We are told that Zaleucus’ government over the Locrians was severe, but also just. In one of his decrees, he forbade the use of wine unless it were prescribed as medicine; and in another, he ordered that all adulterers should be punished with the loss of both their eyes.
When his own son became subject to this penalty, the father, in order to maintain the authority of the laws, but also to show parental leniency, shared the penalty with his son by ordering one of his own eyes to be thrust out along with one of his offending son.
In this way, the majesty of his government was maintained, and his own character as a just and righteous sovereign was magnified in the eyes of his subjects.
In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve violated the commands of God in the Garden of Eden and sinned against Him, they incurred His just punishment in fulfillment of His word (Genesis 2:16-17): “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
This is why the Apostle Paul writes in the New Testament Book of Romans (6:23a) that “the wages of sin is death.”
The story of mankind would indeed be sad if it ended there. But, praise the Lord, it does not! For Paul continues (in Romans 6:23b), stating: “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” How was this made possible? Because of what Paul tells us (in Romans 5:1-2,6-10):
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand...
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
And that is what Easter is all about. Jesus Christ died for us. He paid the price for our sins. And then He rose again form the grave! And because He lives, we too can live forever in Heaven, reconciled to the God we abandoned way back in the Garden of Eden.
In other words, as the Apostle John tells us (John 3:16): “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And again (in John 1:1-5,9-13):
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
9The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
As Easter approaches, I hope all who read this have heard and embraced the great story of what God did for us through His one and only Son. I hope all men everywhere will receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
SOURCE: James Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale house, 1988), p. 39.
NOTE: Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, also recounts the story of Zaleusus. His source was Dr. Thomas W. Jenkyn (1794?-1858), who served as president of Coward College, London, from 1840 to 1850. He cites Jenkyn’s work, The Extent of the Atonement, in its Relation to God and the Universe (Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, 1846), pp. 4-5.
“Zaleucus, the king of the Locrians, had established a law against adultery, the penalty of which was, that the offender should lose both eyes. The first person found guilty of this offence was the king's own son. Zaleucus felt as a father toward his son; but he felt likewise as a king towards his government.
If he, from blind indulgence, forgive his son, with what reason can he expect the law to be respected by the rest of his subjects? and how will his public character appear in punishing any future offender? If he repeal the law, he will brand his character with dishonor, for selfishness, in sacrificing the public good of a whole community to his private feelings; for weakness, in publishing a law whose penalty he never could inflict; and for foolishness, in introducing a law the bearings of which he had never contemplated. This would make his authority for the future a mere name.
The case was a difficult one. Though he was an offended governor, yet he had the compassion of a tender father. At the suggestion of his unbribed mercy, he employed his mind and wisdom to devise a measure, an expedient, through the medium of which he could save his son, and yet magnify his law, and make it honorable.
The expedient was thus: the king himself would lose one eye, and the offender should lose another. By this means, the honor of his law was preserved unsullied, and the clemency of his heart was extended to the offender. Every subject in the kingdom, when he heard of the king's conduct, would feel assured that the king esteemed his law very highly; and though the offender did not suffer the entire penalty, yet the clemency shown him was exercised in such a way, that no adulterer would ever think of escaping with impunity.
Every reporter or historian of the fact would say that the king spared not his own eye that he might spare his offending child with honor. He would assert that this sacrifice of the king's eye completely demonstrated his abhorrence of adultery, and high regard for his law, as effectually as if the penalty had been literally executed upon the sinner himself. The impression on the public mind would be, that this expedient of the father was an atonement for the offence of his son, and was a just and honorable ground for pardoning him.
Such an expedient in the moral government of God, the apostles asserted the death of Christ to be. They preached that all men were ‘condemned already;’— that God had ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil,’ towards all men; — that these thoughts were to be exercised in such a manner as not to ‘destroy the law;’ and that the medium, or expedient, for doing this was the sacrifice of his ONLY SON, as an atonement, or satisfaction, to public justice for the sins of men.”