Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.
- Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971.
Since the first military burial here May 13, 1864, Arlington National Cemetery has become the final resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their families. Those who on Sept. 11, 2001, died only a few hundred yards away at the Pentagon are buried here, as are the Challenger astronauts. Fifteen thousand soldiers from the Civil War — Union and Confederate —. Four thousand freed slaves, many identified only as “Citizen,” and two presidents also are buried at Arlington. Up to 30 burials are conducted at Arlington every weekday. Mercifully, the number of casualties from America’s most recent wars is dwindling, but the pace of operations — about 7,000 burials per year — remains steady as veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam pass away.
General Patton, one of the most famous Army Generals ever to serve is quoted for saying:
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” — General George S. Patton
To me, this is the essence of Memorial Day, not to mourn over the dead, rather celebrate the lives these men and women lived and give thanks, First to a God who gives life, and secondly to the Hero’s that God has called to serve us in times such as these.
With that said, I wanted to help us better understand why sacrifice is important. Though these hero’s lost their lives defending our freedom, there was another man who died for our eternal salvation.
The words of Jesus found in John 15:12-17 help us navigate the waters when it comes to sacrificing one’s life for another.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another.
While Jesus never suited up in battle gear to face a physical enemy on a battle field, He did, none the less know exactly why such a sacrifice was necessary. Jesus, in this passage, demonstrates that while any sacrifice is done, regardless of losing ones life, it must be done so in love! For the outcome, or how it is perceived, will be shone in the brightest light shrouded in love. Jesus knew that His live was always going to point to something greater, in this context, it was God the Father. Our sin was keeping us from ever knowing God’s perfect love. Jesus fixed this issue, by giving up His life for all of us, that’s right. He gave up His life for you. He did so, so that you might know Him and one day accept the gift He gave for us, and that was His life in exchange for our sin and shame.
Does that seem like a fair trade? Jesus gets a brutal death nailed to a cross, while we get all the benefits of it? That’s what sacrifice means. One must pay a price, so another can reap the benefits.
So what are these “benefits”? It is simple, we get what we don’t deserve so that we can gain what was paid for by another. The Christian world calls it grace. Jesus’ death on the cross was only a small price to pay for us to receive something so large that we could have never achieved it on our own, regardless of how many lives we could ever live. He did it so that we could live with Him in Heaven, not for a weekend visit, rather He did it for eternity!
So how do we receive this grace? That too is simple, look back at John 15: 14 Jesus said “You are My friends IF you do what I command you.” and what is His Command? John 15:17 answers that question “This I command you, that you love one another”.
Just like that? Love each other and follow His commandments which include asking for forgiveness against the sin I spoke about earlier. Sounds simple, right? IT IS! Have you ever found the sacrifices of those who died for our freedom to be worth the cost? Do you enjoy freedom? Trust me, if there was a better way I would want that too, however, the price must come with a cost. The solider paid the price on the battlefield with their life for your freedom, Jesus paid the price of sin and shame with His life for your salvation! This memorial day, let us honor those who paid the greatest price anyone could ever pay, and let us do so in a way that allows us to find the gift that Jesus paid such a heavy price for.
God bless you each and every one!