Today is Remembrance Sunday where many people in Commonwealth countries come together to remember the end of WWI on November 11. The cenotaph is usually a focal point of remembrance services where people come together to remember the sacrifice of brave men & women in WWI & WWII.
I have come to appreciate the history of these wars more since living in London, UK. When I lived in Canada, these sacrifices were something we read about in textbooks and learned about in school. Now I walk past buildings on a daily basis that were rebuilt after being bombed by the Nazi’s during the blitz in WWII. I have had the pleasure of visiting the Imperial War Museum on multiple occasions in London which brings the history of these wars home & has artefacts from this era.
It is no doubt that these brave soldiers fought for victorious freedom over the enemy. Today, I want to look at sacrifices & cenotaphs that lead to victorious freedom over our enemies.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, under the Law of Moses, priests would regularly sacrifice a spotless animal for the forgiveness of sins of their people. They did this yearly on the Day of Atonement. During the Exodus, Israelites took the blood of a sacrificed lamb and put it over their door frames so that “the angel of death” would pass over them and their firstborn son would not die.
These sacrifices were symbolic of sins being paid for; however, they could never really accomplish it as this had to be done yearly. The death of that animal would not be a sufficient sacrifice to cover their sins for the following year. They needed a sufficient sacrifice that would be a one-time payment for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice on the cross. Isaiah 53:5 says that Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” The priest would sacrifice an animal regularly, but Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. His death was a one-time payment for sin as the Sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In the same way that the Old Testament sacrifices remind us of an even greater sacrifice, so the sacrifice of those in WWI & WWII is a picture of the selfless love of God for humanity in His sacrifice on the cross.
The Cenotaph positioned on Whitehall in London has become the central focus for the remembrance and commemoration events in Britain since the First World War – however it was never intended to be permanent. It was unveiled on 11 November 1920 (2 years after the end of WWI) by King George V.
Cenotaph means ’empty tomb’. It symbolises the unprecedented losses suffered during the First World War and is dedicated to ‘The Glorious Dead’.
In the same way, this cenotaph reminds us of another cenotaph a.k.a. empty tomb. Jesus’ sacrifice would have paid for nothing if there were not an empty tomb. The Good News is not simply that Jesus died and we didn’t know where to bury Him so we have “a cenotaph”; rather, He was buried but is no longer there. Jesus’ tomb was not intended to be permanent either. He rose 3 days later!
This is the hope of Christianity and the hope for humanity. Today, we can speculate where we believe Jesus might have been buried, but we don’t know for certain because He’s not there! Jesus’ cenotaph (empty tomb) is the assurance that His sacrifice was not in vain.
The sacrifice of those in WWI & WWII ensured the victory and freedom of millions of people across the world. It is right to honour their faith, courage, and sacrifice in the face of trials & adversity, for we are still living in the freedom bought in those crucial battles.
1 Peter 2:24 – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Just as these soldiers gave themselves up to defeat the enemy, Jesus gave Himself up as a sacrifice to defeat our enemies of Satan, sin, and death. Today we remember that death is swallowed up in victory because of ‘the cenotaph’ (empty tomb/resurrection).
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 – When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we remember the sacrifice & cenotaph of the “glorious dead” this weekend, may we also remember Jesus’ sacrifice (cross) & cenotaph (empty tomb/resurrection) gives us victorious freedom over our enemies (Satan, sin, and death)
Death is not the final word for the life of the Christian
– Tyson Bradley