This morning I came across the name Jason Dunham and spent a few minutes reading about his life and death. In 2004, Dunham was a twenty-two year-old Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, serving in Iraq. He became the first Marine since 1970 to earn the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest award for battlefield heroism—for actions in combat.
On April 14, 2004, he was manning a checkpoint near Karabilah when an Iraqi man whose car they were searching, suddenly grabbed his throat. As Dunham wrestled the man to the ground, the Iraqi dropped a grenade with the pin removed. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. He saved the lives of several of his fellow soldiers. Dunham died of his wounds just a few days later without ever regaining consciousness.
The official Marine Corps citation says, “By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
Such gallantry is amazing, inspiring. It should awe us that a man would so selflessly give all he had for his friends.
And yet what Christ did was greater still. As William Farley says in Outrageous Mercy, “At the cross God threw himself on a grenade to save the enemy soldiers…” We would not wish to downplay the gallantry of Corporal Dunham who made the ultimate sacrifice. But neither can we escape the fact that Jesus Christ died for those who were not his friends, but his enemies. What love this is! Even in the greatest of human sacrifices we see just a pale reflection of the depth, the magnitude, of the sacrifice of the Son of God.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.