Devotional Thought: The Beauty of Sacrifice
During this past holiday season I had the occasion to spend some thirty-two hours in the car. I used a great portion of this time to listen to the audio version of my favorite work of fiction: A Tale of Two Cities. In this captivating novel, Charles Dickens describes the tumult that surrounded the French Revolution and how it effected his collection of fictional characters. I see the golden theme of this story to be the power of love, but the part that I am always mesmerized by is the final scene, in which the dull and selfish “jackal” Sydney Carton gives his life to save the noble Charles Darnay. In one of the most moving pieces of literature ever penned, the reader witnesses as Sydney Carton fades into history, but his words live forever on, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
Now that I know how the story ends, I am always struck by how I long for the tragedy of Carton’s death to be avoided. Every time I see the plot unfold I wish that maybe, just maybe, this time it will come out different. But the beauty of A Tale of Two Cities is found in how it ends. If it were not for this powerful ending scene, it doubtlessly would be just another interesting story. As much as I long for Carton to be able to escape his demise, I know that he must die, for it is in that death that the story truly takes life.
My desire to see Carton’s fate changed reminds me of another tragic death in history. Only this time it is not a wretch such as Carton who is making the sacrifice, but the Spotless Lamb of God. Every time I read through one of the Gospels a strange part of me desperately wants Pilate to change his mind, to see the error of his ways and release Jesus. But this too I know is not what happened. Jesus could not be released, because that is not why He came, and that is precisely the beauty of the Gospel. His sacrificial death paved the way for our redemption; you, me, even Sydney Carton.
I think it is normal to have a part of you wish that the Gospel narrative had turned out another way, because buried within that desire is the recognition that it was us who sent Him there. A Tale of Two Cities ends with the powerful death of Sydney Carton, but thanks be to God that that is not where the Gospels end. The Crucifixion is powerful, but the Resurrection is absolutely glorious. So the next time you read the Gospel account of Christ’s Passion, spend just a moment contemplating why it is we wish the story would take a different turn, but after that moment spend every waking second you have basking in the glory of the way the story actually ends.