In 1941, Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda was sent to a small US-occupied island in the Philippines with orders to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island. He linked up with a group of soldiers already stationed there, but within a month, all but four of the men had been killed in battle. Hiroo and the others took the hills.
In 1945 they began seeing pamphlets stating the war had ended, but Onoda dismissed them as propaganda. In the following few years, the others surrendered or died one by one, but Onoda held his position, even continued his guerilla activities … until 1974.
Onoda finally met a college dropout named Suzuki backpacking in the island who explained to him the war had ended. Still, the dedicated soldier was reluctant to believe. Finally, his former commanding officer — long since retired — flew to the island and gave Onoda his orders to lay down his arms.
Like Lt. Onoda, many are unnecessarily fighting a war that has long since been won. The wrong war. This is not the battle we’ve been called to, it’s the battle we’ve been saved from. And we’re not engaged in combat because of honor, but because of pride and disbelief.
Before Jesus breathed his final breath, he cried out “It is finished.” Maybe some within the sound of his voice thought he was talking about his own life, or maybe they thought he was talking about the future of his following … but the truth is that he was talking about the power of sin and death. Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. And at that moment death was swallowed in victory; the cost of our freedom was paid in full.
Like the pamphlets that arrived on that tiny Philippine island, we have heard about our liberation — but we refuse to believe it. It’s too good to be true. We stubbornly stay in the fight, and we lose battle after battle — the same battles he has already won.
It is finished, he said. Sin. Death. Guilt. Regret. Sin. Despair. Isolation. And did I mention sin? These are all swallowed up in the victory of the cross and his powerful resurrection.
His work is finished, he has rested. And he is inviting us now to rest in him. [From Preaching Life; firstname.lastname@example.org]