During World War II a group of Scottish soldiers were captured and forced to build the Burma Railway. Conditions were harsh, the guards’ treatment of the POWs was brutal and the death rate was high. Ernest Gordon, in his book ‘Miracle on the River Kwai’, recounts the true story of how at the end of a particular work party the guards counted the shovels back in as they did each evening; only on this occasion the count was short, a shovel was missing!
The officer in charge was furious and began ranting at the prisoners demanding that the person responsible for stealing or hiding the shovel should step forward. They stood silently in line; no one moved. Incensed, the guard shrieked “All die! All die!” and began to aim his gun at the defenceless men. At that moment one man stepped forward and the officer beat him to death right before the eyes of his colleagues.
The survivors were permitted to pick up his bloody corpse and carry him, along with the shovels, back to the camp. Here the guards carried out a second tool check and found that all the shovels were accounted for, there had never been a missing shovel! The first check point had simply been a miscount. News of the incident spread quickly through the entire prison camp. The realisation that an innocent man had been willing to die to save others had a profound effect, binding the prisoners together in deep loyalty.
Before his death Jesus told his disciples: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” [ John 15:13 (ESV)] He knew that he would shortly be betrayed by a friend, arrested in the middle of the night, stood before a kangaroo court and condemned to death on a cross. He also knew that he could turn and walk away from his destiny but he chose to embrace death. Jesus’ death is far greater than a good man dying for the benefit of others. At Easter, Christians across the world celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection; confident that in his death Jesus received the punishment that we deserve and so we can receive forgiveness, assured that through his resurrection the power of sin and death is broken and we can look forward to eternal life with him. Why not join with us during this Easter season and experience for yourself the liberation that Jesus offers you.
This blog post featured in the March 2013 edition of Hook Focus