Theme: The sacrifice of Jesus
Bible refs: Isaiah 53
Similar clips: Braveheart – Blood and guts
Location of clip: 1 hr 25 mins and 18 secs to 1hr 30 mins and 2 secs
A small British battalion is captured by the Japanese as they invade Singapore in 1941. The unit is taken deep into the Burmese jungle and set to work on the “Death Railway”. The soldier forced to construct a line that will set up a transport supply for the Japanese invasion of India. The conditions are appalling, food rations are pitiful, and the soldiers endure slave labour. Beatings and abuse are daily occurrences for all of them.
One of the British Officers, Major Campbell, plans an escape attempt. But this fails and he and his men are rounded up and condemned to die.
All the men in the camp are assembled to witness the execution of Major Campbell and his men. First Campbell’s men are shot. Then the Japanese commandant approaches Major Campbell and tells him to kneel. Her unsheathes his sword and prepares to behead him. There is a movement in the ranks… Dusty Miller steps forward and speaks quietly to one of the guards. This interruption is punishable by death, but Miller has little to lose. The Japanese commandant listens to Miller for a moment, then barks instructions to the guards. The soldiers drag Dusty away to a yard outside the camp. One of the soldiers cuts the ropes around Major Campbell’s wrists and tells him, “You are free.”
The soldiers drag Dusty away and stretch him out on the ground. They nail him to a cross and crucify him outside the camp for all the prisoners to see.
This is a very powerful clip. Dusty Miller and Major Campbell do not get on. They approach life from different ends. Yet here’s Dusty stepping forward and offering his life in place of the Major’s. Like Jesus, Dusty goes to the cross, so that the Major can be set free.
Like Jesus Dusty has a moment of crisis. He courageously volunteers, then buckles when he sees the fate awaiting him. When Jesus is with his friends in the daylight, he tells them clearly how he is going to be arrested, tortured and murdered. But in the night, when he is alone I the dark, his theology crumbles a little. He pleads for another way out. He doesn’t want to die. He loves life. He is frightened. He wants a different end to the story. But in the end Jesus, and Dusty, steel themselves and lay down their lives.
It’s said of the Death Railway that one man died for every sleeper laid. These were harsh conditions, it was an inhuman place. Yet God was right there. Present in Dusty and many others, reaching out through them, offering hope and a future. God is not afraid – you will find him in the bleakest, most sordid of places. Many men lose faith during times of war and crisis. But some find God in the dark, and for some it’s the beginning of their journey with him.
1. Did this clip help you see anything fresh about Jesus taking our place?
2. Dusty and Campbell were enemies. Have you seen other examples of enemies
laying down their lives for each other?
3. The early Christians could not bring themselves to even mention the cross – it was
so fearful. Have we taken the death of Jesus for granted now?
4. Can you think of some specific way in which Jesus has taken your place?
5. Did the clip make you think about anything else?