It was 1944, and Bert Frizen was an infantryman on the front lines in Europe. American forces had advanced in the face of intermittent shelling and small-arms fire throughout the morning hours, but now all was quiet. His patrol reached the edge of a wooded area with an open field before them. Unknown to the Americans, a battery of Germans waited in a hedgerow about two hundred yards across the field.
Bert was one of two scouts who moved out into the clearing. Once he was halfway across the field, the remainder of his battalion followed. Suddenly the Germans opened fire, and machine gun fire ripped into both of Bert's legs. The American battalion withdrew into the woods for protection, while a rapid exchange of fire continued.
Bert lay helplessly in a small stream as shots volleyed overhead. There seemed to be no way out. To make matters worse, he now noticed that a German soldier was crawling toward him. Death appeared imminent; he closed his eyes and waited. To his surprise, a considerable period passed without the expected attack, so he ventured opening his eyes again.
He was startled to see the German kneeling at his side, smiling. He then noticed that the shooting had stopped. Troops from both sides of the battlefield watched anxiously. Without any verbal exchange, this mysterious German reached down to lift Bert in his arms and proceeded to carry him to the safety of Bert's comrades.
Having accomplished his self-appointed mission, and still without speaking a word, the German soldier turned and walked back across the field to his own troop. No one dared break the silence of this sacred moment. Moments later the cease-fire ended, but not before all those present had witnessed how one man risked everything for his enemy.
Bert’s life was saved through the compassion of his enemy. Moments like that take the wind out of your lungs because grace goes against the grain. Yet, we find a similar act happening during the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane. As a contingent arrived to arrest Jesus, Peter took out his sword and started swinging, taking off the ear of the high priest's servant, Malchus (Mark 14:43-52). Jesus could have told Malchus, "See? That is what you get!" But instead, he healed the man. In this midst of this flurry of activity in the garden, very few noticed the last miracle of His earthly ministry. It was not a big, flashy, go-out-with-a-bang miracle, but a quiet one. This was a final act of mercy before the Cross.
It’s interesting that the last miracle Jesus performed before His death was to cover up the blunder of one of His own disciples. Our Lord received no thanks from this man (that we know of). But Jesus, in the face of this lynch mob, had not forgotten about the need of the individual.
The kindness and compassion of Jesus constantly astounds me, especially as I think about the people that traffic in and out of my life that just need a touch of grace. What is kindness and compassion? Simply put, it’s the ability to reduce the burdens of others. This is what Jesus did here. He gave a miracle to an unbeliever and probably spared a fourth cross being erected on Calvary, since Peter’s assault was a capital crime.
Imagine if we practiced the burden-reducing touch of Jesus to the people we find difficult to love. The world would definitely know more of Jesus. You don’t have to be loud or flashy about it. You may not even need words. Quiet compassion is a way to be Jesus to someone today.
I like what Max Lucado wrote about this, “Some believe that Malchus was later numbered among the believers at Jerusalem. We don’t know for sure. But we can be sure of one thing: from that night on whenever, Malchus would hear people talk about the carpenter who rose from the dead, he wouldn’t scoff. No he’d tug at his earlobe and know that it is possible.” -DM