Not long after the conclusion of W.W. II, Lester Pearson, then Canadian ambassador to the United States, attended a diplomatic function in Washington, DC. Sir Winston Churchill was also in attendance, and in the course of the dinner conversation, was asked what he felt was the most worrisome moment of the recent war. Without hesitation he pointed to April, 1942, when the Japanese fleet was steaming toward Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) . He spoke of a courageous pilot who stayed aloft to radio the location and description of the attacking fleet and was then shot down – “an unknown airman whose bones now lay whitened on the ocean floor.” To Churchill’s surprise, Mr. Pearson interjected, “That airman is neither unknown nor dead. He is RCAF Officer Len Birchall.”
On that fateful day in 1942, Len Birchall had been patrolling the Indian Ocean in his Catalina when he saw the Japanese assault fleet. Six Zeroes rose to attack him but he evaded them as long as he could, desperately trying to radio the information to his superiors. He was eventually shot down, uncertain whether his warning had been received. When fished out of the water by the Japanese, Birchall was brutally interrogated as to whether he had sent any information to Ceylon. He refused to answer their insistent questions, and the fleet continued towards Ceylon. But because of the timely warning received from Birchall, the Allies were ready and Ceylon was saved. Allied officials, assuming the nameless pilot to be dead, were unaware of the horrors through which he was passing. Blamed for the stinging defeat, the captured Birchall was led through Yokohama, spat upon by angry crowds, hung up by his thumbs, and thrown into prison. He languished there for 31/2 years. Finally, at war’s end, he was released and eventually took up residence in Kingston, Ontario.
The Allied cause was deeply indebted to Len Birchall. There is Another whose bravery and self-sacrifice have made billions of men and women eternal debtors to His love. At Calvary, the Lord Jesus suffered beyond imagination, enduring not only the ridicule and scorn of His enemies, not only the pain and anguish of crucifixion, but the judgment of God against sin. The words of Lamentations 1 are often applied to the Savior’s agony, “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger. From above hath He sent fire into My bones, and it prevaileth against them.” Christians rightfully sing: “What He endured no tongue can tell, To save our souls from death and hell.”
So much was at stake on that momentous occasion! The destinies of billions of men and women, the defeat of sin, Satan and death, the eventual recovery of a redeemed world and the establishment of Christ’s eternal kingdom – all this and so much more were hinging on the Savior’s work on the cross.
Those who attempt to be saved by their own actions make the cross of Christ “of none effect” and derive no benefit from His victory. But there are countless people alive today to whom that Savior and that cross mean everything. They gladly borrow the Apostle Paul’s words, “The Son of God … loved me and gave Himself for me.” He died for the ungodly. He saves sinners. He can safely guide you through life and receive you to heaven. Trust Him today! “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”