The Power of the Gospel
This Gospel of Jesus is powerful. Have you shared it this week? As we turn back now to our opening text in Luke 14:15-24 may I illustrate the power of the Gospel? Listen to Christ's power of salvation from this moving story from World War II. Remember the Day of Infamy when we were attacked and drawn into the 2nd World War? It begins at 7:55 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, 1941. In a daring surprise air raid, the Japanese attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In less than two hours, 2,403 American soldiers, sailors, and civilians were killed, and another 1,178 wounded. Aircraft losses totaled 188 planes, and much of the United States Pacific Fleet was destroyed or damaged.
The bombing raid against Pearl Harbor was actually led by a brilliant thirty-nine year old Japanese Navy pilot named Mitsuo Fuchida, whose idol was Adolf Hitler. Although his plane was hit several times by ground fire, he survived the raid. The attack on Pearl Harbor led to the United States' entry into World War II, and ultimately to the devastation of the Japanese homeland by American conventional and atomic bombs.
After the war, Fuchida was haunted by memories of all the death he had witnessed. In an attempt to find solace, he took up farming near Osaka. His thoughts turned more and more to the problem of peace, and he decided to write a book on the subject. In his book, which he intended to call No More Pearl Harbors, he would urge the world to pursue peace. Fuchida struggled in vain, however, to find a principle upon which peace could be based. His story is picked up by Donald A. Rosenberger, an American naval yeoman who survived the Pearl Harbor attack. He writes,
Fuchida began looking for stories about prisoners of war that seemed to illustrate the principle for which he was searching. His first report came from a friend—a lieutenant who had been captured by the Americans and incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp in America. Fuchida saw his name in a newspaper, in a list of POWs who were returning to Japan. He determined to visit him. When they met, they spoke of many things. Then Fuchida asked the question uppermost in his mind. "How did they treat you in the POW camp?" His friend said they were treated fairly well, although they suffered much mentally and spiritually. But then he told Fuchida a story which, he said, had made a great impression upon him and upon every prisoner in the camp. "Something happened at the camp where I was interred," he said, "which has made it possible for us who were in that camp to forego all our resentment and hatred and to return with a forgiving spirit and a feeling of lightheartedness instead."
There was a young American girl, named Margaret "Peggy" Covell, whom they judged to be about twenty, who came to the camp on a regular basis doing all she could for the prisoners. She brought things to them they might enjoy, such as magazines and newspapers. She looked after their sick, and she was constantly solicitous to help them in every way. They received a great shock, however, when they asked her why she was so concerned to help them. She answered, "Because my parents were killed by the Japanese Army!"
Such a statement might shock a person from any culture, but it was incomprehensible to the Japanese. In their society, no offense could be greater than the murder of one's parents. Peggy tried to explain her motives. She said her parents had been missionaries in the Philippines. When the Japanese invaded the islands, her parents escaped to the mountains in North Luzon for safety. In due time, however, they were discovered. The Japanese charged them with being spies and told them they were to be put to death. They earnestly denied that they were spies, but the Japanese would not be convinced, and they were executed.
Peggy didn't hear about her parents' fate until the end of the war. When the report of their death reached her, her first reaction was intense anger and bitter hatred. She was furious with grief and indignation. Thoughts of her parents' last hours of life filled her with great sorrow. She envisioned them trapped, wholly at the mercy of their captors, with no way out. She saw the merciless brutality of the soldiers. She saw them facing the Japanese executioners and falling lifeless to the ground on that far off Philippine mountain.
Then Peggy began to consider her parents' selfless love for the Japanese people. Gradually, she became convinced that they had forgiven the people God had called them to love and serve. Then it occurred to her that if her parents had died without bitterness or rancor toward their executioners, why should her attitude be different? Should she be filled with hatred and vengefulness when they had been filled with love and forgiveness? Her answer could only be, "Definitely not." Therefore she chose the path of love and forgiveness. She decided to minister to the Japanese prisoners in the nearby POW camp as a proof of her sincerity.
Fuchida was touched by this story, but he was especially impressed with the possibility that it was exactly what he had been searching for: a principle sufficient to be a basis for peace. Could it be that the answer for which he was seeking was a forgiving love, flowing from God to man, and then from man to man? Could that be principle upon which the message of his projected book, No More Pearl Harbors should be based?
At the train station on his way home, he obtained a copy of the New Testament in Japanese. A few months later, he began to read two or three chapters a day in the Scriptures. . . . Then in September 1949, Fuchida read Luke 23. This was the first time he had read the story of the crucifixion.
The Calvary scene pierced Fuchida's spirit. It all came alive in St. Luke's starkly beautiful prose. In the midst of the horror of His death, Christ said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Tears sprang to Fuchida's eyes; he had reached the end of his "long, long wondering." Surely these words were the source of the love that Peggy Covell had shown. . . . As Jesus hung there, on the cross, He prayed not only for His persecutors but for all humanity. That meant He had prayed and died for Fuchida, a Japanese man living in the twentieth century.
By the time Fuchida finished reading Luke, he had received the Lord Jesus Christ. He did end up writing his book and entitled it From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha. His life verse, which he signed under his every signature, was Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Christ's offer of forgiveness has a tremendous power to affect the world. God knew it, Luke knew it, and today we need to know it. The Holy Spirit knew that all men and women needed to know it, and that's why the Gospel by Luke was included in Scripture. May we take its message to heart.
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