French tending to their wounded in the trenches of WWI
Henri Barbusse (1873-1935) was a French novelist. At the outbreak of the first World War in 1914, at the age of forty-one, Barbusse enlisted in the French army to fight the Germans. He spent almost a year and a half fighting in the trenches at the front lines. At the end of 1915 he was moved into a clerical position due to pulmonary damage, exhaustion, and dysentery. In 1916 Barbusse became famous with the publication of Under Fire, a fictional novel based on his actual experiences at the front. Under Fire describes war in gritty and brutal realism, depicting in detail the wretched conditions in the trenches, and the horror of the death all around him. Later he would write of those awful times: “I keep remembering, I keep remembering. My heart has no pity on me.”
In the novel, Barbusse tells of a conversation overhead in a trench full of wounded men after a battle. One of the men knows that he is dying, and he says to the other: “Listen Dominique, you have lived a bad life. But there are no convictions against me. There is nothing in the books against my name. Take my name. Take my life. I give it to you. Just like that, you will have no more convictions on your record. Take my papers. There are there in my pocketbook. Go on, take them, and hand yours over to me. Then, I can carry all your crimes away with me, and you can start over.” (Identification papers were less sophisticated then, though even now identities can be switched or stolen.)
At an infinitely higher level, this is what Jesus did for us on the cross. He, the sinless one, took our sins onto himself and then to the cross. In him we now appear in a new light before God, reconciled and forgiven.
I Peter 2:24 — (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Isaiah 53:3-6 — He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I Corinthians 15:1-4 — Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Colossians 3:3 — For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.
–The ancient Jesus prayer