Last week, thanks to some generous people babysitting our girls, Cheryl and IÂ enjoyed a night out at the Pop-Up Globe in Auckland. It was a pretty unique experience watching William Shakespeareâ€™s â€œTwelfth Nightâ€ in a to-scale replica of the Globe Theatre, the space where Shakespeareâ€™s plays were originally performed in. The circular theatre was great, everyone had a good view, the witty and talented cast had us roaring with laughter. We didn’t care much for the lewdness that came along with the drunken scenes (played up to the crowd’s delight); it was also telling that the onlyÂ “religious” character was portrayed as the most villainous and mocked mercilessly.
I wasn’t a big Shakespeare buff as school, soÂ hadÂ never read Twelfth Night before. But the story was fairly easy to pick up. Orsino is in love with Olivia, who falls in love with Viola (dressed as a boy), who falls in love with her boss, Orsino. Other people have love interests too. Comedy ensues.
While much of the Elizabethan English slipped past, hearing the words spoken live made it much easier to understand than reading scenes in English class. One thing was clear: Twelfth Ngiht wasÂ an exploration of romantic love.Â This was clear from the very first line:Â “If music be the food of love, play on!”Â And as the play progressed,Â love was described in various ways â€“ as pain, as an â€œappetiteâ€ to satisfy, as â€œfell and cruel houndsâ€, as a â€œplagueâ€, as unfulfilled.
Later that week,Â while preparing a sermon on Jesusâ€™s claim to be the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-21), I found itÂ quiteÂ striking to note how differently GodÂ describes love and suffering.
Consider this: where the good Bard preaches love as a cause of suffering, the Good Shepherd preaches suffering for the cause of love.
â€œI am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheepâ€¦.â€ (John 10:11)
â€œGreater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friendsâ€¦â€ (John 15:13)
And elsewhere in John’s letters:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
God’s word reminds usÂ of how the gospel truly is the greatest love story.
In the drama of the cross, you have the most compelling portrayal of love: a God of grace who loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8) through the sacrifice of His Beloved Son. A Good Shepherd, whose “abandoned life secured our abundant life”.
Or, in the Bardâ€™s own words: â€œLove sought is good, but givâ€™n unsought is better.â€