HG145+146pt3 John 13:1-30
A story about Czar Nicholas I of Russia tells us something of that love. The czar was greatly interested in a young man because he had been friends with the young man’s father. When that young man came of age, Czar Nicholas gave him a fine position in the army. He also stationed him in a place of responsibility at one of the great fortresses of Russia. The young man was responsible for the monies and finances of a particular division of the army.
The young man did quite well at first, but as time went along, he became quite a gambler. Before long he had gambled his entire fortune away. He borrowed from the treasury and also gambled that away, a few rubles at a time. One day he heard there was going to be an audit of the books the next day. He went to the safe, took out his ledger, and figured out how much money he had, then subtracted the amount he had taken. As he sat at the table, overwhelmed at the astronomical debt, he took out his pen and wrote, “A great debt, who can pay?” Not willing to go through the shame of what would happen the next day, he took out his revolver and covenanted with himself that at the stroke of midnight he would take his life.
It was a warm and drowsy night, and as the young man sat at the table, he dozed off. Now, Czar Nicholas had a habit of putting on a common soldier’s uniform and visiting some of his outposts. On that very night he came to that particular great fortress, and as he inspected it, he saw a light on in one of the rooms. He knocked on the door, but no one answered. He tried the latch, opened the door, and went in. There was the young man. The czar recognized him immediately. When he saw the note on the table and the ledgers laid out, his first impulse was to wake the young man and arrest him. But, overtaken with a wave of generosity, he instead took the pen that had fallen out of the soldier’s hand and wrote one word on the paper, then tiptoed out of the room.
About an hour later the young man woke up and reached for his revolver, realizing that it was much after 12. Then his eyes fell upon his note: “A great debt, who can pay?” He saw immediately that one word had been added—“Nicholas.” The young man dropped the gun, ran to the files, thumbed through some correspondence, and found the czar’s signature. The note was authentic! The realization struck him—“The czar has been here and knows all my guilt. But he has undertaken my debt, and I will not have to die.” The young man trusted in the czar’s word, and sure enough, the needed monies came.2
The czar’s love, paying the price for his guilty young friend, was only a faint shadow of the atoning love of Christ. Nicholas’s deed was an easy matter for him—as easy as signing his name. But the atoning love of Jesus cost him everything!