Do you remember fairy tales? Tales of magical creatures and far away fantasy lands? They were legends of lore that included dragons, magic, a moral to the story or a hero saving the day. I am a history nut and love the old stuff. I am willing to bet that when you reflect on what are considered to be a fairy tale classics, “Sleeping Beauty” may come to mind. It is the time-tested tale of a princess in distress and a literal “Prince Charming” to the rescue.
If you are not familiar with the tale, it is about a beautiful princess (Sleeping Beauty) who is placed under a spell from an evil sorceress to prick her finger on a cursed spinning wheel that hurls her into a death-like sleep. As soon as Sleeping Beauty falls asleep, darkness enters the land. A prince (Prince Charming) battles and defeats the sorceress to find Sleeping Beauty. He then wakes her up with a kiss and life re-enters her as well as the land. Of course, they all live happily ever after.
Please do take note who is doing the action in Sleeping Beauty’s rescue. Sleeping Beauty was asleep as if she were dead. She did not “choose” to accept being woken up; she did not “allow” the Prince to wake her up. She was more or less dead. Unable to act on her own. It took the action of someone else on the outside to remove the curse from her.
Dr. Rod Rosenbladt has two courses in the 1517 Academy that walk you through Martin Luther’s Commentary On Galatians. During one of his lessons, I heard Dr. Rosenbladt use the story of “Sleeping Beauty” to illustrate what Christ did to us sinners in the Gospel. It was as if Christ, like Prince Charming, wakes us up (dead-in-our-sin-sinners) all on his own. He is on the outside of us doing something to us—for us. More than that, he became a curse for us; the curse we rightfully deserved (Galatians 3:13).
Christ on the outside of us has taken our place on the Cross. He consumed the cup of God’s wrath for the world’s sin on the Cross in its entirety. He exchanged his crown of righteousness for our crown of thorns. He then conquered death, hell, and the grave—for us.
The details of this illustration don’t stop there. We, just like Sleeping Beauty, are under a curse because of our sin. We are effectively spiritually dead asleep because of it. Jesus, however, is far different than Prince Charming in one glaring aspect. Sleeping Beauty was beautiful. Of course, Prince Charming would want to wake her up with a kiss. How strange would the story have looked if the sleeping princess was hideous? Prince Charming is no fool. He would not have risked it all against Maleficent (turned Dragon) only to kiss a shipwreck when he could have kissed a dreamboat elsewhere.
However, the action of Christ is far different. The Bible even says it is folly to those who are perishing. The good news of Jesus Christ effectively takes what would make sense to the world and does the foolish opposite (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Christ is different. While we were sinners, he died for us (Romans 5:8).
In our sin, we should not be desirable to God. But he still calls us his beloved. While we were effectively “Sleeping Ugly”—Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Galatians 2:20). The Church is what Jesus values. We are his treasure (Matthew 13:44-46), with all of our scars and flaws from sin, our unfaithfulness, and our shipwreck of an existence. So much so, he risked it all for us. We are his “Princess Bride” whom he died and rose for. When Jesus counts his Bride as beautiful and declares her righteous, she effectively is. Because of her works? No. Her beauty is because of Christ’s work for her. For Christ’s sake, God has said so.
Christ is doing something for you (justifying you), doing something to you (sanctifying you), and promising something to you (eternal life, to never leave you), and so much more. He unites us with himself in Baptism (Romans 6:3-4) and gives us faith in Christ as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).
May your mind be renewed by thinking about the work of Christ for you, rather than thinking about the work of you for Christ. Make no mistake. Jesus does not look at us as “ugly” but as his beloved.