He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness . . . 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
Czar Alexander loved to disguise himself as a commoner so that he could mingle with his subjects. On one of his outings he visited the army barracks and, passing a tent, observed a young officer slumped at a table, sound asleep. On an impulse, the Czar decided to go into the tent and, peering over the soldier’s shoulder, saw a revolver placed on a sheet of paper that listed an extensive array of debts. Below the columns of figures the soldier had written, “Who can pay so much?”
The Czar wasn’t a fool. It was obvious the young officer had gambled everything away and now, deeply in debt, he had no means to meet his obligations. The only way out was to bring his life to an end. But it looked like his nerve had failed. After writing the words, “Who can pay so much?” he’d fallen asleep in deep distress. Yet he’d soon wake up . . .
The Czar’s first thought was to report him to the commanding officer, but on turning to leave, he glanced at the young man’s face and recognised him as the son of a friend. So returning to the table he dipped his pen into the inkwell and wrote “Czar Alexander” underneath the question, “Who can pay so much?”
When the young officer awoke he picked up the revolver, and with renewed determination raised the barrel to his temple. With his finger tightening on the trigger he glanced at the list of debts for the last time and . . . noticed the fresh ink. He couldn’t believe his eyes! There was the Czar’s name written after the question, “Who can pay so much?” Dropping the revolver, he snatched up the paper with a mixture of deep bewilderment, unbelievable relief and unbridled joy. Early the next morning a messenger arrived from the palace with a bag of money and greetings from the Czar. To the rouble, the soldier was able to pay his debts in full.
A debt that can never be paid; we have one too – the debt of sin. But by God’s grace our debt has been paid in full. “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).