He Called It Love
by Hope Schmidt
Some called it freedom; He called it rebellion. Some called it harshness; He called it justice. Some called it foolishness; the King called it love.
Back in the beginning, at the dawn of the kingdom, the King, His Brother, the Counselor, and His Son, the Prince, ruled a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. The people were happy and joyful. The King had given them cottages and fields in His lush valley and the ground brought forth bountiful crops.
There was but one charge which the King laid on his subjects. There was a spring, clear as crystal, which bubbled from the ground in the center of the valley. The King gave the order that no one was to drink from this spring on pain of death. There were many other springs and fountains and the people obeyed…for a time.
But the King had an Enemy. This Enemy was not powerful enough to hurt the King Himself, but before long he discovered the King’s one weakness; the people of His kingdom. For many days the Enemy laid his plans, then one day he entered the valley, disguised as a merchant.
The King watched from His tower, then turned away and called for the Counselor and Prince.
“What clear and sweet fountains you have,” the merchant commented, after selling his wares.
“It is the King Who has given them to us.” The villagers replied.
“And what of this one?” The merchant motioned toward the forbidden spring.
“The King has commanded us not to drink of it.”
The merchant smiled and motioned the people closer, then whispered one word. “Why?”
The people looked at each other questioningly. No one had dared question the King before. But the stranger was right, some of the villagers said. Why shouldn’t they drink? Because it was forbidden by the King, others reasoned. To disobey would be to rebel against the King.
The merchant waited while the people talked, then he held up his hand for silence. “I know why you are not allowed to drink from this spring.” Everyone hushed to hear him. “This fountain will give you a knowledge you never dreamed of. It will make you wise, like the King Himself.”
The people murmured among themselves.
“Go on,” the merchant urged. “Drink, if you will. Or you can stay as you are and be the King’s subjects for the rest of your lives.”
After a short discussion, one of the men stepped forward. The rest of the people watched uncertainly as the man knelt down by the spring and brought some water to his lips. Several of the villagers trembled, wondering if the King would strike down the man as he stood. But nothing happened.
“The water is delicious!” the man exclaimed. A cold light seemed to shine from his eyes. “Come on. Taste it!”
Most of the villagers crowded forward eagerly. Some hesitated at first, but in the end they all drank from the spring. Laughter and shouts filled the air. Then suddenly the mirth ceased. A chill wind seemed to past through the crowd and the people stood, looking at each other, wondering what they had done. And then the cold seemed to wrap itself around their hearts. New thoughts entered the minds of the villagers, hard and cruel. Their minds had been opened and they saw the evil and fear from which the king had protected them. But when they looked for the merchant, he was gone.
Back in his dark fortress the Enemy rubbed his hands and chuckled gleefully.
Up in His castle the King, Counselor, and Prince stood around a table. Their expressions were grim, and sorrow lined the King’s face. They knew there was only one thing which could save their people. They had made their decision even as the merchant first caused the people to doubt the King’s command.
But in the village, hatred began to grow in the hearts of the people. Hatred for the King; hatred for each other; hatred even for themselves. And they left the valley, for nothing perfect could die in the King’s valley, but to those who were rebellious the very air was like poison.
A great hedge grew about the borders of the valley, a hedge between the people and their King, for their King He still remained by right, even though they didn’t own him. None of the people had the power to break the hedge, and the King would not break it, for the price of rebellion was death, and the King demanded justice…justice which His holiness demanded He meet on those coming before Him.
And yet the King, the Prince, and the Councilor still loved their people dearly. Slowly but surely the Enemy gained control of the people, urging them to break every rule the King had established for their happiness. And before long, the people forgot the goodness of the King, and blasphemed Him instead. They never realized they had slipped into the bondage of the Enemy. They thought that all they did was of themselves and for themselves.
But the King saw, and he knew there was only one way to save His people from utter destruction. But the price for their rebellion must first be paid. And the price was high indeed. Still, none of the three Rulers faltered, for their love for the people was greater than the pain it would cost them.
A few days later a cloaked figure passed through the hedge. He came to the wilderness settlement the people had built and began to teach. The people simply called Him, the Stranger. No one knew who He really was or where He was from.
The Stranger taught about the love of the King. He reminded the people of the King’s laws. He told them how they should act. And He said He was the King’s Son. Some of the people believed and followed Him, but many of the King’s former subjects grew to hate this Stranger. He reminded them of things they had tried hard to forget. He tore away their mask of hypocrisy and revealed them for what they were.
And in the end, they decided they had to kill the Stranger. But every time they tried to take Him, He would slip out of their trap. Sometimes He would just walk away, leaving His intended captors bewildered. For weeks and months this continued, with the Stranger teaching boldly and His enemies hating Him all the more for it. And then one dark night, that all changed.
That evening, the Stranger sat down with His followers. “Tonight they will come for Me, and I will go with them,” he told them. “Tonight I must do what I came to do.”
His followers didn’t understand him. They didn’t know that one of the Stranger’s, followers had slipped away and told the His enemies where He was. His enemies came for Him; and the Stranger’s followers scattered.
In a mockery of justice the people brought the Stranger to the Enemy, who now ruled openly over the King’s subjects and with the people’s full consent. They accused the Stranger of sedition and rebellion against the established order and demanded the death sentence. They needn’t have urged the Enemy. He was only too eager to condemn to death the Son of his hated enemy.
And so it was, at midnight the Stranger stood in the outer courtyard of the Enemy’s castle, surrounded by those who hated Him. They took up stones to cast at Him, but when they looked at the Stranger, He was gazing steadfastly toward the closed off valley and the King’s tower cloaked in gloom beyond.
Up in His tower, the King watched the scene unfolding below, His face taunt.
“We have our men all around the Enemy’s castle, your Highness.” A servant ventured, standing behind him. “Shall I order them forward?”
The King gripped the window sill. “No. No, we cannot. This is what He came to do.”
The King turned away from the window and far away, in the firelight courtyard, the Prince bowed His head in anguish. The moment was broken. The people, servants of the Enemy, cast their stones at the One Who was saving them through their ultimate act of rebellion.
And then it was finished. The Stranger lay lifeless on the pavement. A great crack shattered the air and the people shivered as fear swept around them. They looked at the body of the man they had killed, then pulled their cloaks tightly about them and hurried home. Even the Enemy retreated into his castle in sudden dread.
The Stranger’s followers gathered then, and bore away the body of their Master. They lay Him in an inner chamber and sat in silence despair without. The Stranger was the Son of the King, but if so, then how could He have died?
Dawn broke in golden splendor, and as the light streamed through the eastern window a different light, warmer and brighter, streamed from under the door of the chamber in which the Stranger lay. The Followers watched in amazement, frozen in a strange elation mixed with terror. Then the light faded and the door opened. And there stood the Stranger; the Prince; Son of the King.
The Followers fell at His feet, weeping for joy. And then He told them what He had done. The death penalty for the rebellion of the people was now paid. Because the perfect Prince had died, the people could now come before the King and claim the Prince’s righteousness as their own. And if they did so, not only would the King forgive them, but He would bring them to His palace to live.
And then the Prince told the Followers that He had to leave and go back to the King.
“But I will come again.” The Prince promised. “And when I do, I will defeat the Enemy and his servants once and for all and take those who trust in Me to My home, to live with Me forever. But until then, I commission you to tell others about Me, so that they might be saved as well.”
And so the Prince left, but the Followers spread throughout the land, proclaiming the truth and promise of the Prince. Some believed. Others mocked. And still others spurned the message of hope and mercy. And up in the tower, the King, Prince, and Counselor waited until the fulfilment of time when the Prince would return and bring those loyal to the King back home.