The story is told of a Viking king. In his kingdom peace reigned, because the king was just and fair. Criminals were punished. The innocent were vindicated and victims of crime were protected.
One day, a robbery took place in the royal treasury – the value of the stolen goods was breathtaking. It was enough to raise a great army! Nothing like this had ever happened before. Who could have done it?
The king urged his officers to find the criminals, and he decreed that, when found, the thief or thieves should be whipped to death.
One day, the culprit was caught and arrested. Who was it? It was the king’s own mother!
She had been plotting to overthrow her eldest son and put her own illegitimate son in his place. The question arose among the people as to what the king would do. Would he apply the sentence? Would he execute his own mother? How could he be considered just and fair if he spared her because she was his mother? If it had been anyone else they would certainly face the penalty and die.
On the one hand, he loved his mother and wanted to spare her. How could justice and mercy be expressed without injustice by sparing her or her death without mercy? No one could see a way forward without them either seeing injustice or an execution.
The day of execution came. The place of the palace was sombre The whole city was there. The king ascended the throne which had been erected in the central square. His son and heir sat beside him.
His mother was then brought bound before him. He had only had to order the execution. The silence of impending death hushed the place! It was the silence of impending death. Everyone was waiting for the king’s decision. Would he pardon his mother and deny his justice? Would he put her to death without mercy?
The king rose with determination, took off his crown, laid it on his son’s head, took off his royal tunic, and placed it on his son’s shoulders. He slowly descended the steps of the throne. He stood beside his mother, who stood with head hanging down, in humiliation and shame She was overwhelmed with regret and sorrow. Her only expectation was her just execution.
To the utter astonishment of the crowds, the king wrapped his arms around her, covered her with his body, and gave the order to the executioner to begin. The executioner raised his arm and brought down the lash. The flogging continued. The kings back was like a ploughed field. Yet the lash fell again and again on the mother, but with her son protecting her and taking the blows on himself. Eventually, the king fell to one side and breathed his last. He died. His mother lived. Justice was done, and it was seen to be done, but mercy was revealed and it was seen by everyone. He didn’t deserve the punishment, she did. She didn’t deserve to live, he did. He took her place and he took her punishment.
The people understood. They cried out, “Long live the King” to the son who remained on the throne. The young man, just a child, rose and ordered that his grandmother, weeping in repentance, to be released and received back into the royal apartments.
Nobody challenged that decision, why? Because every one knew that the unworthy queen’s son had endured her punishment, and that nothing was left for her to pay.
This is only a small illustration of what Jesus did for sinners. The King of kings came into this world saying, “I have come to save you, to pay the ransom of your sins, to endure the punishment of death in your place; I will die so that you may live.
The prophet Isaiah prophesied of it 750 or so years before the Messiah was born:
1 Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah chapter 53)
Would the love of the Viking king for his mother be greater than the love of God for the creatures he created? No!
“We have known love, in that he [Jesus Christ] gave his life for us” (The Injil, 1 John 3:16).
“There is no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” ( The Injil, John 15:13).