By Pastor Eric
The month of March holds a special place in my heart as I remember the amazing sacrifice my close friend made during Operation Anaconda in Eastern Afghanistan. On March 4, 2002, my brother and comrade Philip J. Svitak, laid down his life in service to his country and for his fellow brothers and sisters in arms. It was a heart-crushing day of chaos that I will never forget! Philip “stayed the course.”
The incredible part about guys like Philip–and so many others who risk their lives in service to our country, for our freedoms, including law enforcement and so many others–is that they understand and accept a greater risk. People like Philip are normal, everyday folks like you and me who live into the risk that comes with the work they have been called into. They do it without reservation and shoulder the enormous weight of duty, honor, and sacrifice for a greater good.
As I remember and reflect on my friendship with Philip and the 10+ amazing years I got to serve with him, I am also reminded of an even greater sacrifice and relationship that I have today with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As I reflect on the greatest act of sacrifice and love this world has ever known…….I found myself in scripture, in Isaiah 53. Verse two says that there was nothing special about Jesus as the world would see him, although he is the Son of God, he was just like you and me. In fact, he was disliked, looked down on, and he experienced pain just like a regular man. Jesus came into this world understanding the great risk and responsibility that was placed on him by his Father. Jesus came into this world to bring freedom–freedom from the death of sin, to bring life to a world that despised and rejected him. Jesus knew and accepted the risk and the full cost that would be placed on him. In verse five we read, “But he (Jesus) was pierced for our transgressions, he (Jesus) was crushed for our iniquities.” Jesus knew why his Father had sent him and even though that would bring him to the cross, he remained faithful to his calling and faithful to the Father’s will, even in the face of fear and worry, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” Matthew 26:39. His commitment to this work on this earth, in the face of his own death, would bring about life and freedom for you and me! The second part of verse 5 says, “the punishment that brought us (you and me) peace was on him (Jesus), and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus took the punishment upon himself out of his deep love for us.
This single act of sacrifice and “staying the course” demonstrated by our Savior is put into perspective for me in verse 10 when scripture says, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” This was God’s rescue plan for you and me, the Father’s will! It’s so hard to comprehend that a father would intentionally send his only and beloved son to an unspeakable death for those who would nail him to the cross. An instrument of torture and death would be transformed into a symbol of life, freedom, and salvation! But it was his death that would bring light to the greatest moment in all of human history.
As we reflect on and remember the great sacrifice of God’s only Son, we turn our eyes from the cross to the grave that could not hold our Savior…….we fix our eyes on the resurrection! “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was nailed to a cross. He is risen! He is not here!” For it is by the power of the resurrection that we find ourselves clothed in his righteousness, made new, we have hope, peace, and receive eternal life! Jesus was faithful to his calling, God was faithful to his promise, and the Holy Spirit was faithful in his mighty works. All glory and praise to the Father above!! May we live each day in gratitude and thanksgiving!
As we remember those who have gone before us, even at great cost for a greater purpose…..let us never forget the life-giving work of our Savior Jesus Christ for all who would call him Lord!
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
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