UNKNOWN WARRIOR

In 1918 the curtain fell on the carnage that defined a region of France and Belgium as the Western Front. Throughout the 4 years of WWI, 32 nations were dragged into a senseless conflict, empires collapsed, revolutions were ignited and 40 million people were sacrificed to a war that shattered both mind and body. Standing at the imposing Menin Gate in Ypres, you get a sense of the insanity of it all. It contains the names of 55k men whose remains were never indentified and have no other grave. Even after all these years the pain still cries out. I've been to many battlefields in Europe and in each place it seems that there is a spiritual imprint caused by a catastrophic loss of life.

Presenting the Gospel of Jesus to as many people as I do, the question of human suffering is frequently put forward as the reason why a loving God cannot possibly exist. But the Bible portrays the heart of a Father revealed through Jesus as one who stands with the broken. God the Father sent Jesus his son into the world to live as one of us. He never came to somehow explain away suffering but to fill it with his presence. And then he laid down his life on the cross for the enmity, the violence, the anger and the hatred of man’s inhumanity to man.

Two years after the end of WW1, a secret military operation was carried out by a team of men who had been handpicked for the task. They exhumed the remains of 6 unidentified British soldiers from various make shift battlefield graves along the fighting areas. Each body was draped in the Union Jack and taken away by field ambulance. The following morning one of the bodies was selected at random, placed in a coffin and taken to Boulogne by horse drawn carriage. The others were reburied.

On its arrival in Boulogne the coffin was taken through streets lined with 1,000 children and loaded onto HMS Verdun. The V-Class destroyer then sailed across the Dover Straits escorted by 6 battleships. On its arrival in England, the coffin was greeted with a Field Marshall’s 19-gun salute. Following the ceremony at Dover, the coffin was placed on a train to London and then during the morning of November 11th taken by gun carriage through vast silent crowds to Westminster Abbey. The Unknown Warrior was laid to rest in soil taken from the battlefields of France were it remains to this day. 100 invited women who had lost their husbands and their sons in battle attended the service. On November 11th every year, the relatives and descendants of half a million soldiers whose bodies were never identified could believe that the Unknown Warrior could be him.

Three days after Jesus was crucified his family and friends visited the tomb where his body had been placed and to their amazement the body of Jesus was missing and in its places was an angel who said this “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here, he has risen from the dead. Although we don’t know who the soldier is inside the tomb in Westminster Abbey we do know that a soldier’s remains are there but the tomb of Jesus is empty. His body has never been found because he is risen. The Gospel of Christ is the life-changing message of an empty tomb.

These are the words of Jesus himself “I am the resurrection and the life. The ones who believe in me will live, even though they die” It can be true for you today. I invite you to open your life to the risen Jesus. The Bible says this about God “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me”

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