"The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion, see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:12-15
It was one of the most inspiring sights of World War II. Four chaplains were standing on the deck of the USS Dorchester, hand-in-hand, singing the old hymn "Nearer My God To Thee." But then, these were inspiring men. And this was a scene the men of the USS Dorchester would never forget.
George Fox was the oldest of the chaplains. A veteran of WW I and a recipient of the Silver Star for bravery. He had become a public accountant after the war and then a minister. When WW II began he told his wife he would have to go. "I know from experience what our boys are about to face," he said, "They need me."
Alexander D. Goode was the only Rabbi in the group. A father of four and a medical doctor, he was patriotic to the core.
Johnny P. Washington came from a poor Irish immigrant family. He grew up in the slums of Newark, New Jersey, but went on to become a Catholic priest. He was known for his laughter and his love of music.
Clark V. Poling, the youngest of the four chaplains, was a minister from the Dutch Reformed church. Clark was the seventh generation in an unbroken line of ministers. However, he wanted to be a fighting soldier instead of a chaplain. He didn’t want people to think he was "hiding behind the church." But when he found out that the mortality rate of the chaplains was the highest of all he felt he would be doing his full part as a chaplain.
It was a stirring sight to see these four men united, hand-in-hand, on the deck of that ship. But they weren’t conducting a service for the men as you might think -- they were preparing to die. It was in the early morning hours of February 3, 1943. The ship was bound for Greenland with 906 men on board. Suddenly a torpedo from a Nazi U-boat ripped through the hull and the ship began to sink in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Fear gave way to panic among the soldiers. Rushing to the deck, many left their lifejackets below. The chaplains helped calm the panic by helping the men escape the sinking ship. Then, with the lifeboats full, they gave their own lifejackets to soldiers who had none. The ship completely sank in only twenty-seven minutes.
As the men who had escaped looked back at their doomed ship they saw the four chaplains standing on board the sinking ship hand-in-hand and listened as the men lifted their voices to God. It was a sight that would forever be etched in their memories.
Had the sovereign hand of God directed each of them down the same road or had they chosen it for themselves? What we know for sure is that they chose to give their lives for others. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." (John 15:13) Jesus was traveling this road into Jerusalem to do just that -- lay down His life for His friends.
This "triumphal entry" was actually a road of sorrow He chose for himself. It too was an inspiring sight for those who can see it for what it was.