On this day in 1955, Winston Churchill resigned as prime minister of Great Britain. This was his second time to serve in the position. He was 80 years old and would live another ten years.
Churchill first led as prime minister during the darkest days of World War II. Up until then he had an erratic political career. In 1929, his Conservative Party was roundly defeated, sweeping him out of office. The general populace viewed him as a right-wing extremist, out of touch with the common people.
This all changed in the spring of 1940 when Churchill was elected prime minister. Reflecting on this moment he wrote, “I felt…that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”
On that very day – May 10 – Germany invaded France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Britain would soon face its supreme test. In the fall of that year, the Nazi Luftwaffe began bombing London. The “Blitz,” as it was later to be known, continued into the next year. Through it all, Churchill remained resolute, rallying his people with immortal speeches. In June 1940, before the House of Commons, he thundered, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!” Labour politician Hugh Dalton noted, Churchill was “the only man we have for this hour.”
After the war, Churchill served as prime minister from 1951 until his resignation in 1955. He had been suffering a series of strokes and decided it was time to step down. Biographer Andrew Roberts wrote that “Churchill hated to leave office,” and his wife, Clementine, remarked that stepping down was “a death in life.”
When Jesus crossed into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey, He knew there was no turning back, no stepping down. Earlier he had “resolutely set His face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), knowing that His messianic mission would culminate there. Many see this as a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:6-7, in which a servant of the Lord “sets his face like flint” even as he offers his back for beating and his beard to be pulled out by a hostile mob. In the midst of such cruelty, why didn’t Jesus pull back? Couldn’t He have just resigned as Messiah, rather than putting up with scourging, mocking and a horrific death?
Perhaps He could have – but then He wouldn’t have been God. For in Christ Jesus, God was reconciling the world to himself, “not counting people’s sins against them” (II Corinthians 5:19). Christ had to go to Jerusalem. For you. For me. For those who would believe in Him – and for those who harden their hearts against Him.
In referring to this resolute decision, C.H. Spurgeon preached, “O you redeemed ones, on whose behalf this strong resolve was made—you who have been bought by the precious blood of this steadfast, resolute Redeemer—come and think awhile of Him, that your hearts may burn within you and that your faces may be set like flints to live and die for Him who lived and died for you!”