Under the Cross….

Isaiah 53:4-5:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

When the rumble and crack of fireworks comes on July 4th, we will be reminded that our nation was born in battle and painfully often has had to preserve its freedom—and redeem the freedom of many others—through war.

Indeed, this June marked seventy-two years since thousands of Americans, Brits, and Canadians stormed ashore at Normandy, fighting for freedom…with many of those men swiftly losing their lives at the very fringe of France.

Weeks later, my father also went to war in Europe. Passing the first few days at a replacement depot, he was assigned to a convoy of trucks trundling to a nearby nameless field. The task: recover bodies from that field; bodies of Americans who fell in a now-forgotten firefight the night before.

The empty trucks of morning returned at dusk, sagging under the weight of some two hundred-fifty bodies, more or less; bodies stacked as neatly as one might stack the mangled men, stiff in rigor mortis.

As that day had passed and the toll mounted, dad had worked farther and farther to the ends of the field, there finding yet another dead American soldier.

Gazing at this crumpled body clad in olive drab, he saw that unlike the others he’d recovered, this man had had his wounds bandaged—despite which, sometime in the long night hours, he had died.

With that body recovered, dad returned and found, a few yards farther on, closer to the epicenter of battle, another American soldier: one who had been wounded, bandaged, and yet died from those wounds.

Dad now stood and scanned the grass; moving a few yards forward he found yet another American: wounded, bandaged, and dead from his wounds.

And then, a few more paces through the battle-blasted green grass, there was yet a fourth American soldier: wounded, dead. And yes, this man also had a bandage. Not, however, wrapped about his body, but clutched in his lifeless hand.

For this man in Army green lay face down, arm outstretched, clenching the bandage, reaching out to the last wounded, now-dead soldier that he had sought to serve on that bitter night: a soldier whom he would have succored and bandaged had he not been himself mortally wounded.

Unsurprisingly, the man stretching out with the bandage wore an American tin pot helmet that was emblazoned with a red cross on a field of white. But dad was surprised to see what the patient wore—for on that fallen warrior’s head sat a stahlhelm—the scuttle bucket helmet that distinctively marked Nazi soldiers.

There, that night, at the crux of the battle, this man who bore the cross gave his life for the sake of his enemy.

We Christians too bear a Cross—the Cross by which Christ claims us as his kin. Yet kinship is not without cost; it brings with it a duty: to commit our entire life to the cause of the Cross and yes, to love even our enemies.

While the dangers before most of us are not those of imminent death on a battlefield, the duty is no greater, nor less, than the medic’s. It is the duty to give all, for the Cross.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

he was bruised for our iniquities:

the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

and with his stripes we are healed.

 

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