Long ago, one pleasant day in an ancient country, two men sat rested at a table. One man was old and grey, indeed, it seemed he was older than time itself. The lines in his face showed the scars of a thousand times gone by, and yet they stood testament to his wisdom also. The other was much younger, more fair and pleasing to look at. His skin was smooth and his posture upright. “I made something I wanted to show you,” said the old man. “I’ve been designing it with care, and it’s finally finished.” Out he pulled a wooden board, filled with alternating light and dark squares.
“What is it?” the younger one asked.
“It’s a game. I have called it chess.”
“Looks interesting. Let’s play it.” Reaching into a leather pouch, the old man pulled out several hand-carved, wooden pieces of various shapes and sizes. The designs on them were intricate, and the detail showed the time spent crafting each and every one of them. Slowly but carefully, he placed each in its proper position on the board, going over the rules of this unusual game.
“The object is to trap the other player’s king so that he has no way to avoid capture.”
The young man thought for a moment. Then, with a smug grin on his face, he stated, “Let’s play. I bet I can beat you, old man. In fact, I will make a wager with you.”
“Oh?” The old man paused for a second. “And what would that wager be? You really think you can beat me at a game I created myself?”
“Yes, I do. You are old and weak, and my mind is fresh and capable of great things. I will play you, and the winner will keep the game itself.”
The old man thought carefully. His game, lovingly crafted, was his own, and no one should take it from him. But, to turn down this challenge would only serve to give the younger one the victory he wanted. Yes, he would take on this wager. “I agree.”
The game began. Each started out with their opening moves, attentively aware of the outcomes of each possible move. Soon, the game was in full swing, and the two minds battled back and forth, waging a war on the very table they sat at. Small battles were won and lost, and neither player seemed to gain an advantage. Then, in a daring move, the old man sent one of his pieces far across the board. The young man smiled inwardly. This old man doesn’t know what he’s doing, he thought. I can easily capture his piece, then move ahead for a quick and secure victory! This game will then be mine, and I’ll have shown this ancient piece of history his place. The old man sat quietly, not looking at the game in front of him, but rather observing the young man. His eyes were soft, not harsh like this young man seated before him. Though old and grey, his eyes still sparkled with intensity. This young one’s eyes only showed his pride and belligerance. The old man’s eyes moved back down to the game with sadness. He had so much potential.
Countering the old man’s attack, the young man quickly captured the opposing piece and moved in for the kill. Gaining a decisive advantage, he stormed his pieces to the other side of the board. Then, moving his bishop forward in one final move, he stood up. “Hah! You lose, old man. Checkmate. I win.” With a flick of his finger, he knocked over the old man’s king. In contrast, his opponent looked calmly down at the board to examine it.
“No you didn’t. That was an illegal move.”
“What are you talking about, old man? You told me all the rules yourself. I won fair and square, and you know it!”
The old man stayed silent, picking up his fallen king and placing it back upright. Then he looked up at his opponent, examining his face once again. A long silence passed before he spoke again.
“Take another look at the board. While you were concentrated on attacking me, I moved one small, humble pawn into your territory. And remember, if it reaches the other end of the board, I can exchange it for another piece of any type.” The old man stared into the young man’s eyes. Only arrogance looked back at him. “You were focused on the piece I sent as an attack, but I had a different goal in mind. And now I want that piece back in exchange for my pawn. If you’ll notice…that will put you in checkmate.”
The young man now stared dumbfounded. He looked down at the board again. The pawn had been moved before his bishop had been sent in to capture the old man’s king. And instead of a victory, he had just experienced a crushing defeat! He searched for a way out. He tried to find some other path, some move that the old man had missed. But there was none. This old, stupid man just beat me! he thought angrily. The antagonism he now felt was the only emotion which filled his eyes. With indignation, he stood up quickly, picked up the board, and flipped it off the table, scattering pieces to the floor. “I’m still better than you, old man. Keep your stupid game. I’ve got better things to do.” And with that, the young man stormed out of the room.
The old man sat for a moment. Then, calmly, he rose from his seat, and stooped to the floor. Lovingly, he picked up each piece and the game board. In the young man’s anger, however, one of the pieces had been damaged. On the floor lay the pawn, broken. Clutching both fragments, the old man brought it close to his heart. One pawn, broken to save the rest of his pieces. A worthy sacrifice. Yes, a worthy sacrifice, indeed.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)