Some years ago, a couple in Canada had a baby boy. Their son was a healthy, contented baby except for one deformity. He was born without external ears. Without them, determining the direction of sounds would be extremely difficult.
Imagine the adjustment those parents must have had to make for their new son. How difficult to take the staring, questioning eyes wherever they took the boy. The couple made plans to have ears grafted on their son as soon as he was almost grown.
Donated ears were found for the young man. Parents, friends, and the young man were thrilled at the perfection of the operation. Thanks to the donor and the skills of modern science, gone was the stigma of deformity.
Some years later the mother of this family died of a fatal illness. As the grief-stricken family gathered around the coffin, the father pulled mother’s hair back from the sides of her face only to reveal no ears at all!
“Mother,” he explained, “donated those ears to her deformed son.”
Imagine the young man’s deep gratitude toward his mother. He no doubt loved her before — but now her memory would have added significance.
This is one of the most touching illustrations of a mother’s love I have ever heard. And what a beautiful picture of what self-sacrificial love is really like.
You could probably tell other stories of people who have even given their lives for someone else. We really admire such people. We give medals and honors to those who have, by their bravery and selflessness, risked their lives to save someone else from death or injury.
But all these acts of bravery seem almost insignificant in the light of one great act of sacrifice that happened almost 2,000 years ago!
This act was deeper and more inclusive than a mother’s love or a friend’s devotion. This one act of love was not just to save one person’s life. That act made possible the rescue of all humanity.
Like the dedicated mother, Jesus Christ came to give help to the needy. He did more than share ears, arms, or even a heart. He shared His life so that you and I could be spiritually sound and healthy.
Over and over, the Bible speaks of God’s love — His self-sacrificial love — to us. The most common comparison in the Bible is the love of a shepherd. Like a good mother or father, the shepherd sacrifices almost anything, sometimes even his life, for the sheep.
We westerners have difficulty understanding just what kind of person a real shepherd is. Those of us who own sheep keep them fenced in, spending a minimum of time with them.
The eastern shepherd spends nearly all his time with his sheep, leading them to pasture and to drink. He protects them from wild animals and robbers. He may sometimes risk his life for the flock.
Jesus compared Himself to the shepherd when He said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14, 15).
At this time of year we especially remember that great sacrifice Christ made for us. Easter represents new life, hope, joy. But most importantly it stands for Christ’s blood-sacrifice on Calvary and His resurrection as victor over sin and death.
Christ would not have us look upon Him just as a good example, or only as a good man. He doesn’t want us just to admire His spirit of self-sacrifice. He wants us to serve Him with all our love and devotion.
He has given all for us now; He expects us to give all for Him.
The mother could have given her ears for her son without him ever having returned the love to her. Christ gave us His love, but His love can never help us unless we take it willingly and love Him in return. He said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23)
Let’s not just pause at the Cross, or at the empty tomb. Let’s not just stand marveling at the love and perfection of Christ. Let’s sacrifice ourselves anew to the One who made the greatest sacrifice of all times for us. “We love him because he first loved us.”
-by Roger L. Berry