Gallipoli and the Gospel

Gallipoli and Gospel boxbw

On the 25th April, 1915 Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey as part of the Allies campaign during WW1. Each year now on ANZAC Day (25th April), Australia remembers their sacrifice and bravery.

With the passing of a hundred years, you would think interest would be in decline with the Anzac celebration, however, the opposite is the case. It appears there is almost a growing religious flavour to it all. More and more it is described as ‘the most sacred day’ in the national calendar when humanity is exalted! For many it has become the nation’s holy day, as it is regarded as the ultimate day in Australia’s history, from which we learn what it means to be a mate and to act with courage and love.

It is appropriate that we should have a time of remembrance for those who fought for our freedom, after all Romans 13 declares we are ‘to give honour to whom honour is due’ in the context of the civil society in which we live. However, for we who are born again, it is important that we understand Anzac Day, and for that matter Gallipoli, from a Christian perspective.

One of the first Australians to land at Anzac Cove was Elvas Jenkins. Jenkins grew up in country Victoria, where he was converted. He moved to Melbourne to work and study theology. By mid 1914 he was ordained into the Methodist ministry, however in August he volunteered for military service. By the year’s end he was in training in Egypt where he picked up a pocket Bible.

Within six months Jenkins was going ashore at Gallipoli at 7am on the 1st Anzac Day. Less than one month later, on 7th May, Jenkins was struck directly over his heart when a shell packed with shrapnel exploded. The lead shrapnel struck right in the middle of the Bible in his top pocket. The shrapnel passed through the Psalms, Revelation and pierced the pages all the way to Acts, but the projectile stopped at the gospels. That Bible literally saved his life, right at the point of the gospel!

In this article we want to explore Gallipoli and the Gospel. As we do, we will see that Gallipoli is not the ultimate measure of love, but Golgotha. It is not the diggers, but the Divine-Man Jesus who should be our focus and the ultimate day in Australian history that ought to shape our nation is not Anzac Day, but Good Friday!

When the first Anzacs went ashore at Gallipoli they needed enormous courage.

JENKINS-Elvas-ElliottHistory records that Elvas Jenkins survived the Gallipoli campaign and by July 1916 he was on the Western Front in France. Clearly he needed courage there also!

Jenkins was in charge of a reconnaissance party determining the precise location of the German trenches. After briefly leading his men in prayer, he was unaware that he was in the sights of a German sniper. Tragically he was shot and soon died. His Colonel wrote, “Had he survived, I intended to recommend him for the Military Cross.” The military cross was awarded for “gallantry during active operations against the enemy.”

There is no question of the courage required by the Aussie Diggers, but it truly pales into the background when we look at the courage of our Lord Jesus.

The Lord Jesus Christ came into the battlefield of this world in order to fight for His people; to overthrow the enemy of our souls and to do direct battle with the enemy of sin. He was given His mission in Heaven’s headquarters and was deployed with holy courage. Isaiah records, ‘The Lord God will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint,’ (Isaiah 50:7).

Again and again throughout His ministry Jesus told His disciples what was coming for Him at Jerusalem. Luke tells us, ‘He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,’ (Luke 9:51). When we compare the courage of the Divine-Man Jesus at Golgotha, compared to the diggers at Gallipoli, we see our Lord stand out.

There is no doubt that the Anzacs needed courage as they went to fight an enemy they didn’t know. They were not even sure where they were. But Jesus had even more courage, because He knew exactly who His enemies were; He knew where they were; He knew exactly what they would do, yet He walked straight into the battlefield – unflinching!

The WW1 soldiers did not know the outcome, though they went in with the hogallipoli1pe that all would be well for them and they would survive, but Jesus set His face like flint knowing exactly what would be His end. If we want to talk about someone being honoured for ‘gallantry during active operations against the enemy’, it is the Lord Jesus. His was the ultimate act of gallantry, as He fought for us!

