Romans 5:6-8 tells us: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
One of the darkest moments of human history is the holocaust of WWII. Of the death camps that the Nazi’s used to eliminate various undesirable people Auschwitz was perhaps one of the worst. Prisoners at Auschwitz were given less food than needed to survive and even the strongest prisoners were on the brink of starvation and death.
In order to discourage escapes Auschwitz had a rule that if a man escaped ten men would be killed in retaliation. It was July of 1941 that a prisoner escaped. The commandant, Karl Fritsch, had all the men from that bunker turn out and line up outside. “The fugitive has not been found!” the commandant screamed. “You will all pay for this. Ten of you will be locked in the starvation bunker without food or water until they die.” The prisoners trembled in terror. A few days in this bunker without food and water, and a man's intestines dried up and his brain turned to fire.
The ten men were selected. When one prisoners name was called, Franciszek Gajowniczek, he could not help a cry of anguish, “My poor wife!” he sobbed. “My poor children! What will they do?” To everyone’s astonishment another man who had not been selected to die stepped out of line and approached the commandant, took of his cap, and spoke, “Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children and I have none.”
Everyone held their breath. There was no telling what the commandant would do. To everyone’s surprise the commandant agreed and took Maximilian Kolbe, a Christian, to replace Gasanovocheck. The ten men were marched to the starvation bunker to die an agonizingly slow and painful death.
Gasanovocheck later recalled:
"I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me - a stranger. Is this some dream?
I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this."
Gasanovocheck lived to be 95 years old. Every year of the 53 years that Kolbe’s sacrifice gave him he returned to Auschwitz to honor the sacrifice that was made to allow him to live.
Hearing this story I cannot help but to relate. Each one of us stood condemned before the God of the universe. Romans tells us that the wages of sin is death and for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all stood condemned. If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ then when God calls our name to be judged Jesus steps forward and stands in our place having already taken our punishment. Dying a horrible death at calvary Christ died for us. We do not deserve this. We are unworthy. We are powerless. That is exactly why it is grace, a free gift of life.
PRAYER: Father, we do not deserve your mercy or grace but how desperate we are for it. We stood condemned but you saved us from your wrath and so we praise You before all men. Thank you for the life you have given us. Give us the courage and strength to return that life to You lived to the full in Jesus Christ. In HIs name--Amen.