The picture above is the Victoria Cross, the highest military ward, given for outstanding acts of bravery in the field, and often awarded posthumously. 1,357 have been awarded since the first in 1856, and only three men have received it twice – Lt. Col. Arthur Martin-Leake (Boer War and WW1), Capt. Noel Chavasse (both in WW1) and Capt. Charles Upham (both in WW2). Upham, who was from New Zealand, was a relative of Chavasse – quite a family!
Something struck me many years ago now that I would like to share today, as we approach Remembrance Sunday – and that is simply how many military medals, given for bravery and sacrifice, come in the shape of a Cross. Something in our national psyche recognises that the Cross is the ultimate symbol of these things. Surely there was, and is, nothing braver than the sinless Son of God taking on all the powers of sin, death and hell on our behalf as He was nailed to the Cross, putting Himself in our place so that we might live? As the song says, “He who had done no wrong was crucified for me.”
In John 15, verse 13 and 14, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” And in spite of all the patriotic rhetoric and “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (it is sweet and right to die for your country), most medal recipients will say that their only thought at the time of their act of bravery was for those around them – their friends; and those whose lives have been saved by a sacrificial act of bravery will often point to friendship above and beyond the “glory” of dying for your country.
Jesus, the Son of God, went to the Cross for us. And Jesus, the Son of God, says that we are His friends. And Jesus, the Son of God, shows us the greatest love of all – the love that lead Him to die for us, in our place, so that we might be spared. It’s out of that act of love and courage that all others come – and from that Cross, that “Old Rugged Cross”, comes, I believe, the inspiration for medals honouring sacrifice to this day.
So this Remembrance Day look to the Cross and see your value and worth as a friend of Jesus, who gave His life for you. Celebrate the forgiveness and freedom that makes possible. And don’t forget (!) – He rose from the grave winning the greatest battle of all so that we could know His victory in our lives.
God bless, stay well