I forget the precise context of the conversation, but several years ago I used a simplified form of this analogy to describe Christ’s mission on earth:
A prince falls in love with a common girl from a distant province of his kingdom, but she rejects him thus: “I no more belong in your world than you do in mine; with all your wealth and finery and power, your palaces and servants and armies, you will never understand how poor people live.”
So the prince disguises himself as a serf, telling no-one but a few trusted servants and taking no money or other possessions with him, learns a trade and goes off to live where his face is not well known, supporting himself and working his way across the country. Where he spots an injustice against others, he has his servants secretly report it to the king to be dealt with, but gives them strict instructions to not intervene on his own behalf, no matter what, merely record how people treat him and only deal with such matters after he has decided to reveal himself.
Over three years he meets with both kindness and cruelty, generosity and greed—dishonest merchants, corrupt sheriffs, hospitable paupers and violent bandits. He is insulted, robbed, beaten, wrongfully imprisoned and tortured, yet not once does he invoke his authority to spare himself, not once does he call out for his nearby servants to intervene, he endures it all quietly.
Finally he arrives at the girl’s door, his simple clothing torn and scars visible on his face and hands, and asks her to reconsider, that his offer of life with him at the palace still stands.
Can you imagine what those servants must have felt, watching their beloved prince be so mistreated, suffer so many affronts to his honour, endure such undeserved pain and degradation, yet with strict instructions to not defend him, and all for the sake of some common girl. Scandalous!
Christ’s sacrifice for us is even greater than that, in that he is far further above us than a prince is above a commoner, and He took the punishments for our crimes, enduring even separation from the Father and excruciating death. At any moment during His earthly ministry, he could have called down legions of angels to defend him, yet He did not, only using his divine authority to help others, to heal the sick, free the oppressed, bring hope to the fearful and light to dark places. We are utterly unworthy of His generosity, of His scandalous humility, and each day we should remember and be grateful.