Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. Romans 6:8
Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest. Imprisoned for hiding Jews, he was sent to the Nazi camp at Auschwitz. In July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s bunker was imagined to have escaped. (The escaped prisoner was later found drowned in a camp latrine, so the reprisals were made without cause.) The remaining men of the bunker were led out. “The fugitive has not been found!” commandant Karl Fritsch said sternly. “Ten of you will die for him in the starvation bunker.”
Ten were selected, including a Polish resistance fighter. Hearing the news, he cried in anguish, “My wife! My children! What will they do?” Father Kolbe stepped forward and said to the commandant, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old; he is young. He has a wife and children.” Kolbe’s offer was accepted. He was thrown into Building 13 and left there to starve. After two weeks, only four of the 10 were alive. But the cell was needed for more victims, so the camp executioner injected a lethal dose of carbolic acid into the arms of the four men.
Would you, like Father Kolbe, be willing to die for another? Yes, you might be willing to die for noble and lasting things. You might even be willing to die for family or country or compatriots. But Jesus Christ, God’s Son, showed that He was willing to die for sinners like you and me.
Look at every religion or philosophy this world promotes. You will see that this kind of gracious gift is unique to Christianity. Only Christianity says, “We have been saved by the sacrifice of God’s Son.” Christ has shown God’s love by doing all that was needed so we might have forgiveness and an eternal future. The religious leaders plotted against Him; His own disciples deserted Him. He was sold for the price of a slave, beaten, whipped, lied about, spit upon, crowned with thorns, and made to carry the cross upon which He would die. All this, so you and I might be saved.
For what would you be willing to die? The Father showed His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, He, with a love that refused to be deterred by our antagonism, sent His Son to die for us. Today a risen Lord extends His nail-pierced hands to you, offering the gift of a salvation you, on your own, couldn’t earn.
Excerpt from The Lutheran Hour sermon preached on March 16, 2003