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The King Bearing Us in His Arms

There is a vivid picture of Christ’s sacrifice for sin in Mark Twain’s novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The story tells the adventures of an ordinary man (the Connecticut Yankee) from the 19th century, who is transported back to the medieval world of King Arthur. At one point he convinces King Arthur to dress like a peasant and take a journey through his kingdom. The results are generally laughable as the king, completely oblivious to life in the trenches, tries to carry on with all the pomp of the court while those around him simply think he is crazy. But there is a touching chapter titled “The Smallpox Hut” describing how the king and his companion happen upon a beggar’s hovel. The husband lies dead, and the wife tries to warn them away:

“For the fear of God, who visits with misery and death such as be harmless, tarry not here, but fly! This place is under his curse.…”

The king replies, “Let me come in and help you—you are sick and in trouble.”

The woman asks the king to go into the loft and check on their child.

“It was a desperate place for him to be in, and might cost him his life,” observes the Yankee, “but it was no use to argue with him.”

The king disappears up a ladder looking for the girl.

There was a slight noise from the direction of the dim corner where the ladder was. It was the king descending. I could see that he was bearing something in one arm, and assisting himself with the other. He came forward into the light; upon his breast lay a slender girl of 15. She was but half conscious; she was dying of smallpox. Here was heroism at its last and loftiest possibility, its utmost summit; this was challenging death in the open field unarmed, with all the odds against the challenger, no reward set upon the contest, and no admiring world in silks and cloth-of-gold to gaze and applaud; and yet the king’s bearing was as serenely brave as it had always been in those cheaper contests where knight meets knight in equal fight and clothed in protecting steel. He was great now; sublimely great. The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition—I would see to that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon, like the rest. It would be a king in commoner’s garb bearing death in his arms.

There is Jesus on the cross! A king in commoner’s garb bearing sinners in his arms.

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