Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for collecting art. Together they traveled around the world, buying only the finest art treasures. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son's trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world. As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed, the young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic. Distraught and lonely, the old man viewed the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer.
On Christmas morning a knock on the door awakened the depressed, old man. As he walked to the door, the expensive masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hands. He introduced himself to the man by saying, "I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you." As the old man began unwrapping the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of his deceased son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man's face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, he thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars worth of art. His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.
During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy's life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart. As the stories of his son's gallantry continued to reach him, and fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease his grief, the painting of his son became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the expensive pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors his son's painting was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation that with the collector's passing, and his only son dead, those paintings would be sold at auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, because on this day he had received his greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day - greatness would be achieved as many would be able to claim, "I have the greatest collection." The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum's list. It was the painting of the man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. "Who will open the bidding with $100?" he asked.
Minutes passed and no one spoke. Finally, from the back of the room came a voice, "Who cares about that painting? It's just a picture of his son. Let's forget about it and move on to the good stuff." Many voices echoed in agreement.
"No, we have to sell this one first," replied the auctioneer. "Now who will take the son?" Finally, a neighbor of the old man spoke. "Will you take $10 for the painting? That's really all I have - and since I knew the boy, I'd like to have the painting."
After more silence, the auctioneer said, "I have ten dollars, will anyone go higher?" Then the auctioneer said, "Going once, Going twice, Gone." The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, "Now we can get on with it and we can bid on the real treasures!" The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced that the auction was over.
Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Then someone spoke up and asked, "What do you mean, it's over? We didn't come here to bid on a picture of some old guy's son. What about all of these other paintings? There are millions of dollars worth of art here! I demand that you explain what is going on!" Other voices raised in agreement.
The auctioneer raised his hand and the room quieted. He then replied, "It's very simple. The attorney for this estate has indicated that according to the father's will, whoever takes the son, gets everything."
Life is an auction. We are the buyers. There are material things to acquire and spiritual things to acquire. How often do we, as these art dealers, quest after great material things which appear to have great value, while spurning those spiritual things which seem inconsequential but will later govern our eternal life? It doesn't seem like much of a price to pay when we accept the love of Jesus Christ into our hearts. It is free, and our expression of loyalty and obedience in return, almost seems negligible. Perhaps we too need to discover once again, as these art dealers, that when you have the Son, you have everything!