The following is a summary of Swindoll’s story…
Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany, and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks…
“Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple.
On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought. Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.
He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless.
Empty? Not all of them! One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: ‘This is all we can do for you now.’”
I find this story particularly significant as Holy week unfolds and Easter approaches. As I write this, it is Good Friday, the day commemorating when Christ was crucified. And I cannot help but see certain parallels here.
No one will ever know just who this anonymous Czech slave laborer was. Very likely, he died at the hands of his captors, the evil Nazis. But even in his adversity, he clearly found a way to insure that his imprisonment and death were not to be in vain. Even as he was at the mercy of his enemy, he found a way to impart life to his fellow man!
And there you have the gospel in a nutshell! For there, you have a picture of what Jesus Christ did for us on that very first Good Friday. Even as He was at the mercy of His enemy, the Evil One, even as he was imprisoned and giving His life on a Roman cross, He was still finding a way to give life to those He loved and cared for!
I am one of those He loved, and saved by His sacrifice. And so are you! I trust you already know this. If not, then I encourage you to revel in the Good News of the Gospel. For as the Bible tells us, “He died for us so that … we may live together with him.” May we never forget how much God loves us! May we exult in and celebrate His love forever!
SWINDOLL VERSION SOURCE:
ORIGINAL STORY SOURCE:
Elmer Bendiner, The Fall of Fortresses (New York: Penguin Press, 1980), p. 139.