Yesterday our pastor told of the story about Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz during World War II.
On February 17, 1941, Maximilian was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On May 28, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.
At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp. The camp commander picked 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men cried out, “My wife! My children!”– and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
Can you imagine someone voluntarily asking to take the place of another person destined for death? I’m not even sure Kolbe knew this man very well. His charitable act cost him his life. Given the same set of circumstances, I wonder if I’d be brave enough to do the same.
I know of another who willingly laid down his life for others. His name is Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. The gospel of John chapter 3, tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
I can think of no greater sacrifice than this, can you?