Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Life for a Life

"It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." 
-Sydney Carton's last words in A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Think back about the best story you've ever read. What was so intriguing about it? How did it affect you? Some prefer the suspense of a thriller or the emotional rewards of a love story. There are mysteries that cater to the reader's intellect and tales of heroism that restore our belief in chivalry and honor. 

When I was in school a professor of mine asked our class what most affected us in a story. The answer was different for everyone, but I knew immediately what mine would be. Nothing will make me weep, nothing inspires me in a story like watching someone give themselves, their very lives for the life of another. This is why I included the above quote from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the novel tells of dissolute lawyer Sydney Carton and his love for Lucie Manette, and woman of whom he is not worthy. In the end, Carton takes the place of Lucie's husband at the guillotine, giving his life so that she can be with the man she loves. It was this act of selflessness that turned a high school English assignment into one of my favorite works of literature.

I think of books and movies that have particularly moved me, and most of them include the sacrifice of a major character. Why is that? From a secular perspective, self-sacrifice makes no sense. According to evolutionists, survival of the fittest is the guiding rule in nature. Was the person saved by the death of another worth more than the person who laid down their life? If this life is all there is, what a "waste" to purposefully give it away.

And yet, A Tale of Two Cities is literally the bestselling novel of all time. Films like Life is Beautiful win Oscars. (That one in particular I encourage you to watch if you haven't seen it.) Medal of Honor winners and fallen soldiers are lauded as heroes (and rightly so). But why are they heroes? 

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that before humans were dying for each other, this is exactly what God did for us. 

(Note: Please do not misunderstand me. By bringing up A Tale of Two Cities, I am not trying to compare the drunkard Sydney Carton to our Lord. But if we value the story of a sinner giving his life for another sinner, how much more the truth that the Sinless One gave His life for a world of sinners?)

And think that this sacrifice was made by an omniscient God, who knew from eternity past what humanity would cost Him. The lyrics of the song "Mystery," sung by Selah, never cease to amaze me:
"God predestined that His Son would die, and He still created man."
Just ponder that for a moment. Words fail me. 

This is what our Lord did for us. But so much more than anyone else who has even given their life, Christ died, bore the physical pain and the soul-crushing separation from His Father. Then He took His heel and ground the serpent's head into the dirt. He sent the stone rolling back from the mouth of the tomb. He lives. "O death, where is thy victory. O death, where is thy sting?"

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Song of a Galilean Fisherman

I wrote this poems several years ago. I was reminded of it tonight and would like to share it with you. We remember today the crucifixion of our Lord, and we remember the fact that the ones who condemned Jesus to death, who denied ever having known Him, could have been us. We are, in fact, just as guilty of blasphemy and denial, and yet that horrific death on the cross paid our penalty. Remember with me the remorse of Peter and the grace that was shown to him. The same grace has been shown to us.

The Song of a Galilean Fisherman

He spoke in manner plain and true.
Why would I not believe?
He spoke because He ever knew.
Perhaps He ever grieved.

But in my false and foolish might
I heeded Him, aghast.
Of all I had on mind that night,
Denial was the last.

I thought, “No doubt I’ll prove Him wrong,
“As friend to show my worth.”
My sword rang out in jarring song.
An ear fell to the earth.

My action done, He firmly chid:
An unforeseen reply.
To put my sword away He bid,
Lest by it should I die.

So close about our meager band,
Came priests and foreign men
 And though a few did by Him stand,
Our numbers dwindled then.

Like one who sees himself as brave
The roguish band I traced.
They reached the house and I, a knave,
The glowing courtyard faced.

I thought to only warm my hands
Outside, while He was tried.
The slave girl came with her demands.
And it was then I lied.

To think that I had been so bold
To doubt He knew my heart.
The rooster crowed as He foretold.
I went a stood apart.

I wept as I have never wept
Before or ever will.
My soul as to a corner crept.
I felt both weak and ill.

But I remembered how He said
That He had prayed for me.
I thought of how He healed the dead
And set the sinner free.

If He could work such works for throngs
That daily would implore,
Could He not cover all my wrongs
Notice them no more?

The evening next I understood
That this is why He died.
My awful guilt was gone for good.
‘Twas then for joy I cried.