On this Memorial Day Weekend, we take a moment to stop and reflect on the immense sacrifices that have been made by countless men and women for our Nation and its freedoms. One of the phrases you will sometimes hear is that, "Freedom isn't free!" People realize that freedom is a very precious and fragile thing and that without constant vigilance and people willing to sacrifice for it, real freedom will be lost. The reason that is true is because we live in a fallen world in which there is a continual and constant attempt to subvert the Lord and the rule of law. As a result, there isn't a week that goes by when we don't hear about someone trying to overturn the rule of law, freedom and liberty and replace it with their control and manipulation. All you have to do is look at places today like Iran, North Korea, and Syria, Russia and Turkey where real freedom has been lost. This powerful truth was understood by the Founding Fathers of this Nation and by anyone who understands history and the power of sin to enslave people. Without the shedding of blood, none of us would be able to even read an article like this without the possible fear of jail and even death.
At the heart of Memorial Day is a surprising and shocking fact that almost none of us have ever met or known someone who died for our freedoms. I have never personally met a soldier who later died in combat. Most us never got to know the soldiers who died on the beaches of Normandy or in Battle of the Bulge, or at the Tet Offensive or during Operation Desert Storm. Hundreds of thousands of people ended their young lives in the mud, in a ditch or laying on a hill far away in places virtually no one has ever visited or could even find on a map. For many of us those battles and places are totally unknown, much less the soldiers who died there and never came home. All one needs to do is take a tour of the American Military Cemeteries in Europe and around the world to realize that there were tens of thousands solders who paid the ultimate price that we knew nothing about. Perhaps that is the reason why it is easy to take Memorial Day for granted. For some it just doesn't seem personal or real. As a result, such incredible sacrifice is virtually unknown to most of the Nation this weekend.
Now there is one place where our Nation tries to remind people of the fact that so many have died that remain unknown to us. That place is in Washington, D.C. and is known around the world as the "Tomb of the Unknown Solder". It truly must be one of the most moving and incredible places in the world to visit. Every hour of ever day the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" is guarded and watched over by the military. It is considered a great honor to be chosen for this assignment and only the best are even given this opportunity. Every detail of the uniform, every step taken, and every movement is designed to show the utmost respect and honor for the "Unknown Soldier" being guarded. That specially guarded tomb is a picture of the countless soldiers who were never identified or ended up missing in action. Huge crowds will often appear, especially during the summer, to watch the changing of the guard. You can't help but be moved to tears as you stop and reflect on the life of that one very special soldier and the honor extended to him as a picture of every soldier that paid the ultimate price for our Nation and its freedoms. The "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" is perhaps the greatest place on Earth to remember the value of one life given in the cause of freedom.
The "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" is situated within Arlington National Cemetery and looks out over the most famous military cemetery in the world. Arlington Cemetery is surely America's most hallowed ground where the honored dead are buried from all our wars going all the way back to the Civil War. What is striking about the cemetery is the fact that virtually all the gravestones have a Cross on them. You see the greatest symbols of Memorial Day are ultimately about the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, our Lord's Cross and sacrifice for sin has often been forgotten and become largely unknown by people today. Even in the Christian Church, the meaning of the Cross can at times seem "unknown" in a culture that tends to focus on the self. How easy it is for the Church to hear light hearted messages that end by noon and ask for little sacrifice from their congregants. And yet, without real sacrifice and a willingness to live out our Lord's calling on us, the Church's message increasingly becomes irrelevant and unknown to others. When sacrifice is forgotten or unknown, the power of the Gospel becomes just a formality for many and ends up becoming a "form of godliness without the power" (II Timothy 3:5). Without sacrifice genuine faith withers and meaningful patriotism ends up just becoming a day off for a barbecue.
Now the reason Memorial Day is so important for us today is because it is a reminder that the greatest battles for this world are yet ahead. Surely all of our past battles and conflicts point to even greater future ones as our technology and world population grow each day. The Bible is quite clear that some tremendous battles are coming our way and you can see them taking shape even now. As these battles emerge, we need to realize that all of them have been spiritual in nature. People and nations just can't seem to stop fighting over who is in charge down here. People have forgotten or chose to forget the simple idea that the Lord is in charge of this world. And yet, one day in the near future ever knee will one day bow to our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Cross and shed blood point to every war ever fought (Philippians 2:10-11). Each battle and every war were always meant to be a reminder that sin must be fought and defeated. Winning this war over sin has been the Lord's singular goal in history and is why our Lord went to the Cross in the first place.
And while some people might accept our Lord's Cross as providing a possible solution to sin and war someday, few see our Lord as a Soldier, a Warrior that will bring the world to peace and justice one day soon. The Bible is full of passages that deal with our Lord as the Real Soldier, Who fights our battles for us. It sometimes seems that the world, and even the Church, has turned our Lord into a soft spoken, religious leader instead of the Mighty God, commanding the armies of Heaven. In Revelation 19:11-16 our Lord Jesus goes out to battle for Israel and His people as He makes His glorious 2nd Coming,
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
On this Memorial Day, it is a wonderful time to recover a deeper understanding of our Lord Jesus as not an Unknown Soldier, but as the Lover of our souls and Savior of the World, who left Heaven to defeat the powers of sin and Hell. Our Lord's return will bring about a new world full of peace and justice forever. And so, every Memorial Day weekend is a reminder of the incredible sacrifice that was made for our sin, to which every Unknown Soldier points. The Lord wants us to know Him and that He died for us. His sacrifice is the answer for every battle, every war and every military cemetery. So, when we come to know the Lord Jesus in our lives, our Lord moves from being an Unknown God to a Precious Savior. That is the Good News of this Memorial Day weekend and forever.May each of us celebrate that victory this weekend and seek to know our Lord in new ways as the battle for our world nears its end.