I never met Oswald. Yet my heart swells with pride for what he did. My grandfather was in the first wave of soldiers that landed on the beach before dawn at Anzac Cove on the 25th of April, 1915.
It was the beginning of a campaign that would leave families all over Australia missing sons, fathers, brothers, uncles… and mates. By late morning Oswald had been shot in the left foot but, although wounded, he chose to stay with his Battalion until it was relieved some days later. After recuperating in Egypt for two months, he returned to keep fighting at Gallipoli. When that campaign closed Oswald fought on the Western front where he received severe gunshot wounds to his chest and arm. After recovering in England he returned to France only to suffer gunshot wounds to his forehead. This sent him back again to England for more recuperation. Despite all these traumas, in 1918, Oswald returned to France one more time to fight.
Easter and Anzac Day are always close together on the calendar. And both events cherish enormous sacrifice. Paul, one of the authors of the New Testament in the Bible, made this observation about Jesus’s death. He wrote,
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For 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. (ESV)
Paul makes the point that people don’t easily offer their lives for others. In World War I Australian men did it to protect their families and loved ones. But at the cross Jesus gave his life for those who were his enemies – the human race. Jesus’s one death provided the way of salvation for everyone. In contrast, the Great War was futility on a grand scale. Heroic yet pointless sacrifices made by vast armies of young men for little gain – part of the ongoing sorry tale of human history.
So, each year, as we remind ourselves of the Anzac sacrifice we also mustn’t forget that both the greatest battle and the most significant sacrifice of all took place at the cross. There, Jesus died and rose again to defeat the great enemy, death. By giving his life, Jesus made possible a way back to God. We mustn’t forget that this is the most important event in all history.