Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
-- John 21:22
March 11, 1942 was a dark day for America--as well as for the entire free world. Just three months earlier, the Japanese had launched a devastating surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The result was a crippled American Pacific fleet, 3,478 servicemen killed or wounded, plus an additional 103 civilian casualties. Now, the Japanese had trapped 85,000 American and Filipino troops on the Philippine's Bataan Peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor.
Under orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur (the American commander) and his family evacuated the area for the relative safety of Australia. The thousands of troops MacArthur left behind were eventually forced to surrender by the seemingly invincible Japanese military. But the general refused to turn his back on his men--or the Filipino people that he loved. "I shall return," MacArthur promised in his statement to the press. And on October 20, 1944, he kept that promise as he waded ashore with a mighty invasion force at the Filipino island of Leyte. "People of the Philippines, I have returned," MacArthur declared in an unforgettable radio broadcast.
A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Douglas MacArthur was known for his bravery, heroism and faithfulness. And although his promise was both historic and world-changing, it doesn't come close the significance of another promise kept more than 2,000 years ago. Mankind had for centuries been enslaved by an enemy called sin...and true freedom was just a dream. There was only one Hope. Keeping a promise He made at the foundation of the world, God Himself paid mankind's enormous sin-debt in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He came to earth in the form of a helpless infant, grew to adulthood and lived a faultless, sin-free life, and was unjustly executed for trumped-up crimes that He didn't commit. The message of His brief ministry heralded the Good News of God's coming Kingdom. And it's summarized in one of the best-known passages of the Bible (John 3:16):
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It was through Jesus that God kept His promise of forgiveness and salvation for those who ask for it in faith. And one day--maybe even in the very near future--He'll keep another long-anticipated promise when Jesus comes back to once and for all defeat the enemy and forever free His people.
He shall return!