Every spring our community holds a fair to celebrate Easter. In this fair, I always look after setting up and executing activities for the 12-15 year olds. Following is a little story I've modified (from an email I received) to help us understand what took place on Calvary when Jesus was nailed to the Cross and died for the sins of all mankind, believers and non-believers alike.
This year, I had a different idea about how we were going to handle the activities. For my idea to work, I needed to enlist the help of my 15 year old son, who was very popular in school, got extremely good grades and had not failed one test, and was a top athlete.
I asked him, "How many sit-ups can you do, Lorne?"
"I do 75 every night before bed." he said.
"That's fantastic! Very good. Do you think you could do 150?" I asked him.
"150? All at once? I don't know. That's a lot of sit-ups!" he responded shaking his head.
"Yes, but do you think you could do them?"
"Well... I'm not sure.... Why?"
I explained what I had planned for this year's fair and he was all smiles.
"I can do 150 sit-ups! At least, I'll give it my best shot." he said.
Normally, there are about 12 teens in my group; this year there were 17, including my son Lorne. They all knew each other from school and were eager to get started with the races.
I placed them all in three rows. Two rows had 5 and one had 6. I asked my son to sit on the ground at the front of the rows.
I walked up to Marvin, who happened to be an adamant non-believer, and asked him if he would watch Lorne to make sure he completed his tasks.
I then turned to the first person in the first row and asked Sarah "Would you like a first-place red ribbon?".
"Boy, would I!" she said.
I turned to my son and asked him, "Lorne, would you do ten sit-ups so Sarah can have a first-place red ribbon?"
Lorne did ten sit-ups with ease.
I handed the red ribbon to Sarah. She looked at me with a puzzled expression, but all smiles.
I walked up to the next person in the first row and asked them, "Would you like a first-place red ribbon?"
The boy answered, "I sure would! Who'da thunk getting first place would be this easy! I've never got a red ribbon for anything." He was grinning from ear to ear.
I turned to Lorne, "Lorne, would you do ten sit-ups so John can have a first-place red ribbon?"
Again, Lorne did ten sit-ups and I handed John the red ribbon.
We did this through to the middle of the second row. Lorne was breathing loudly by now and was taking longer to complete his task.
I walked up to the next teen, Cindy, and asked her the same question, "Cindy, would you like a first-place red ribbon?"
Cindy was a very good athlete and more than capable of doing the sit-ups herself. She looked at Lorne with compassion on her face and asked, "Can I do my own sit-ups for the ribbon?"
"No. Lorne has to do them."
"Then I don't want a red ribbon." she said.
I turned to Lorne and said, "Lorne, will you do ten sit-ups so Cindy can have the first-place red ribbon she doesn't want?"
Cindy got angry and gave me a scathing look. "I said I didn't want the ribbon! He doesn't have to do the sit-ups!"
"I'm in charge here," I said, "and Lorne has to do the sit-ups. I'll just put the ribbon on the ground in front of you if you don't want it."
Lorne's face was deep red and beads of sweat were flowing freely from his brow. He slowly completed the ten sit-ups. I placed the red ribbon on the ground in front of Cindy.
I walked up to the next in line, Steven, and asked, "Steven, would you like a first-place red ribbon?"
"No." he said emphatically.
I turned to Lorne and said, "Lorne, will you do ten sit-ups so Steven can have the first-place red ribbon he doesn't want?"
Lorne looked at me and asked, "Do I have to bend my knees and touch them with my elbows?"
I looked at Lorne's flushed face and said, "They're your sit-ups. You do them any way you like."
After Lorne had finished doing ten more sit-ups, I turned and placed the unwanted ribbon on the ground in front of Steven.
"David, would you like a first-place red ribbon?"
I once again turned to Lorne and said, "Lorne, will you do ten sit-ups so David can have the first-place red ribbon he doesn't want?"
Lorne had done 140 sit-ups by the time I came to the last boy. The girls were in tears and the boys were feeling very uncomfortable. Marvin was grumbling to Lorne that he didn't have to do what I asked!
I was proud of my son. He just kept smiling at me, knowingly.
I walked up to the last teen and asked, "Mark, would you like a first-place red ribbon?"
"I might as well. Lorne will have to do them either way, so..."
"Lorne, will you do ten more sit-ups so Mark can have a first-place red ribbon?"
Lorne, slowly and with great difficulty, did the last ten sit-ups. Knowing he had completed his task, he lay sprawled weak and smiling on the ground. He had completed 150 sit-ups.
Two or three of the teens went over to Lorne, gently lifted him under his arms and took him over to a bench and bathed his face with a cool cloth and gave him some water.
"Marvin, did Lorne do all that was asked of him?", I asked.
Marvin replied, "Yes, he did!"
I looked proudly at Lorne and said, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Everyone glared at me and asked, "What was the purpose of that? What a terrible thing to do to your own son!"
I looked sheepishly at each of them and said,
"My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God didn't spare His Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole 'Church'; believers and non-believers alike -- then, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us is completely up to us. Either way, the price has been paid -- in full -- for all-time. In this case, the first-place red ribbon was yours for the taking because Lorne paid the price for it."
"Wouldn't you be foolish and ungrateful to just leave it lying on the ground?"
As stated above, this was a ficticious story, and was placed here purely for demonstrative purposes.