Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Fable

Once upon a time there was a watchmaker. He made watches of incomparable quality and beauty. No other watches ran more smoothly, kept better time, or adorned the wrist more elegantly than his. He took pride in his work, as well he should. His trade required equal parts of delicate skill and inspired art. Others followed the latest trends, producing mass quantities of watches for as little money and as high a profit as possible. Not the watchmaker. Each watch he made was handcrafted, a work of love, and required considerable investment of time and talent. Because of his fine work, people came from all over the country, indeed all over the world, to purchase his watches. The watchmaker loved selling his watches, not because of the money they earned him. For in truth, the watchmaker put far more into his watches than he ever got out of them. But he loved to imagine his watches being used by the people who bought them. He imagined them at work—keeping an important businessman on schedule, perfectly timing a housekeeper’s apple pie, delighting the recipient of a special box under the Christmas tree, or counting the hours and minutes until lovers should meet again.

That’s how he meant for his watches to be used. But once they were sold, their use was decided by the wearer. Some served far less noble purposes than the watchmaker ever intended or imagined. The watchmaker’s beautiful, precise workmanship sometimes even found itself serving as the timepiece for a bomb. It happened from time to time, simply because his watches were the best to be had. Each time it happened, the watchmaker wept bitter tears of anger and sorrow at how his labor of love had been used for destructive and evil intent.

I’ve been thinking for the last week or so—since my Grandpa died—about death and about how God must feel about it. He who is called the Life, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, who created life and called it good, how must he feel when life is destroyed? I think we get a glimpse in Jesus’ reaction to death. He was a great guy to have at funerals—the only times we see him at a funeral in Scripture, he’s raising the dead to life. Still, he didn’t approach them with a cavalier “everything will be all right” attitude. When he arrived at his friend Lazarus’s funeral, he wept. Faced with the antithesis of his very self, the God of the Universe cried.

He cried another time, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of his own death. As he contemplated the cross and the agony that lay ahead of him, he cried with such anguish that drops of blood oozed through his pores. How could he who had always lived suddenly die?

How indeed. He created us, created the world, even created the angels in heaven, and then gave us the will and the power to choose to serve him or to serve ourselves. And every last one of us has chosen to serve ourselves. We turned our backs on the one to whom we owe our very existence. And because of that choice, his beautiful work is twisted into unspeakable horror. Life becomes death, truth becomes lies, marriage becomes divorce, perfection becomes rubbish. Sin, and its necessary companion Death, rule this world, hold it—and us—in bondage. And our only hope was for the Life-Giver to intervene, to die in our place, to give his life that we might escape certain death.

“Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, the first man. But all who are related to Christ, the other man, will be given new life…then at last the Scriptures will come true, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death…How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (1 Corinthians 15: 22, 54-57)

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