I found my daughter crying in her bedroom holding her cat for comfort. Lying on the bed was her literature workbook opened to the homeschool assignment she had been scheduled to complete that day. Not knowing the source of her pain, I offered a hug and waited for her to express her heartache. "Mom, that story was so sad," she cried. I looked at the page she had been reading and saw she had finished O. Henry's "The Last Leaf."

Her compassionate heart had connected with the surprise ending for which O. Henry is noted. Seriously ill with pneumonia, a young woman lay in the hospital waiting to die. She knew she was near death and was determined to die when the last leaf fell from the vine outside her hospital window. Her close friend, roommate, and fellow artist had spoken to the doctor, and the doctor told her that her friend had little chance of surviving unless she could convince her dying friend to want to live. Yet, no amount of encouragement would change the dying girl's mind.

Distraught, the friend went to the old man who lived in the apartment underneath theirs for help. This self-imposed guardian of these two young girls and washed-up artist, who was always "waiting to paint his next masterpiece," discovered the answer to give hope to the dying girl. However, in the process, the story takes a surprising turn of events.

We all like to read and hear stories of noble characters who remain faithful through difficult times with sacrificial love, but the most moving story is found in God's Word when Jesus faced death on the cross for our sins. As He said to Peter in Matthew 26:53, He could have called on 12 legions of angels to spare Him from such a horrible death, but He didn't. Instead, He stayed on the cross through each nail that was hammered into His hands and suffered each agonizing breath until He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

Does the story of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross move you to tears? Take a moment today to reread chapters 22 and 23 of Luke and remember what a loving Lord we serve. Then, don't forget to read the best surprise ending ever written in chapter 24. Hallelujah, Christ arose!

Lord, like the faithful servant who invested his talents wisely, I want to be found faithful when You return. Help me to sacrificially love and teach my children every lesson they need to learn to become people of character. In Jesus' name, Amen.