Text: Romans 5: 6-8
This morning I want to talk to you about SACRIFICE. Not like some of the sacrifices we are from time to time asked to make…perhaps financial sacrifice, or sacrifice of some of our time. ….But the kind of sacrifice wherein one person lays down their life for the sake of another. The kind of sacrifice that makes you sit up and take notice and wonder if you’d be able to do the same in that situation.
We all know about people who take their own lives. But as a general rule, people don’t WANT to die, and they will go to great lengths to AVOID death….which makes the act of sacrificing yourself for the sake of another all the more HEROIC an AMAZING!
Quite a few of these stories come, understandably, come out of wartime situations.
March 3, 1945. Pharmacist Mate Third Class Jack Williams. Just 20 years old when he lands in Iwo Jima. JAMES NAUGHTON, a marine in William’s unit, is wounded by a grenade. While under intense enemy fire, Williams drags Naughton to a shallow depression and treats his wounds. Williams, using his OWN BODY as a screen to shield Naughton, is shot FOUR TIMES, but he continues….
AFTER treating NAUGHTON, WILLIAMS dresses his OWN WOUNDS, then proceeds to treat another Marine, despite immense pain. While heading to the rear, he’s hit by a sniper’s bullet and killed. He’s awarded the MEDAL OF HONOR for his actions.
DECEMBER, 1944. Artillary Officer JOHN ROBERT FOX. FOX finds himself in ITALY, the small village of SOMMOCOLONIA, in TUSCANY. The village is being overrun by NAZIS, and the Americans are in retreat. FOX finds a house to hide in, and, form the second floor, he uses his radio to contact colleagues. He calls for artillery fire to be directed at the village in order to give U.S. forces time to retreat and regroup. FOX SPECIFICALLY ORDERS a barrage of fire ON HIS OWN POSITION. The gunner who receives his message points this out to him. FOX replies: “JUST FIRE IT. THERE’s MORE OF THEM than there are of us!’ He dies a hero to his comrades.
APRIL 14, 2004. Corporal Jason Dunham , squad leader with the THIRD BATTALION, 7th Marines in IRAQ. His squad approaches a TOYOTA LAND CRUISER. After his squad discoverss AK 47’s in the vehicle, an enemy insurgent exists the vehicle and drops a grenade. TO SAVE HIS FELLOW MARINES, Corporal Dunham makes the ultimate sacrifice. He throws himself on the grenade, and tries to use his helmet to shield the blast. He is taken off life support eight days later, having given his life so that his fellow marines can live.
AMAZING stories, these stories of heroism and of self- sacrifice, DESERVE to be remembered and retold!
SO----figuratively speaking----WHO WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO TAKE A BULLET FOR?
You might answer : “LOVED ONES.” Members of your family. And that would be understandable. Given what we know of FAMILIAL love. It’s not surprising that there are quite a few stories along those lines.
NOT all that long ago… a GUNMAN opens fire in a WALMART in EL PASO, Texas. JORDAN ANCHONDO is shopping for school supplies with her husband, ANDRE, with their two month old son. When the gunman opens fire, BOTH parents die, but not the child. SHE DELIBERATELY FALLS on the boy, shielding him from gunfire.
IN Minnesota, a 15 year old boy, JULIO RODRIGUIZ, fatally stabbed defending his MOTHER from a knife wielding attacker.
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE DYING for the sake of STRANGERS?
One of the most famous illustrations is that of Father MAXIMILIAN KOLBE. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, born in Poland in 1894. He was ordained a Franciscan Friar.
When the Nazis invade his country, he writes books and essays critical of the Nazi occupiers. In Feb. 1941, the Nazis shut down his monastery, and he is arrested by the Gestapo. He is transferred to the infamous AUSCHWITZ death camp. In JULY 1941, some prisoners escape, so the German guards pick TEN PRISONERS to be STARVED TO DEATH in an underground bunker. One of the men chosen cries out he has a wife and children, so MAXIMILLIAN KOLBE OFFER to take his place among the condemned. There, he leads the men in praye….r he lasts two weeks , the last of the prisoners to die. THE MAN he REPLACED, by the way, dies many years later at the ripe old age of 93, but he never forgot the sacrifice made for him.
