It was May 21, 1946. The place - Los Alamos. A young and daring scientist was carrying
out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the
waters of the South Pacific at Bikini.
He had successfully performed such an experiment many times before. In his effort to
determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction--scientists call it the
critical mass--he would push two hemispheres of uranium together. Then, just as the mass
became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping
the chain reaction. But that day, just as the material became critical, the
screwdriver slipped! The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. Instantly the
room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze. Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and
thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and thus
interrupted the chain reaction.
"By this instant, self-forgetful daring, he saved the lives of the seven other
persons in the room. . . (A)s he waited. . for the car that was to take him to the
hospital, he said quietly to his companion, 'You'll come through all right. But I haven't
the faintest chance myself' It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.
"Nineteen centuries ago the Son of the living God walked directly into sin's most
concentrated radiation, allowed Himself to be touched by its curse, and let it take His
life . . . But by that act He broke the chain reaction. He broke the power of sin.
George Vandeman, Planet In Rebellion.
The small boy had been consistently late for dinner. One particular day his parents had
warned him to be on time, but he arrived later than ever. He found his parents already
seated at the table, about to start eating. Quickly he sat at his place, then noticed what
was set before him--a slice of bread and a glass of water. There was silence as he sat
staring at his plate, crushed. Suddenly he saw his father's hand reach over, pick up his
plate and set it before himself. Then his dad put his own full plate in front of his son,
smiling warmly as he made the exchange. When the boy became a man, he said, "All my
life I've known what God was like by what my father did that night."
Homemade, May, 1989.
During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a
soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the
evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier's fiancÚ had climbed
into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking.
When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him
her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell's heart was touched and he said, "Your lover
shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!"
Our Daily Bread.
During the war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French army by
a kind of lottery system. When someone's name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. There
was one exception to this, however. A person could be exempt if another was willing to
take his place. On one occasion the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was
among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, "I was shot 2 years
ago." At first they questioned his sanity, but he insisted that this indeed was the
case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been conscripted 2 years
previously and that he had been killed in action. "How can that be?" they
questioned. "You are alive now!" He explained that when his name came up, a
close friend said to him, "You have a large family, but I am not married and nobody
is dependent upon me. I'll take your name and address and go in your place." And that
is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon
Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He
had died in the person of another!
This principle of substitution is also at the heart of the gospel. The Savior willingly
took our place, not because He had any less to lose than we, but because of His infinite
love. He died in our stead and paid the penalty for our sin. The law, which demands the
ultimate punishment, has no claim on us, for we died 1900 years ago in the person of
Christ. His finished work is the basis of our salvation. We depend on Him -- our
Our Daily Bread.
To illustrate the principle of substitution, George Sweeting, Chancellor of Moody Bible
Institute, told of a series of tornados that caused extensive damage in eastern Ohio and
western Pennsylvania. Nearly 100 lives were lost. Prior to the storm, a man named David
Kostka was umpiring a Little League baseball game in Wheatland, Pennsylvania. When he saw
the black funnel heading toward the field, he rushed into the stands and grabbed his
niece. He pushed her into a nearby ditch and covered her with his body. Then the tornado
struck. When the youngster looked up, her uncle was gone. He had given his life in the
deadly storm to save her.
Our Daily Bread.
As mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia liked to keep in touch with all the various
departments under him. Often he would fill in for the department heads or officeholders as
a way of accomplishing this. One time he chose to preside over Night Court. It was a cold
winter night and a trembling man was brought before him charged with stealing a loaf of
bread. His family, he said, was starving.
"I have to punish you," declared La Guardia. "There can be no exceptions
to the law. I fine you ten dollars." As he said this, however, The Little Flower was
reaching into his own pocket for the money. He tossed the bill into his famous sombrero.
"Here's the ten dollars to pay your fine -- which I now remit," he said.
"Furthermore," he declared, "I'm going to fine everybody in this courtroom
fifty cents for living in a city where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. Mr.
Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant!" The hat was passed and
the incredulous man, with a smile on his face, left the courtroom with a stake of $47.50.
Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, pp. 19-20.
Boarding the SS Dorchester on a dreary winter day in 1943 were 903 troops and four
chaplains, including Moody alumnus Lt. George Fox. World War II was in full swing, and the
ship was headed across the icy North Atlantic where German U-boats lurked. At 12:00 on the
morning of February 3, a German torpedo ripped into the ship. "She's going
down!" the men cried, scrambling for lifeboats.
A young GI crept up to one of the chaplains. "I've lost my life jacket," he
said. "Take this," the chaplain said, handing the soldier his jacket. Before the
ship sank, each chaplain gave his life jacket to another man. The heroic chaplains then
linked arms and lifted their voices in prayer as the Dorchester went down. Lt. Fox and his
fellow pastors were awarded posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross.
Today in the Word, April 1, 1992.
In his book Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy
whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same
disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a
transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children
had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.
"Would you give your blood to Mary?" the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His
lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister."
Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room--Mary, pale and thin; Johnny,
robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned.
As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the
blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke
the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?' Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had
hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he'd agreed to donate his blood. He's thought
giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he'd made
his great decision.
Johnny, fortunately, didn't have to die to save his sister. Each of us, however, has a
condition more serious than Mary's, and it required Jesus to give not just His blood but
Ernest Gordon's Tells a story in Miracle On The River Kwai about Scottish
soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad. Under the strain
of captivity they had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something
"A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the
missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got
his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant
what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun,
picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up
the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel
was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point.
"The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been
willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men
began to treat each other like brothers.
"When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in
front of their captors . . (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: 'No more
hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.'" Sacrificial love has
From Ernest Gordon, Miracle On The River Kwai, adapted by
Don Ratzlaff in Christian Leader.
Commentary and Devotional
Martin Luther wrote: "All the prophets did foresee in Spirit that Christ should
become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc.,
that ever was or could be in all the world. For he, being made a sacrifice for the sins of
the whole world is not now an innocent person and without sins...but a sinner." He
was, of course, talking about the imputing of our wrongdoing to Christ as our substitute.
Luther continues: "Our most merciful Father...sent his only Son into the world and
laid upon him...the sins of all men saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that
persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did
eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly be thou the
person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy
for them. Here now comes the law and saith: I find him a sinner...therefore let him die
upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and killeth him. By this means the whole world
is purged and cleansed from all sins."
The presentation of the death of Christ as the substitute exhibits the love of the
cross more richly, fully, gloriously, and glowingly than any other account of it. Luther
saw this and gloried in it. He once wrote to a friend: "Learn to know Christ and him
crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your
sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what
you were not, so that I might become what I was not.'"
What a great and wonderful exchange! Was there ever such love?
Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers,
1986, Page October 20.