamed of, because of God who loves you so much. Don’t wait until tomorrow, I cannot think of a more fitting day than this as we honor some of the greatest heroes of our time to dedicate your life to the greatest hero of all time. Will you love him today?