Czar Nicholas of Russia would sometimes walk about his military camps and barracks dressed
as an ordinary officer, in order that he might anonymously know firsthand what was going on.
Late one night, the Czar was making one of these tours of inspection and noticed a light
under the paymaster's door. He opened the door quietly and stepped inside. There, a young
officer-son of an old friend of the Czar-was seated at a table, his head resting on his arms,
sound asleep. The Czar thought to awaken him, but changed his mind when he noticed a gun on
the table along with some money, a sheet of paper, and a pen which had fallen from the hand
of the sleeping man.
The Czar looked at the paper which contained a long list of gambling and other debts accumulated over a period of time, totaling thousands of rubles. The paymaster had realized how impossible it was for him to pay the debt he owed. His only way out, so he thought, was suicide, as he could not face the disgrace which awaited him for having used army funds to cover his debts. Weary with sorrow and remorse, he had written below the terrible total:
"WHO CAN PAY SO GREAT A DEBT?"
The Czar's first thought was to have him arrested. The nature of the crime was such that it could not be ignored. But as he pondered the matter he thought of his long friendship with the officer's father. A feeling of compassion gripped him and he took up the pen and wrote just one word: "NICHOLAS."
The young officer awoke soon after the Czar had gone, intending to end his life, but noticed the name "Nicholas" below his own question. He was astonished and could not believe what he saw! He compared the Czar's signature with that on other papers in his possession, and there was no doubt about its genuineness. Joy and shame filled his heart as he thought of the fact that the Czar knew all about his dishonesty and recklessness and yet was willing to pay his debt. True to his word, the following morning money arrived from the Czar-enough to pay "so great a debt" down to the last ruble.
The above true story reminds us of something more wonderful which transpired long ago, but the value of which remains for time and eternity. The coming of Christ Jesus into the world was not, as some think, to show people how to live right and then by so-called good living, they could eventually, perhaps, gain heaven. Far from it! His coming was for the express purpose of paying a debt that we were not able to pay, "to give His life a ransom" for sinners (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6).
The Bible truly says: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We all know that we have not lived up to God's holy standard, but rather, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). God was pleased to send His Son to pay the sinner's debt, which indeed can be called "so great a debt." God forgives anyone who places his trust in Jesus Christ, because He paid the debt we owed. When He cried from the cross of Calvary, "It is finished" (John 19:30) and then bowed His head in death, He had paid the penalty for sin, having passed through those awful hours of judgment.
God displayed His acceptance of that payment when He raised Christ from the dead, and now eternally saves each one who believes in Jesus as personal Saviour. Listen to these words: "Be it known unto you therefore â€¦ that through this Man [Christ Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38,39).
"Jesus my Saviour, on Calvary's tree
Paid the great debt, and my soul He set free
Oh, it was wonderful! how could it be?
Dying for me, for me!"