This morning, after reading Jesus' encounter with a Pharisee (named Simon) and a perfume-carrying woman of ill-repute (Luke 7:36-50), I was struck afresh by the beauty of the gospel. While Simon is unaware of the depth of his sin, the woman grasps her condition accurately. The greater one's awareness of deep sin and treachery, the greater one's gratitude and apprehension of the gift of grace found in the death of Christ – in our place. Below is my parable of four men who encounter different depths of awareness – about their sin and plight. But not just danger – also, the hope that comes from outside of them.
Here are Four Men, whose circumstances brought them low. "The Deeper the Grave, the Higher the Heaven."
The first man lies supine upon the ground, like a hastily planted bulb in a softly mulched flower bed. A stranger passing by extends a helping-hand up. “Oh thank you, kind sir, for lifting me out of that shallow and raising me to my feet,” says the man, brushing dirt off his pants.
Another man, with spade and ladder, hews a hole eight feet deep. Exhausted and sprawled upon the crater’s floor, he exclaims, “I dig deeper and deeper … but I will never dig myself out of this hole.” Defeated, he climbs his rickety ladder, when the second rung snaps! “Ow!” he cries, writhing in pain. Yet, a stranger passing by calls down into the pit: “Can I be of any help? I heard your cry.” The injured man replies, “Oh, thank you, kind sir, for coming in the nick of time! Would you throw down a rope to pull me out?” With great effort, the stranger pulls the injured man from the pit.
A third man rents a backhoe and auger — digging, digging, digging to find water for his cabin. 10’, 20’, 50’ down, transporting dirt to the surface via pulleys and buckets. One day, while he is working deep below the earth, his equipment stalls. The roar settles to silence, as he inspects electrical cords and machinery — to no avail. Stuck in his claustrophobic well, without an electronic lift, he feels afraid. Lying in his chasm overnight, he wonders if friends will ever find him.
The next morning, truck tires rumble up his gravel drive, and he screams, “Help! Help me!” An electric meter-man approaches the hole. “Is someone down there?” he shouts. “Yes, yes! I’m down here and can’t get up. My machines have stopped … would you check the electricity and extension cords, to restart my lift?” The meter-man fixes the problem, and the buried man is soon aground, gulping fresh air like a jet turbine. “Oh thank you, kind sir … if you hadn’t come, I would have surely perished. How can I repay you?” he says, bear-hugging the stranger.
A final man descends much further — plunging and tumbling through murky darkness, like an unconscious skydiver in a storm. There is no ground below, just perpetual plummeting into the bottomless abyss. With each passing moment, he hurtles further and deeper. His soul surrenders to the dark.
But … his eyes open, and he presses two fingers to his throat, feeling his carotids pound. His scalp tingles while his forehead drips from the nightmare. “It was only a dream, though it felt so real!” Sliding out of bed onto his knees – his head is bowed, his cheeks streaked with tears. “Oh, Lord. Oh, kind Lord. You have shown me the unspeakable horrors I deserve. Have mercy, have mercy on me. Would you place my terror upon Another? Where else can I find rescue?”
Four men descend, four men arise. But not all men rise the same. The first brushes dirt off his pants and carries on. The second rests his injury and abandons the project. The third clings to a meter-man, aware of what might have been. And the fourth is forever changed — a dream convicts him of the gravity of sin. The deeper and more hopeless the descent, the higher and more stunning the rescue. Jesus said in Luke 7, “He who has been forgiven little, loves little.” In other words, “The smaller the hole you think you’re in, the less you will love the Rescue.”
How deep is your hole? Does it feel like a small depression? An 8’ pit? A 50’ deep well? Or is the great abyss waiting to swallow you? Do you realize your sin will pick you out of any police lineup? To the degree we examine the danger we’re in, to a proportionate degree we’ll experience the thrill of release — the undeserved love of God. Today, may our knees hit the floor and our noses navigate to the pages of His Book, until the sheer delight of His Rescue overwhelms us. And looking up to Jesus’ cross, together we can say, “Kind Sir, it should have been me. It should have been me.”