Sermon Illustrations

The Lady or the Lion

By Frank Stockton (edited and revised)

In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose ideas were indeed semi-barbaric. The king had a daughter, beautiful and fair… the envy of every woman in the nation. She could have any man in the kingdom… but her heart was set on a lowly stable boy. He had no position and no wealth, but he was handsome and he made her heart leap. It was not long before the two fell in love and began to meet in secret. Unfortunately for them… their secret love was discovered by the king, and the king… furious… ordered the boy to be captured and jailed.

The king was outraged that his daughter has steeped so low, and he began to devise the cruelest punishment that he could fathom. And then… he thought of it. The boy would be taken into the public arena and be given a choice… a choice of chance. Two identical doors would stand before him… behind one, the loveliest maiden he could find in all of the kingdom, behind the other… the most ferocious lion that could be found. If he chose the door with the maiden he would be forgiven for his transgressions and immediately married to the fair maiden. If he chose the door with the lion, he would pay the price for his misdeeds and be torn to shreds and devoured.

The lion-cages of the kingdom were searched for the most savage and relentless beasts, and the country was searched for fairest maiden that could be found. The king found a particularly fitting woman, one that almost matched the princess in beauty, and one who everyone knew was close to the stable boy, perhaps even a little too close. It was known that the princess was jealous of this relationship and felt threatened by this fair maiden.

So the stage was set and the appointed day arrived. All was ready. The king and princess were seated, and as they waited… the king leaned over, and told the princess who the fair maiden was. The princess glared at him… oh how cruel. Anyone… anyone but her. Then… to her amazement the king told her which door she was behind. Then he sat back and smiled.

The signal was given. A door beneath the royal party opened, and the stable boy emerged. Tall, beautiful, fair, no wonder the princess loved him! What a terrible thing for him to be there!

He was pale and trembling with fear. His eyes were fixed upon the princess, hoping she knew… hoping she could give him some guidance. His glance shouted at her “Which?” and there was not an instant to be lost.

Her right arm lay on the cushioned parapet before her. She raised her hand, and made a slight, quick movement toward the right. No one but her lover saw her. Every eye but his was fixed on the man in the arena.

He turned, and with a firm and rapid step he walked across the empty space. Every heart stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye was fixed immovably upon that man. Without the slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it. The End.

No seriously… that’s how it ends. How many of you liked that ending? How many of you want me to tell you the ending? But that isn’t how it was written… it was written to leave you answering the question… who was behind the door, the lion or the lady? It is written to create that tension… what happened next!

From a sermon by Spencer Homan, Easter Sermon with Surprise Ending, 11/19/2009

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