Oh Captain! My Captain!
This article shares its title with an elegy penned by the American poet, Walt Whitman following the murder of president Abraham Lincoln in 1865. In the poem, Whitman celebrates the end of the Civil War while lamenting the loss of our 16th president. Each of the poem's three stanzas ends by speaking of "Captain" Lincoln "fallen cold and dead."
Speaking of Jesus, the inspired apostle wrote, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Hebrews 2:10). The Greek word translated, "captain" means, "the chief leader, one who takes the lead in anything and thus affords an example, a predecessor in a matter, a pioneer, the author." Elsewhere the word is translated, "prince" (Acts 3:15; 5:31) and "author" (Hebrews 12:2). In each of the four usages of the word, Jesus is presented as the leader of souls bound for eternity. He is the "Prince (leader) of (eternal) life" (Acts 3:15). He is the "Prince (leader) of repentance and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). He is the "author (leader) of THE (the definite article is in the original text) faith" (Hebrews 12:2). In Hebrews 2:10, he is the "captain of their (Christians') salvation." Each usage of the word clearly affirms what Peter had earlier declared in Jerusalem, that "neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). It is an oft-recurring theme in the Word of God. Jesus is the captain of salvation. Jesus is the leader into the heavenly portal. If heaven is to be entered, it MUST be entered by following the path laid down by Jesus. The "captain" has led. Through His sacrifice and then His resurrection, He has cleared the way to eternal life (Hebrews 10:24). There will be no other captain coming along (Hebrews 10:26). His role is unique.
Through the years, military leaders have studied the tactics of their predecessors so that they can be better prepared for battle. By coming in the flesh and living among us, our spiritual captain has given us a pattern to follow. We can find that pattern in the Bible as we look at the life of Jesus. I Peter 2:21 reads, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." If a person will take the time to examine the strategies of a military mind in order to win earthly battles, should we not as Christians take the time to examine the life of Jesus in order to win spiritual battles and ultimately gain eternal life? Paul wrote, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5). We can learn the ways of our captain simply by going to the inspired Word and reading and then absorbing and applying the truths that we learn about Jesus. We can read of His love (John 15:12-13), His compassion (Matthew 9:36), His righteous anger (Mark 11:15-17), His sacrificial heart (Matthew 26:53-54), His unwavering obedience to the Father's will (John 4:34) and His devotion to truth (John 17:14). If the captain has blazed this trail, we, as his followers, must carefully trace His steps. How much better would our lives be if we lived more like Jesus? How much stronger in faith, how much richer in spirit, how much bolder in the face of Satan's opposition would we be if we marched in step with our captain? He has taken the lead. It's up to us to follow.
The captain of salvation demands and deserves allegiance. His Word guides (II Timothy 3:16-17) and will one day judge us (John 12:48). He was willing to come and live among sinful mankind. He was willing to suffer the ignorance of the masses, the indignities or the rebellious and even the disloyalty of those who professed to be His disciples. He was willing to pay the price of His life for the sake of our souls. No one could ask more of a captain than that. There is no other captain of our salvation than Jesus Christ. May we obey Him and study His ways in His Word so that we can follow more closely in His steps and may we never forget that, unlike the captain in Whitman’s poem, our spiritual captain is alive (Hebrews 7:25)!