The story of the Anzac tradition is one which is embedded deeply in the Australian psyche.
On 25 April, 1915, the Australian and New Zealand forces formed part of the expedition which landed on Gallipoli in an attempt to take the peninsula, and control the Dardanelles for the allied navies. The hope was ultimately to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.
This audacious campaign was met with fierce resistance, and the result was that both sides suffered heavy casualties. Over the next eight months, 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed.
Fittingly Anzac Day has become a symbol of sacrifice and bravery for us as a nation. In particular, the courage of those who entered the battle knowing the fierce opposition that they would encounter and the likelihood of death.
In Australia, this is recognised as the highest form of bravery. There are some things in society that are considered to be extreme acts of bravery. It might be running into a burning building, taking down an armed offender or it may be rescuing someone from a car crash, but these are not the highest acts of bravery. The highest acts of bravery are recognised by the awarding of the Cross of Valour, which is given “only for acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril”. In other words, it is for an act when you have had time to consider that your attempt to save the life of someone else may put your own life at risk, and you act anyway.
It is interesting that the symbol for this award is a cross.
It was this sort of bravery that Jesus demonstrated as He prepared Himself for the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. Whilst agonizing over what lay ahead for Him, He still decided to go ahead and allow Himself to die for us.
Jesus had the agony of knowing what His decision would mean for Him and what it would mean for us. For Jesus to walk away from Gethsemane and not commit Himself to the cross would have been a better option for Him personally, but we would have been left without hope. So Jesus steeled Himself and willingly sacrificed Himself on a cross for our sake. It was an amazing act of bravery!
Could it be, that the very things we so admire about our Anzacs, and rightly so, are the same things we see in Jesus? Around this time of year we pause and reflect on our Anzac heroes. Maybe this year, also pause and reflect on the courageous God who sacrificed Himself for us.