The sacrifices of our fallen soldiers in times of war have contributed to us having lives of freedom and prosperity and some of the best living conditions in the world. The first ANZACs, who landed on the beaches of Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 (ironically through an error of the later heroic British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill), had no chance of success. Many died on that fateful day at the hands of Turks who were understandably protecting their homeland from invasion. But the national identities of Australia and New Zealand were shaped those 97 years ago through the mateship and mourning connected to that event. Some 60,000 Australians alone died in the First World War out of a population of only 5 million, hence the many monuments still seen in towns across the nation.
Though in no way diminishing the magnitude of such suffering which has, of course, been seen in many wars since, there is another sacrifice that was also made for us. Jesus’ gift of Himself on a cruel Roman cross two millennia ago has provided eternal life (and a better temporal one) for those who receive it personally. Because He was the perfect Son of God, He qualified to die in our place and to pay the price of death warranted by our sin, which separates us from God. The Old Testament showed us that we cannot earn favour with God who, in His perfection, must judge sin perfectly. The justifiable wrath of God against sin was transferred to Jesus who then broke its power when He rose to life on the third day. The New Testament teaches that this becomes effective for our eternal security only if we accept it for ourselves and confess Jesus’ right to be Lord of our life as well as our Saviour. This message costs us something and is not always popular, but is a message of God’s gracious love for us in wanting to redeem us so that we could be with Him for all eternity.
The words inscribed on the floor of the Shrine of Remembrance (which hosted this morning’s ANZAC dawn service) are taken from Jesus’ own description of this sacrifice in John 15:13 (and they bear out the link between the two events): “Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” All He did, He did for us, so now what will we do about it?