(Letterkenny Post newspaper column. Once a month the article covers a verse on a calender we gave out inLetterkenny with the Baptist church)
It was the day after Christmas day 1944, in the small Italian village of Sommocolonia. Lieutenant John Fox of the US army was stationed in a tower in the village and was acting as an artillery spotter for the big guns in the Valley. Shortly after 4am he was awoken by the sound of gunfire.
As dawn broke over the mountains, the 29-year-old lieutenant saw that the streets below him were swarming with German troops. They were determined to take the village en route to taking a strategic port to the south to cut off supplies to Allied forces.
By mid morning the fighting was brutal with the villagers joining with the small group of 70 G.I.s stationed in the village. The men in Sommocolonia fought on until more than two-thirds of them were dead or wounded, seeking to slow down the German advance.
From his observation post Fox had been calling in artillery fire on the German troops. But now the tower was surrounded by the enemy troops.
He made one last call to his friend Otis Zachary, the gunnery sergeant. “Put everything you’ve got on me.”
Zachary protested, “I can’t do that.” “Fire it” came Fox’s response.
High explosive shells rained down on the observation post, and when the dust cleared Fox lay dead, surrounded by bodies of more than 100 enemy troops.
Three days later, the German offensive sputtered to a halt. Fox had given his life so that others could live.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” – 1 John 3:16
“Put everything you’ve got on me.” They could have been the last words of Jesus. From his observation point in Heaven, he sees the punishment that is stacking up against us for our sins. He knows that those sins have to be paid for, that punishment has to be poured out, and so he looks his Father straight in the eye and says “Put everything you’ve got on me.”
On the cross he took the punishment that would have been poured on his people for all eternity, the anger of a holy God, poured out on thousands upon thousands of sins.
The message of Christianity is that if you want to know what love is, put your trust in the one who offers to take your punishment.