As some of you might know the nearest I got to military service was being in the sea cadets for a few years as a teenager. That certainly made me realise that any branch of the armed forces was not for me – probably much to the relief of the armed forces.
Amongst the many books about the Great War I have on my shelves, there is one entitled The Forgotten Victory by Prof Gary Sheffield. For me, this book changed my understanding of that conflict forever, as up until that point I had bought into the Blackadder view of this chapter of world history. Without going on at length the book shows that despite all the horrendous consequences of that war the British army that first went into battle at Mons in 1914 was a very different one from that which daily pushed the enemy back until the firing stopped in November 1918. In addition to this, it also goes into the causes of the war along with the developments that came about as a result of it (both good and bad).
As the title suggests it appears that the popular view is that we lost. Yes, there was an armistice and a treaty was imposed on Germany et al. But surely a victor is the only one who can impose ‘terms’ on a defeated aggressor? This in turn challenged me to think about how I approach my faith in Jesus, His death and resurrection. Has the enormity and wonder of God’s plan of salvation for me become dulled by ‘The Flesh, The World and The Devil’?
God has shown me afresh how hideous a death Jesus died on the cross. Our view of this has been sanitised by countless depictions to the point where we can sometimes forget that Jesus was physically battered and totally naked when He hung there in utter agony. The thing is there was no other way to make us right with a holy God and that event was ordained before the beginning of the world. That is why Satan himself tried in vain with all manner of devices to keep Jesus from going there, from Herod’s massacre of the children to a crowd trying to hurl Jesus off a cliff.
Yes, Jesus’ death was horrible beyond belief and I recall as an eight-year-old crying uncontrollably when this fact hit me for the first time. It looks the very opposite of a victory, with a dead man being taken down by friends to be put in a borrowed tomb. Just reading that word ‘borrowed’ already conveys the first glimmer of hope; because if you borrow something it’s going to be eventually handed back to its original owner ….
Coming back to the book I mentioned, understanding of the Great War seems to stop at either the battles of the Somme or Passchendaele and very little is made of the 1918 battle of Amiens and the last 100 days of the war. All too often we can live in that no man’s land between Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning,
Have we heard the fact so often that Jesus walked out of that tomb that we have allowed the awesomeness of it to become dull? For us, whether we have seen death or not, we know that is final and it comes to all of us, but Jesus conquered it by the power of God. We so often need reminding of this. Hold onto it and rejoice in it even in the darkest of circumstances and that happened to me when I read this portion from 1 Corinthians 15 at my Mam’s funeral, yes it was difficult but when I got to these words in v55-57
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:55-57
In that very moment it struck home to me, Mam who had trusted Jesus as her Saviour was now with Him in Heaven and amidst that grief, I knew who had won and conquered death and I trust the same Jesus for that. How I didn’t shout ‘Hallelujah!’ at the top of my voice in that packed crematorium is beyond belief.
Jesus was victorious over sin and death and that power is still at work today. Each day all of us as God’s children need to be reminded that it all didn’t end at Calvary and we hold onto the words written in Job chapter 19 v25.
‘I know that my redeemer lives.’
Image Credit: Vaishakh pillai