“He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance.” So said the brother of Arnaud Beltrame, the French police officer who helped end the supermarket siege in Trèbes on 23rd March 2018, by substituting himself for one of the hostages. Once again we have seen the remarkable capacity of human beings to sacrifice themselves on behalf of another. But what is it that prompts such acts of sacrifice?
Jesus once remarked to his friends, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends1.” But what love is it that lays down one’s life for a stranger? And beyond that what love is it that lays down one’s life for an enemy, as the Apostle Paul insists Jesus did, for that, he says, is what we were to God when Jesus went to the cross2.
At the beginning of this Holy Week we are reminded of the actions of a love so extravagant and self-sacrificial that no price is too high to pay. It is the supreme love of God seen in the life of Jesus, willingly swapping places with us3 and taking the death that should have been ours.
1 John 15:13
2 Romans 5:10
3 Mark 10:45