Subject: Why our military reminds us of our greatest of core values
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
History records these words of Jesus Christ to His closest friends on earth, just before He led them in the late evening hours into a battle they did not even know was coming nor were willing to join. The year was 32AD. Jesus, with His disciples following Him, crossed the Kidron Brook and walked headlong into a detachment of 600 Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemene.
They arrested Him, bound Him and took Him to a midnight trial with Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was the high priest that year. Annas abuses Him with the Roman soldiers, but gets nowhere with Him and sends Him over to Caiaphas, who had earlier instructed the Jewish high court to condemn Him to death for a simple reason: it’s to their advantage that one innocent Man die for the nation.
In Caiaphas’s courtroom, the entire Jewish chief counsel was waiting for Him. As soon as He enters, they start bringing in false witnesses to accuse Him of things He never did. None of the accusations stick. And Jesus stays silent. He does nothing to even try to defend Himself. They are frustrated. No one can recall a single thing Jesus had ever done that they could accuse Him of. He is an innocent Man.
So Caiaphas goes for the jugular in Matthew 26:63: “I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Now Jesus breaks the silence, and all hell breaks loose. He answers plainly – yes, He is the Christ. And because of this alone, they spit in His face, beat Him, and continue striking Him and mocking Him. And during all this, He stays silent and does nothing to defend Himself.
It is now very early morning. They take Him to Pontius Pilate. Pilate personally interrogates Him, and he doesn’t take long to tell the Jews his assessment: Jesus of Nazareth hasn’t done anything, at all, wrong. It doesn’t matter. Regardless of the facts, Jesus is scourged to within a breath of His life, has a crown of thorns pressed into His skull, has His beard ripped off His face, and walks half a mile carrying the cross He would be nailed to at Golgotha. And during all this, He stays silent and does nothing to defend Himself.
At the time of all this, His closest friends were horrified at what they were witnessing. This was not their definition of victory in battle. It would never dawn on them that this was exactly how He wanted events to unfold. This was the mission. He was pouring himself out as an offering in death to secure the lives of everyone, past, present and future, who would trust Him and His achievement on the Cross. And for only one reason – to demonstrate God loves you. As Paul would record for us as part of history: “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
Howard Wasdin, former member of Seal Team 6 and author of his latest book on the Black Hawk Down Mission, “The Last Rescue: How Faith and Love Saved a Navy Seal Sniper”, explains what our verse this week, John 15:13, means to him in a recent interview with The Blaze: “The saying goes ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’ How true are those words the moment you are being shot at. Until the bullets fly, you are blissfully unaware of your mortality and the extreme danger of the job you signed up for. No one serves for the money. I will argue that many who serve have a strong sense of love of country and countrymen. ‘Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend.’ For those who have not been in harm’s way, perhaps it is merely a quotation, just words. But, to the veteran it is a never-ending reminder of “why” we undertake military service.”
What compels the men and women of the United States Armed Forces to unconditionally offer themselves as living sacrifices for the welfare of others, often others who they will never meet? Because God has made each of us in His image, and the greatest attribute of God is His unconditional love for others (especially those who cannot defend or take care of themselves), He has given us a ‘built-in’ moral call to action to serve those who cannot defend themselves, even to death. Our Armed Forces are unique in all the world and in all history – they act for the good of others, not themselves.
This greatest of American core values is put on display every day in our military. And it is the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ that we laid out in this article. I pray every day for our military, not that they remain strong and courageous, but that the image of the invisible God remains on full display among them.