In the thousands of sermons that I have heard I have never heard this illustration until today.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45)
Jesus came as a suffering servant, not a conquering king. As he walked amongst the people, as he healed, taught, and cleansed, Jesus absorbed the evil of the world. He took upon himself the brokenness, the injustice, the hatred – all of it – from the beginning of time to the end, all of it was collected and focused upon him.
He came to serve. He gave his life as a ransom for many.
Historian and theologian N.T. Wright describes something of what this is like by referencing an old fable about a fox with fleas:
“Do you know how a fox gets rid of its fleas? The fox goes along the hedgerow, and collects little bits of sheep’s wool. Then he makes it all into a ball of wool, which he holds in his mouth. Then he goes to the stream, and slowly, slowly, walks down into the water. He lowers himself right down into the water, with the ball of wool in his mouth, until at last he is totally submerged; then he lets go, and ball of wool floats away downstream, carrying all the fleas with it. The fox merges, clean. In this image, Jesus is the ball of wool… He takes the weight of the world’s evil upon himself, so that the world may emerge, clean.” (N.T. Wright, Following Jesus, p.48)