"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?"