In college, I worked at a campus dining center, scanning cards to allow my fellow students access to the facility. While there were down times, I was able to think and write. One afternoon, I was thinking about fairy tales, having just read a book entitled Wild at Heart. I noticed that in every tale, the hero needs to rescue a beauty, trapped by some evil plot. While they resonate with their listeners, these stories relate because they understand an idea ingrained in all of us. Men, if we’re honest, are looking for a beauty to rescue and the “happily ever after” is a universal goal.
As I stared at a blank sheet of paper in front of me, I realized that these fairy tales are really parables, preserved by history to relate a great truth. The cross is A climax to one of the biggest, greatest and most wonderful fairy tale love stories in history. In fact, it is one that encompasses the entirety of history. At the time, I was also working on an epic novel and this next part infiltrates the tapestry of the story.
There once was a ruler, a king, who had a son. He was the most powerful man and ruled with righteousness and justice. This king had an enemy who hated him, hated everything about him and sought continually to thwart him in any way he could. Riding one day, the king’s son saw a slave girl in the house of his father’s enemy and he loved her. His enemy would never give her up willingly, so this son made a deal, a purchase. He would trade his life for hers. He would become his enemy’s slave and the slave girl would go free. The wedding was set; the bride price agreed upon. But after the exchange, the enemy killed the son, but such was the love he had for his new bride that the payment of his life was none too great for the knowledge that she’d be safe. This great love, this selfless sacrifice turned Death on its head. The son returned to life and he and his bride lived happily ever after.
God created everything and rules the universe with righteousness and justice. We, His creation, sided with His enemy in sin. We chose to be slaves of Sin through disobedience to God. Yet in all of that, God still loved us. The only way to save us from our sin and to get us back was for someone to die. If it was us who died as our sin deserved, there would be no “happily ever after’s”. But indeed, His love for us was so great that he chose to die in our place, to make the exchange, a life for a life. So Jesus went to the cross, as a public display of His love. He died the death we deserved, but thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. It can’t, or there still aren’t any “happily ever after’s”. On the third day, Jesus was resurrected and promised to return for us, whose who have been bought with a price.
In this light, John 3:16 reads with a little different connotation. God loved us so much that He gave His Son; that He gave up His Son to death, to the cross. The cross was always part of the mission, even before the miraculous birth we celebrate in a few weeks. A crucifixion is the most gruesome, most public punishment, both in its time and ever. I believe God chose it because He needed a public declaration, an event that loudly shouted His love and would reverberate through history. Something undeniable and unforgettable that would turn the course of events until His final Coming in Glory.
Indeed, the cross is a love story, His and ours, a tale with a fairy tale ending. We celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas and His resurrection on Easter (and Sundays), but we celebrate His death every day when we live for righteousness and not as a slave to sin. You’ve heard the love story of the cross but now the question is: do you believe it?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”