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AN AMAZING FACT: After a forest fire in Yellowstone Park, a National Geographic photographer joined some forest rangers on their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. As they hiked through the burnt forest, the photographer found a scorched bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat curious of the eerie sight, he gently struck at the bird with his boot. When he did, three tiny chicks scurried out from under their dead mother’s wings.
The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had led her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her chicks. When the blaze arrived and the heat scorched her small body, the mother remained steadfast. Because she was willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.
The mother bird’s instinct to protect her young at the cost of her own life describes a quality infrequently found among humans. During the shootings in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater this last year, some people ran for their lives, leaving their own children behind. But others threw themselves over their family at the cost of their own lives. It reminds me of the Bible verse: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Jesus did not hesitate to give His life for a world soon to be enveloped in an unquenchable forest fire. Christ wept out the words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Our Savior stretched out His arms over us, to shield us from the penalty of sin. Christ died in order that we might live.
The picture of a mother hen quietly sitting over her cute brood of little peeping chicks makes us smile. But the picture of Calvary is like the bird that died in the fire at Yellowstone, with outstretched wings, faithful unto death.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.