Monday, February 7, 2011

The Prince

Several times, one of my favorite radio preachers, Steve Brown, has related this sermon illustration. I haven't heard it anywhere else, but each time he relates it, I think to myself, "I should write that down and share it." Rather than transcribing it, which is a lot of work, I will simply retell it here in my own words. I hope you enjoy it.

There once was a king who had a young son. Like any parent, he loved his son dearly. Every evening, after concluding the business of the realm, he'd find the small prince and they'd play together until bed time. However, one fateful night the king could not find the prince. He searched high and low. The palace staff spent the night scouring the grounds, looking for the youth. He was not found. The next morning, the king dispatched the royal guard to look for him. A reward was posted.

Meanwhile, the prince, wandered off by himself and got lost in the woods outside the castle walls. He floundered through the forest. His clothes tore on brambles and branches. He fell in some mud. Finally, after days of wandering, scared, tired, hungry, dirty and disheveled, he stumbled into a village. Tugging on the coat tails of the first adult he came upon, he told them he was the prince. They laughed at him. He certainly didn't look or sound princely. He went from one person to another. Each one reacted with scoffing, laughing or scolding. Finally, he began begging for scraps of food to feed his hunger.

Days turned to weeks, to months, to years. The young beggar grew and the memory of living in the castle faded into a distant memory and then became a fable in his mind. He fell in with a rough crowd. His natural leadership abilities caused him to rise through the ranks of the underground until he became the most wanted criminal in the kingdom. In his hardened cynicism he rebelled against all authority. The memory of his former life erased by the harsh realities of growing up on the streets.

One day the law finally caught him. He was tried, convicted and rightly sentenced to death. Through a long series of events, too long for this brief synopsis, the king found out this convicted criminal in his dungeon was his beloved son. He went down many flights of twisting stairs, descending from the royal chambers to the dark, dank sub-basement cells. He went in and sat on the cot opposite the sullen condemned man.

The king talked with the prince about their days long ago, playing together in the warm summer evenings, their mock sword battles in the lengthening spring afternoons, the stories told around the fire during dark winter months. The king described his great love for his son. The hard heart of the younger man was unmoved. Finally, the king told him he was free to go; he would not be executed the next morning.

With tears streaming down the age lines of his face, the now elderly king climbed the stairs back to his chambers.

A while after the king left, the younger man tested the cell door and found it open. He cautiously crept up the stairs. There was no guard. He left through the courtyard and gates, unchallenged. "The old fool is more daft than I imagined," he thought to himself as he left.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that the one-time prince found out the king, in order to satisfy justice, had been executed in his place.

That's not the end. The ending hasn't been written yet. You see, you and I are the former prince. Jesus is the king. The story's conclusion is written as we, as individuals, decide what we are going to do with this great sacrifice that was made on our behalf.

This is obviously an allegory. If you are interested in more detailed, historical information about Jesus and what His love drove Him to do for you, I recommend reading the gospel of Luke. It was written by a Greek physician for a Greek audience and so is probably easier for those of us from a Western culture to understand than the other gospels, written to people with more of an Eastern cultural background.