During World War II allied officers launched one of the biggest escape events. Seventy-six men managed to tunnel out of an “unbreakable” German POW camp. My first introduction of this story was the movie version The Great Escape, Dir. John Sturges, Perf. Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenbourgh, United Artists, 1963. I loved the surge of patriotism and hope I felt, that deep hope for the safe escape of all the men involved. The story was recorded by author Anton Gill in The Great Escape the full dramatic story with contributions from survivors and their families (London; Review Books, 2002.) I have enjoyed the book greatly as my questions have been answered on many levels.
The men created tools, machines, and so much more, to make this escape possible. It is a powerful read. But, the results were not what the men were hoping for, of the seventy-six men who escaped, only three were successful. Twenty-three men were returned to POW camps for the remainder of the war, but fifty of the men were executed under Hitler’s direct orders.
There was another “great escape” that happened in history. It too, has been made into movies, books have been written about it and so on. But not until I started reading Anton Gill’s book, did I see the similarities.
While these amazing heroes in World War II showed their honor and duty to man and to their country, Jesus showed us a depth of sacrifice that reaches far beyond.
The men dug a route to freedom fighting obstacles and set backs, struggles, and failures. They sought to fight against the enemy and although it was a valiant effort, the men ultimately failed.
Jesus’ birth and death brought about our Great Escape. We struggled and fought the enemy and ultimately lost, but then Jesus came. He showed us that only through Him would we find our way out of the prison we were in. Only through Him would we find the freedom from all the things that held us bound and chained to hopelessness.
His death on the Cross paid the price and bought our freedom. We have a description of this escape and exchange in Luke 23:32-43 (bold mine):
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
To the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, I cannot express gratitude enough for your sacrifice and service. You are my heroes.
But Jesus, He is my hero because He saved my soul.