“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten [unique] Son, so that whoever believes in [trusts in, clings to, relies on] Him shall not perish [come to destruction, be lost] but have eternal [everlasting] life.”
– John 3:16 [Amplified Version]
The king was worried. So was his son-the shepherd. The number of lambs they were losing to the wolves was increasing by the day.
Something had to be done. But what?
There was a ransom out on their flock. The wolves knew it. They were taking full advantage of it. And they wouldn’t stop until every lamb had paid. With their life.
The sheep had made a grave mistake. They’d made a deal with the wolves that they could never hope to repay. It was a foolish error with damning consequences. All their offspring were born with this debt wrapped around their necks like a noose. One that tightened daily.
The king and his son turned to each other. Awareness in their gaze. There was no other way. The son would have to take the place of the lambs. Silence was their only agreement. For neither could bear to speak of the pain that would come with the sacrifice.
When the wolves came the son wasn’t sure he was ready. He’d spent time among the lambs. As one of them. He knew their ways…both good and bad. They’d come to know him as well. He was both loved and hated. Even though he’d made no secret of it, many doubted he was the king’s son. How could the shepherd reduce himself to a lamb? Why would he?
Because of love.
The same love that gave him the courage to walk up to the wolves. And lay down at their feet in surrender. He could have fought them. He would have won. But love kept him on his knees. Even as the wolves taunted him. Even as they began to ravage him. Tearing off his flesh. Ripping apart limb after limb. Crushing his bones. Through excruciating torment, love kept him on his knees. And with his last ounce of strength he lifted his head. As his final breath left his body, his eyes found what they were looking for in the distance.
The whisper hung in the air as the wolves celebrated yet another victory. This one sweeter than the others. They’d heard tales of the royal lamb. At the time they’d half-believed them. Now they scoffed at them. What a meek little lamb this one had been.
Their hunger for power and control satisfied, they left. Sauntering off more arrogantly than they’d come.
It was then that the king emerged from the shadows. Where he’d been all along. Biting his tongue so as not to utter a word. Fists clenched at his sides to stop himself from intervening. He went over to what was left of his son. Fell to his knees next to the mangled remains. And with his face in his hands he wept.
Not as a king mourning the loss of his trusted shepherd.
But as a father grieving over his son.
His son was not lost forever. In three days their plan would come to light. And every lamb who followed the shepherd from that day forth would be safe from the wolves.
His son was only lost for a moment. And it was for that moment that he wept. His son was innocent. He’d always been innocent. He shouldn’t have had to suffer. Not like this. He could have saved him from the wolves. He could have saved him from the anguish. But he didn’t.
Because of love.
“To some, the image of a pale body glimmering on a dark night whispers of defeat. What good is a God who does not control His Son’s suffering? But another sound can be heard: the shout of a God crying out to human beings,“I LOVE YOU.”
Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to-because of us. At Calvary, God accepted His own unbreakable terms of justice.”
– Phillip Yancey