It is appropriate that as Christians we honour the fallen Anzacs. But when we think of Gallipoli and the Gospel – it is the Lord Jesus who we exalt high! Yes, the diggers needed bravery as they went into potential suffering and death, but Jesus went into a war zone far worse. He knew He would have to endure the wrath of God, not just the fury of men.

So it is not so much the diggers, but the Divine-Man; it is not so much what happened at Gallipoli, but more so what happened at Golgotha, that is where we see the ultimate act of courage!

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember Him!

In the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance there is written on the floor, ‘Greater love hath no man’. Once a year, on 11th November, at 11am, a beam of sunlight falls on the word ‘love’ and that is where our attention ought to be when we consider Gallipoli and the Gospel. Jesus said, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,’ (John 15:13).

A WW1 soldier was converted as he read the little Bible he had been issued. He was so joyful that he constantly sang and became known up and down the trenches as ‘Singing Jim’.

One day a member of his company was wounded between the trenches and needed to be fetched, and Singing Jim stepped forward. He reached the man under cover of darkness and began crawling home with his friend on his back. The light of a flare overhead revealed their position and sadly Singing Jim was killed. He displayed true love, by laying down his life for his friend, but 1 John 3:16 takes us deeper – ‘By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.’ Here we are pointed not to Gallipoli, but to Golgotha – ‘By this we know love.’

The Height of Who He is
1 John 3:16 tells us it was not Singing Jim dying for a fellow soldier. It was not mere man for man, but God for man! Here we come face to face with the height of who He is – the God-Man dies for us! The One who upholds all things by the word of His power; the Creator gives Himself for the very creatures He made. We can never understand God’s love unless we have a high view of God.

The Breadth of What He did
I draw your attention to the verb, ‘He laid down His life.’ 1 Timothy 6:16 declares that God has immortality. As mere humans we are mortals, that is, ones subject to death. However, the eternal Son is immortal and so He need not have died at all. We need to grasp this if we’re going to understand His love!

Out of the 20,000 Anzacs soldiers involved at Gallipoli, 8709 were killed, the rest survived. Yet each of those who survived, have died since. Like us, they were mortals.

Anyone dying on behalf of another, even for love’s sake, is only making a slightly premature payment of that debt which must be paid by all. Here’s the wonder of what this text says! ‘He laid down His life.’

There was no reason why Jesus should die apart from Him laying down His life. Jesus came to earth and assumed our nature that He might be capable of death, and yet though capable of death, His body need not have died, as it never saw corruption. This is because there was not in His body one element of sin, which necessitated decay or death.

Only Christ could stand at the grave and say, ‘No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down,’ (John 10:18). Why then would the only One who never needed to have died, yield Himself to death? John tells, ‘By this we know love’.

The Depth of Who we are
John tells us who He died for. He died for ‘us’. But here is where most refuse to swallow what God says, when the ‘us’ is described in the Bible. Romans 5:6-10 describes ‘us’ as ones without strength, ungodly, sinners and God’s enemies. The magnitude of God’s love is highlighted when we see the depth of our depravity. How amazing, that the infinitely holy God would step into the battlefield of this world and lay down His life for rebels like us!

As we look at Gallipoli from a Christian perspective we are taken to Golgotha and the glory of God’s love. Yet I wonder what sort of impression does this make upon you – a light impression?gallipolicross

As you have read these things has it affected you? Must there not be something essentially wrong, if coolness and indifference is your response? Are you not ashamed to think that your own heart can be so unmoved by something so magnificent? A story from Gallipoli might move us, but Jesus’ substitutionary death for rebels like us just passes us by!

Is this an indication that you actually have not grasped the height of His nature, or the breadth of what He did? Is it that you actually do not believe how bad you really are, or is there such hardness in your heart toward the things of God – toward Christ Himself?

John Calvin said, ‘Those hearts must be harder than iron or stone which are not softened by such incomparable sweetness of Divine love.’

‘By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.’ 1 John 3:16

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember Him!