Yesterday was a Memorial Day unlike any in memory. Outdoor concerts and events were limited; parades to honor our fallen veterans were driven rather than walked. But the pandemic did not deter us from remembering with gratitude those who died for our freedoms.
As I reflected yesterday on more than one million women and men who died that we might live, I read John Stonestreet’s Memorial Day column. John’s BreakPoint articles are always excellent, but this one especially impressed me.
In it, John shared a story Chuck Colson once told to honor Memorial Day. It was February 1945, three months before World War II ended in Europe. Eighteen-year-old Sergeant Joseph George was stationed in France and was preparing to go out on evening patrol.
His friend, Private James Caudill, volunteered to take his place. He pointed out that, at age thirty-six, he was nearly twice as old as George. He told him, “You’re young. Go home. Get married. Live a full, rich life.” Then Private Caudill went out on patrol.
A few hours later, he was killed by a German sniper.
Sgt. Joseph George returned home safely. He married and fathered five sons. One of them, Princeton Professor Robert George, has been identified by the New York Times as “this country’s most influential conservative thinker.”
Dr. George and his brothers will always know that their father survived the war because his friend died in his place.
“I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting”
Isaiah 50 is one of the “suffering servant” sections of the book (along with 42:1–4; 49:1–6; and 52:13–53:12). Each foretold what our Savior would experience centuries later.
In our text, the Servant (Jesus) testifies: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4).
Our Lord would pay a terrible price to speak such truth: “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (v. 6).
The prophet foretold Jesus’ treatment before he was executed: “Pilate took Jesus and flogged him” (John 19:1), then the Roman soldiers “spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him” (Matthew 27:30–31).
You and I will live forever because our Savior died in our place.
How to experience “life in all its fullness”
Now we have a binary choice.
We can allow Jesus’ horrific sacrifice to be an event like Memorial Day that we remember occasionally with gratitude. Or we can allow the One who died so we could live to lead us into “life in all its fullness” today (John 10:10 GNT).
In these dark pandemic days, we can claim this promise: “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).
Or we can refuse to follow our Savior as our King. We can choose our busyness over quiet moments to listen for his voice. We can insist on walking in the light of our own self-sufficiency rather than the revelation of his will.
But note this warning: “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment” (v. 11).
Is Jesus grieving for you?
Tomorrow we will define some practical ways to hear and follow the living voice of our living Savior. For today, let’s decide that we want to.
Like those we remembered with deep gratitude yesterday, Jesus died that we might live. But unlike anyone else in history, he rose from his grave and is as real, relevant, and powerful in our world today as when he first walked our planet.
He will speak to us if we will listen (John 16:13). He will lead us if we will follow (John 10:4). He will cleanse us “from all sin” if we will confess our sins with repentance (1 John 1:7, 9). He will sanctify us if we will be sanctified (Colossians 1:22–23).
I believe that Jesus is grieving for those who remember what he did for them on the cross but give little thought to what he can do in them today. But he is rejoicing with those who are experiencing his living presence, power, and peace.
Which is true for you today?