This is a really old story I heard as a kid, but I still like it. My thought is the classics never go out of style.
In the mountains of Virginia, there once was a one-room school with students no teacher had been able to handle. Two or three teachers had been run off from this school in one year by the unruly students.
A young teacher heard about the school and applied for the job. The man interviewing him asked, "Do you not know what you are asking for? No one has been able to handle these students. You are just asking for a terrible beating."
After a few moments of silent prayer, the young man replied, "Sir, with your consent I accept the challenge. Just give me a trial basis."
The next morning the young man stood before the class. He said to the class, "Young people, I came here today to conduct school. But I realize I can't do it by myself. I must have your help." One big boy they called Big Tom, in the back of the room whispered to his buddies, "I'll not need any help. I can lick that little bird all by myself."
The young teacher told the class that if they were to have school, there would have to be some rules to go by. But he also added that he would allow the students to make up the rules, and that he would list them on the blackboard. This was certainly different, the students thought! One young man suggested "No stealing!" Another one shouted, "Be on time!" Pretty soon they had ten rules listed on the board.
The teacher then asked the class what the punishment should be for breaking the rules. "Rules are no good unless they are enforced," he said.
"Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on," was the decision of the boys.
"That is pretty severe, boys. Are you ready to stand by it?" inquired the teacher. Another yell, and the teacher said, "The rules stand. School comes to order!"
Everything went well for two or three days. Then Big Tom came in one day very upset. He declared that someone had stolen his lunch. After talking with the students, they came to the conclusion that little Timmy had stolen Big Tom's lunch. Someone had seen little Timmy with Big Tom's lunch! The teacher called little Timmy up to the front of the room. Little Timmy admitted he had taken Big Tom's lunch.
So the teacher asked him, "Do you know the punishment?"
Little Timmy nodded that he did.
"You must remove your coat, then," the teacher instructed. The little fellow had come with a great big coat on.
Little Timmy said to the teacher, "I am guilty, and I am willing to take my punishment, but please don't make me take off my coat."
The teacher reminded little Timmy of the rules and punishments and again told him he must remove his coat and take his punishment like a man. The little fellow started to unbutton hist old coat. As he did so, the teacher saw he did not have a shirt on under the coat. And even worse, he saw a frail and bony frame hidden beneath that coat. The teacher asked little Timmy why he had come to school without a shirt on.
Little Timmy replied, "My daddy's dead, and my mother is very poor. I don't have but one shirt, and my mother is washing it today. I wore my big brother's coat so's to keep warm."
That young teacher stood and looked at the frail back, the ribs sticking out, the spine protruding against the skin. He wondered how he could lay a rod on that little back and without even a shirt on. Still, he knew he must enforce the punishment or the children would not obey the rules. So he drew back to strike little Timmy.
Just then Big Tom stood up and came down the aisle. He asked, "Is there anything that says I can't take little Timmy's whipping for him?"
The teacher thought about it and answered, "The rule says what the punishment is for stealing, but it doesn't say who must take the punishment."
With that Big Tom ripped his coat off and stooped and stood over little Timmy at the desk. Hesitatingly, the teacher began to lay the rod on that big back. But for some strange reason, after only five licks that old rod just broke in half.
The young teacher buried his face in his hands and began to sob. He heard a commotion and looked up to find not even one dry eye in the room. Little Timmy had turned and grabbed Big Tom around the neck, apologizing to him for stealing his lunch, begging his forgiveness. He declared, "Tom, I am sorry I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I'll love you till the day I die for taking my whipping for me. Yes, I'll love you forever!"
Friend, you have broken the rules and deserve eternal punishment! But Jesus Christ took your scourging for you; He died in your place and now offers to clothe you with His garments of salvation. Aren't you glad that He took the whipping for you?
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. --Romans 6:23 (NIV)