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TALE OF TWO KINGS
Two of the greatest love stories ever told. The one, at Camelot; the other, at Calvary. Two of the noblest kings ever to live. The one, King Arthur; the other, King of the Jews. The one is adorned with a jeweled crown; the other, with a crown of thorns.
The comparisons and contrasts between Camelot and Calvary are many, but one scene from Camelot illustrates a great theological dilemma that only the cross could resolve.
Prior to His appointment with destiny on the brow of that fateful hill, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Understand, on an emotional level, that this is the pleading of a son to his father. If your child came to you in such agony, wouldnít you do everything within your power to grant the request?
But this Father, this time, didnít respond as expected. And thatís the theological rub. He denied the request of His Son, His only Son, His beloved Son. In Gethsemane, that Son was asking:
"Is there no other way?"
The Son is betrayed, arrested, deserted, denied, beaten, tried, mocked, and finally crucified. Tacitly, the Father answers:
"No, there is no other way."
But why? Why was there no other way?
We find the answer to that question in a scene from Camelot, where the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenevere and Arthurís most trusted knight, Sir Lancelot, has divided the Round Table. When the scheming Mordred catches them in a clandestine encounter, Lancelot escapes. Guenevere is not so fortunate. She faces a trial. The jury finds her guilty and sentences her to the flame.
As the day of execution nears, people come from miles around with one question in their minds: Would the king let her die?
Mordred gleefully captures the complexity of Arthurís predicament:
Arthur! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let her die, your life is over;
Let her live, your lifeís a fraud.
Which will it be, Arthur?
Do you kill the queen or kill the law?
Tragically but resolutely, Arthur decides: "Treason has been committed! The jury has ruled! Let justice be done!"
High from the castle window stands Arthur, as Guenevere enters the courtyard. She walks to her unlit stake, where the executioner stands with waiting torch. Arthur turns away, emotion brimming in his eyes.
A herald mounts the tower where Arthur has withdrawn: "The queen is at the stake, Your Majesty. Shall I signal the torch?"
But the king cannot answer.
Arthurís love for Jenny spills from his broken heart: "I canít! I canít! I canít let her die!"
Seeing Arthur crumble, Mordred relishes the moment: "Well, youíre human after all, arenít you, Arthur? Human and helpless."
Tragically, Arthur realizes the truth of Mordredís remark. Being only human, he is indeed helpless. But where this story ends, the greatest story ever told just begins.
Another Execution Scene.
Another time. Another place. Another king.
The setting: A world lies estranged from the God who loves it. Like Genevere, an unfaithful humanity stands guilty and in bondage, awaiting judgmentís torch.
Could God turn His head from the righteous demands of the law and simply excuse the worldís sin? If not, then could He turn His head from the world He loved? Would the king burn Guenevere?
Like the wicked Mordred, Satan must have looked on in delight:
God! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let them die, Your life is over;
Let them live, Your lifeís a fraud;
Which will it be, God?
Do You kill Your world or do You kill the law?
Without even waiting for His Guenevere to look up in repentance, the King stepped down from His throne, took off His crown, laid aside His royal robes, and descended His castleís polished steps into humanityís pockmarked streets. Paulís words in Philippians are thought by some scholars to be the lyrics of an ancient hymn, singing about the King of kings.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8
That scene in the movie was an epiphany of understanding. Suddenly, it all made sense. We know now why He had to die, why there was no other way.
When love and justice collide, only the cross offers a happy ending.
Source: Abridged excerpt from Ken Gireís book Windows of the Soul. Copyright © 1996 by Ken Gire, Jr. Zondervan Publishing Houses.
An inner city church had an annual student recognition day. Normally, students would share about their educational experiences and then the pastor would get up and offer a few closing words. One year, the pastor’s words were a bit alarming. He stood up in front of all the young graduates and proud parents and said, "Children, you’re going to die! You may not think you’re going to die, but you’re going to die! One of these days they’re going to take you out to the cemetery, drop you in a hole, throw some dirt on your face, and go back to the church to eat potato salad …
When you were born, you alone were crying, and everybody else was happy. The important question I want to ask is this: When you die are you alone going to be happy, leaving everybody else crying? The answer depends on whether you live to get titles or testimonies. Will they list your degrees and awards, or will they tell about what you meant to their lives? Will you leave behind a newspaper column telling people how important you were, or will you leave behind crying people who give their testimonies about how they’ve lost the best friend they ever had? Will they talk about all the boards you sat on and things you owned, or will they talk about all the money you gave away that made a difference in this world?
"There’s nothing wrong with titles. Titles are good things to have. But if it ever comes down to a choice between a title or a testimony, go for the testimony …"
"Pharaoh may have had the title, but Moses had the testimony!
Nebuchadnezzar may have had the title, but Daniel had the testimony!
Queen Jezebel may have had the title, but Elijah had the testimony!
Pilate may have had the title, but my Jesus had the testimony!
And then he asked a single question: "What will it be for your life?"
James Emery White, You Can Experience a Purposeful Life, 86-88
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As James Stewart, in his book, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, wrote: "Everyone who studies this narrative has the strange feeling that the tables are being turned, before their very eyes. And that what they are seeing, is not Jesus on trial before the crowd, but Pilate, on trial before Jesus. In fact, as Pilate stands with the Son of God in those hours it is as if Jesusí searchlight is probing his soul, revealing his true character for all the world to see. But every soul stands where Pilate stood at sometime in their life... Face to face with Jesus in the place of decision."
As a teenager, I went to an outdoor drama of the crucifiction of Christ. I was not a Christian but was curious about all of this Jesus stuff. The audience was to play the part of the crowd during Jesusís trial and death on the cross. We all shouted "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" They brought Jesus out and began to beat him. Even though I knew it was just a play, I was amazed at how I was drawn into it. As we the crowd began to follow Jesus up the hill carrying his cross, Jesus stopped and fell to his knees. (I didnít know he was supposed to do that.) A Roman Soldier looked right at me, pointed, and yelled- "You carry his cross...