Friday, June 17, 2011

Receiving the Benefits of Easter and Anzac Day

The close proximity of Easter (April 22-24) and ANZAC Day (April 25th) this year led many to reflect on the relationship between the two commemorations.

Anzac day commemorates the sacrifice of those soldiers, sailors and airmen (and women) who fought and served during all conflicts to protect and preserve the freedom we enjoy in Australia. We especially remember those who paid the ultimate price and laid down their lives in service of our country.

At Easter we remember the sacrifice of the one man - Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom John called "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus gave his innocent life when he died on a Roman cross and suffered the agony of God's wrath for us. He took upon himself the punishment we deserved and died on a cross so that we might be forgiven and set free from our slavery to sin and death.

You can see how the comparison between the deaths of our military personnel and the death of Jesus can be made. When speaking of our war dead, Jesus words are often spoken: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)  While Jesus was undoubtedly looking forward prophetically to his own death 'for his friends', no doubt the general principle still applies.

There is however, a significant difference in how we receive the benefits of these deaths.

If we are enjoying the prosperity and freedom of living in 21st century Australia then we are beneficiaries of the sacrifices of all those who gaves their lives in military conflicts to defend us. We are beneficiaries of this freedom whether or not we appreciate what they gave for us. We are beneficiaries whether or not we honour their sacrifice and commemorate their memory. We are beneficiaries of their sacrifices if we curse their memory and desecrate the war memorials.

However, we cannot be beneficiaries of Jesus' sacrifice for us simply by virtue of our nationality or family heritage. The benefits of Jesus' death are received by God's grace when we turn from our rebellion against God and turn to him in faith. We receive the benefits of his death when we accept them as OURS by faith.

In some ways it is easier that recognising the sacrifice of our military heroes. We don't have to march in a parade or even go to a dawn service. But just as someone who recognises the sacrifices made to keep our nation free lives in a way that honours those sacrifices, so the person who has received the benefits of Jesus' sacrifice will live in a way that honours him.

So while we remember the similarities between Easter and Anzac day, let's also remember that there is a very signifiacnt difference in how wer receive the benefits of these different sacrifices.

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