Jewish scholar David Stern tells this story in his commentary on Romans, and I want to share it with you:
Once upon a time, there was a king who was strong, brave and possessed of all other good qualities. He ruled his country justly, loved his people and was loved by them. Because of this, there was no crime in his kingdom — until one day it was discovered that a thief was loose in the land.
Knowing that wrongful behavior would multiply unless he took a strong stand against it, the king decreed that when caught the thief would receive twenty lashes. But the thefts continued. He raised the punishment to forty lashes in the hope of deterring further crime, but to no avail. Finally, he announced that the criminal would be punished with sixty lashes, knowing that no one in the country could survive sixty lashes except himself. At last the thief was caught, and it turned out to be — the king’s mother.
The king was faced with a dilemma. He loved his mother more than anyone in the world, but justice demanded that the punishment be carried out. Moreover, were his subjects to see that it was possible to commit a crime and not be punished for it, social order would eventually be completely undermined. At the same time, he knew that if he were to subject his own mother to a punishment that would kill her, the people’s love would turn to revulsion and hate toward a man so lacking in compassion and ordinary affection, and he would be unable to govern at all. The whole nation wondered what he would do.
The day arrived for administering the prescribed punishment. The king mounted a platform in the capital’s central square, and the royal flogger took his place. Then the king’s elderly mother was brought forward, fragile and trembling. On seeing her son the king, she burst into tears. “I’m… so sorry… for what I did!” she wailed, between sobs. Then, recovering, the stooping, white-haired figure made her way toward the flogging harness. The people gasped as the flogger raised his muscled arm with the leather whip.
Just as it was about to crack down on the exposed back of the woman who had given him birth, the king cried “Stop!” The arm poised in mid-air, the whip fell limp. The king rose from his seat, removed his robe, walked to the harness, put his arms around his mother, and, with his broad frame covering her frail body and his bared back exposed to the flogger, he commanded, “Execute the sentence on me!” The sixty painful stripes then fell on the back of the king.
“He was wounded for our transgressions,
bruised for our iniquities;
his suffering was for our well-being,
and by his stripes, we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray;
we have turned, each one to his own way;
and Adonai has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.”1
1 Isaiah 53:5-6