THE NIGHT BEFORE
The young couple huddled together in the waiting room. They had chosen this hospital for their daughter because it was the best in the city and because the young man's father was Chief of Staff. The diagnosis was heartrending; their daughter was suffering from a rare blood disease with no known cure.
As they heard footsteps approach, their eyes sought the doctor's, looking for any sign of hope in his face. Their worst fears were confirmed when he pulled up a chair to sit down and talk with them.
“The news isn't good," he told them. “We have researched the literature, discussed it with the staff, and brought in specialists as consultants. Nothing we could do would help.”
“How long does she have?” asked the young dad.
“Just a few days. It depends on whether your daughter's body can make enough antibodies, but so far that hasn't happened. It would only just delay the inevitable anyway.”
They all sat in silence for awhile. Then the young man said, “The problem is that her body isn't making antibodies?”
“Yes. We could give her stronger medicine to help, but then the medicine itself would kill her.”
Silence again. And then after a long pause, the young man said, “How about me? Couldn't you give the disease to me and have my body make the antibodies for my little girl?”
“That would kill you!” exclaimed the doctor.
“But it would save my little girl, wouldn't it?” he shouted back.
“Yes,” replied the doctor reluctantly. “Yes, it would. Your antibodies would cure her of the disease. But just as sure as it would cure her, the treatment will kill you.”
“Then, do it!” cried the young man. “Do it! Save my little girl!”
“You don't understand,” said the doctor. “This treatment is excruciating. You have never felt such pain. And we can't give you anything for the pain, or the treatment won't work.”
Another long pause, and then quietly, “Do it.”
“No,” said the doctor. “It's unethical. I won't, and neither will anyone else who works here.”
“Then let me talk to my Dad. He's Chief of Staff.”
“You've got until tomorrow. After that, your daughter will be too far gone for your antibodies to do her any good.”
It was a long night. The young man talked with his father through most of it. It was the most intense conversation either of them had ever had. His dad confirmed that the treatment would work, but the price would be the life of his son.
“Is there any other way, Dad?” the young man asked.
“No, son. It's this or nothing.”
“Then we have to do it! You have to help me, because the doctor told me that he wouldn't.”
“OK, son. I'm in. I'll do it personally. I'll administer the medicine myself. That will protect the other doctors here.”
THE NEXT MORNING
The next morning everything was ready for the young man. Before going to the treatment room, he visited his little girl one last time. She was so weak and fragile, nothing like she had been just a few months ago. They didn't say much, but that short visit convinced him that his course of action was right: he would sacrifice his life so that his little girl could live.
When the young man got to the treatment room, he was unnerved by all the apparatus and equipment he saw, but having his Dad there by his side helped.
He got up on the table, resigned to his fate but convinced that his decision was the correct one.They took his arms and strapped him down tightly, telling him that the pain would be so bad that he would thrash about wildly if they didn't restrain him.
Just before the treatment started, his Dad came close and whispered in his ear, “Are you sure, son?”
He answered, “I've never been more sure of anything in my life.”
His Dad placed a call button in his son's restrained hand. “This is in case the pain gets intense and you change your mind. Press it, and the treatment stops.”
“I won't use it, Dad. I know I won't.”
When the procedure started, the young man didn't feel anything for a few moments. Then it hit him hard. The doctor was right. He had never felt such searing pain tearing through his body.
After a while he looked up and asked, “How much longer, Dad?”
“Several hours,” the Dad sobbed back.
The pain wouldn't let up. There was no relief anywhere. The only thing he could do was to press the button to stop the treatment, and he was determined not to do that.
Wave after wave of pain shot through his body. Every now and then he would lose focus, but the memory of his little girl would bring him back to the present.
What sustained him through the treatment was her image. He saw her running and jumping and playing, enjoying life like only a three year old can, totally cured of her disease.
He saw her going off to her first day of school; growing up into a young woman; going on her first date; graduating from school; getting married; having a family of her own. Over and over he relived those dreams, and each time he did, they became more clear and life like.
But after a while even this couldn't keep him focused. His mind was too dulled from all the pain. He would even lose consciousness from time to time. “Where's my Dad?” he would ask, even though his father was standing by his side for the entire ordeal.
Somehow, he knew when the end was near and the treatment about to finish, because as he breathed his last, he had a smile on his face.
The doctors worked quickly to gather the antibodies from the young man's blood and inject them into his daughter. It took a while, but after a couple of hours everyone could see the difference, and in a day or two she had recovered. She was going to be fine and live a normal life. But oh, at what cost.
THE VIEW OF THE CROSS FROM THE CROSS
As viewed from the foot of the cross, the events are well documented in the Gospels.
But what happened on the cross as viewed from the cross itself is less well known. That was the purpose of the story I told, an allegory to be sure, and an imperfect one at that. I don't know of any disease like the one I've described, and I don't think that there's a doctor in the world who would have agreed to such a procedure.
But the story grabs us because we as parents, grandparents, and great grandparents understand why. Why the young man would sacrifice his own life so that his daughter could live hers.
The story is far from perfect, but nonetheless it does illustrate some of what happened on the cross... and why.
We, like the little girl, have a "disease" -- something abnormal -- and just like the little girl, our "disease" is fatal, too. That disease is what we call “sin.” We are powerless before it. In fact, nothing can destroy the power of sin except the wrath of God, and if God's wrath were ever poured out directly on us, then, yes, the sin would be destroyed, but the price would be our lives. Just like the little girl.
What happened in my story was that the young man who didn't have the disease, willingly took his daughter's disease into himself. He became that disease, so that his father's medicine could destroy the disease's power. And it killed him.
Likewise, Jesus who was without sin took our sins upon himself so that their power could be destroyed by the only thing powerful enough to do so: the wrath of God. And it killed Him.
The Apostle Paul says it this way:
"God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." ~2 Cor 5:21
Just like the Dad in my story never deserted his son, neither did the Father desert Jesus on the cross.
Just like the young man refused to push the call button to stop the painful treatment, neither did Jesus call down hosts of angels from heaven to rescue him from the cross.
The young man's love for his little girl moved him to make the sacrifice he made. Likewise, it was the love not the nails that kept Christ on the cross.
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. FOR us... not just because of us... but proactively for us.
It's almost too much to grasp! But once we get a glimpse of what really happened on the cross, so much more of our Christian life falls into place. We understand why the Apostle Paul was so eager to preach “Christ crucified.” We understand the hymn writer's words: “In the Cross of Christ I Glory.” Jesus' direction to take up our cross and follow Him makes a little more sense.
THE REST OF THE STORY
The little girl didn't understand what had happened for a long time. She was only three after all. At first all she knew was that she had been sick and now was well.... and that she missed her Daddy terribly.
Every year on his birthday and on the anniversary of his death, she'd do something special to remember him. At first her mom had to help, but as the years passed, it all became clearer to her: she had an incredible Dad who loved her with an incredible Love that brought forth an incredible sacrifice... that saved her life.
So do we.