WHAT ABOUT DYING FOR YOUR ENEMIES? You might think such examples would be hard to find. And you’d be right! But I found one.
1968. Lt. SHARON LANE, a dedicated NURSE; while serving in COLORADO, she requests a transfer to VIETNAM.
…AND THERE she works, tirelessly, 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week…treating enemy VIET CONG SOLDIERS , who would return the favor by kicking, cursing, and spitting at her.
In the early morning of June 8, Sharon’s tour of duty comes to a end, as a Soviet built rocket strikes the hospital, killing her at the age of 25.
WHICH BRINGS us somewhat closer to that EPIC illustration of self -sacrifice, the ONCE FOR ALL TIME SACRFICE , of Christ, our Savior!
PAUL says of Christ:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. One will scarcely die for a RIGHTEOUS person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-BUT GOD shows his love for us in that while we were still SINNERS< Christ died for us.”
What he says here makes a lot of sense.
…We’d EXPECT a mother or father to sacrifice themselves in order to save their child!
….We can even UNDERSTAND a person sacrificing themselves for the sake of a fellow soldier, a neighbor who is a good man, a noble cause, their home town, a beloved country.
We think of 9-11 , running into the towers, the passengers of FLIGHT 93 whose plane went down, amidst a struggle, in a Pennsylvania field.
People in your community, people you know, people you share a lot in common with, fellow American,…AND EVEN THEN, IT IS HEROIC!.....and NOTEWORTHY….. given the BASIC HUMAN INSTINCT to SURVIVE---TO PRESERVE one’ OWN LIFE!
BUT CHRIST, says Paul, gives his life for THE UNGODLY!
THE UNGODLY a reference to all of US! SINNERS that we are!
“WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS Christ died FOR US” says Paul, including himself!
….ANGRY! REBELLIOUS! SELFISH! DISAGREEABLE. DISRESPECTFUL!
In v. 10, he calls us "ENEMIES of GOD!"
Yet Christ STILL willing to do that, for us. WHICH MAKES HIS SACRIFICE simply AMAZING, does it not?
He sacrifices himself, to save us not just from DEATH, but from something WORSE—“God’s righteous WRATH”--- translate that DEATH and HELL!
What MOTIVATES him to do this? Love, pure love. “God shows his LOVE for us,” says Paul,” in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
SO what is the END RESULT of all this? From God’s perspective what is the desired outcome?
--Number one, that we REJOICE, and live thankfully.
--Number two, that we be willing to sacrifice ourselves FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS!
JESUS being the paradigm. “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS THAT HE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS,” Says Jesus, in John’s Gospel. And then he adds: “I call you FRIENDS.”
KNEELING DOWN washing his disicples feet, he says to them: “As I have done for you now do for one another. Love one another as I have loved you.”
Not necessarily by throwing ourselves on a grenade. But offering up ourselves, as Paul says in Romans, as “LIVING SACRIFICES.”
The year is 1665. The HEIGHT of the plague known as the BLACK DEATH. The plague was sweeping across large parts of Europe, and northern England was no exception. A BALE OF DAMP CLOTH arrives in the little hamlet of EYAM. Hidden among the material are FLEAS, carrying the plague. A TAYLOR hangs the cloth out to dry, the fleas wake up, carrying the infection. First to the TAYLOR, who soon dies. Over the next few weeks, 42 other villagers die. People in the village begin to PACK UP and get ready to escape the plague.
THE VILLAGE PASTOR, WILLIAM MOMPESSON, addresses the villagers, arguing that they had a duty to save others. He convinces them as a village to QUARENTINE THEMSELVES so as to NOT SPREAD the plague to SURROUNDING towns and villages. The people stay put. But the decision has consequences. By the summer of 1666, five or six are dying every day. The mortality rate worse than that of London. 260 villagers, almost half the village, perish in just a few months. But they keep the disease from spreading, saving thousands of lives.
“You are not your own ; you were bought with a PRICE, the precious blood of Christ” says Paul.
And for that reason, it’s not just about you, it’s not just about me, it’s always and inevitably about OTHERS, for the sake of Christ, our Lord.