In a small college there was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christensen. He was a serious, studious man who taught the required survey course in Christianity. Every student was required to take this course in their freshman year, regardless of major.
Dr. Christensen tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class. But he found most students looked upon the course as nothing but a required chore. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.
One year, Dr. Christensen had a student that caught his attention. Steve was studying with the intent of going on to seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, well-liked, and built like a tank. He was already the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor’s class.
Dr. Christensen asked Steve to stay after class one day so he could talk with him. “How many push-ups can you do?” Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”
“200? That’s pretty good,” Dr. Christensen said. “Do you think you could do 300?”
Steve replied, “I don’t know…I’ve never done 300 at one time.”
“Do you think you could?” Dr. Christensen asked again.
“Well, I can try,” said Steve.
“If you did them in sets of ten, do you think you could do 300? I have a class project in mind and I would need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.
Steve said, “Well…I think I can. Yeah, I can do it.”
Dr. Christensen said, “Good! I’ll need you to do it this Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.”
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out three big boxes of donuts. And these weren’t tiny cake donuts. They were the BIG, fancy kind—bear claws, apple fritters, Long Johns, twists, and massive glazed, filled, and old-fashioned donuts.
Everyone was already excited it was Friday. Now they were going to kick off their weekend with a party in Dr. Christensen’s class!
Dr. Christensen went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?” Cynthia said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christensen then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Cynthia can have a donut?” “Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve returned to his desk. Dr. Christensen let Cynthia choose a donut.
Dr. Christensen then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?” Joe said, “You bet!” Dr. Christensen asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christensen came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship. When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?” Scott asked, “Can I do my own push-ups?” Dr. Christensen said, “No, Steve has to do them.” Scott replied, “Then I don’t want one.”
Dr. Christensen shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups. Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!”
Dr. Christensen said, “Look. This is my class, my desks, and my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
By this time Steve had begun to slow down a little. He decided to stay on the floor between sets because it took extra effort to get up and down. His forehead started to show a bit of perspiration.
Dr. Christensen started down the third row. Students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christensen asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?” Sternly, Jenny said, “No.” Then Dr. Christensen asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten. Jenny got a donut.
A growing sense of uneasiness began to fill the room. More students were beginning to say “No” and there were uneaten donuts on many of the desks.
Steve was starting to put forth a lot of effort to get the sets of push-ups done. A small puddle of sweat formed on the floor beneath his face, and his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christensen started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room.
He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
Dr. Christensen went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
A few moments later, Jason opened the door and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!” Jason didn’t know what was going on.
Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”
Professor Christensen said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?”
Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.”
Dr. Christensen said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?”
Since Jason was new to the room he had no idea what was going on. “Sure,” he said, “I’ll take a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christensen finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up as he struggled to lift himself. By this time sweat was profusely dripping off of his face. There was no sound except his heavy breathing, and several people around the room had tears in their own eyes.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both popular cheerleaders. Dr. Christensen went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a donut?”
Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”
Professor Christensen quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.
Then Dr Christensen turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?” Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr. Christensen, why can’t I help him?”
Dr. Christensen said, “No, Steve has to do it alone. I have given him this task, and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.
When I decided to have a little party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work.
Steve told me that in football practice when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push ups. He and I made a deal on your behalf.”
“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?” As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, and with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christensen turned to the room and said. “And so it was that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ‘Into your hands I commend My spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He gave up His life.”
“And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift untaken, untasted, and uneaten.”
Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat. He was physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor. “Not all sermons are preached in words.”
Turning to his class the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to each of you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.“
“Wouldn’t it be foolish and ungrateful to leave Christ’s gift just lying there?”
Today is Good Friday. A day to pause. To remember. To reflect.
A day of gratitude for what Jesus went through to rescue me. And to rescue you.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ spill over you today and flood your hearts and minds with wonder and amazement at His sacrifice for each of us.
P.S. – No, there’s no correlation between myself and the Steve in the story. Except that if it took pushups to make you pay attention to the Gospel, I’d drop and get started as well.
Perfect teaching of the Saviors Atonement. Thank you so much
very clear and good article easy to understand. Thank you
I cry everytime i hear this story we all need to be Steven