The Sound of the Bell

by Oleg Kostyuk



But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

The National Museum in Kyungju, capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom in South Korea contains Emille Bell among other important items of national cultural heritage. I was impressed by the story behind that legendary bell. Let me share it with you.


At the time of Silla, the country was peaceful, but the devout Buddhist king wanted to protect the nation from foreign invasion. The king was advised to build a huge temple bell to show the people's devotion to Buddha.


A specialist in the technology of bell-making, himself a devout Buddhist, was given the responsibility. He used great care and all the right methods to cast the bell, but he failed again and again to obtain a bell that gave a beautiful sound when struck. Finally he took his problems to the council of religious leaders who were greatly concerned over this matter of national security.


After long discussion, the council concluded that the best way to give a beautiful tone to the bell was to sacrifice a pure young maiden. Soldiers were sent out to fetch a "pure young maiden" who would be sacrificed for this worthy cause. They came upon a poor mother in a farm village with her small daughter. They took the child from its mother, while the child cried out piteously, "Emille, Emille, Emille!" meaning "Mother! Oh, Mother!"


When the next huge pot of molten lead and iron was prepared for casting the bell, the little girl was thrown into it. At last the bell-maker was successful. The bell, called the Emille Bell, when struck with the gong made a sound so beautiful that no other bell could equal it.


When people heard the beautiful sound of the bell, some gave praise and thanks to the technology and art that was able to cast a bell with such a beautiful sound. But when the mother whose child had been sacrificed to obtain that beautiful sound heard the bell, her heart broke afresh, and her neighbors, who also knew of the sacrifice and of the mother's pain, could not hear the bell's beautiful tone without pain. Only those who understand the sacrifice can feel the pain. Others simply enjoy the sound.[1]


The salvation of humankind has not come through those who are comfortable and unconcerned, but only through One who shared the suffering of all humankind.


What is the death of Jesus for you: A beautiful act that was performed many years ago? Or was it more than that?..

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[1] Oo Chung Lee, 'One Woman's Confession of Faith', International Review of Mission, 74 (1985), 212-16, p. 215.

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