It was Oklahoma in the 20’s. John Griffith in his early twenties, newly married and full of optimism. Along with his lovely wife he had been blesses with a beautiful baby. With excitement he was dreaming the American dream. He wantel to travel and visit far away places. But then came 1929 and the great stock market crash. With the shattering of the economy came the devastation of John’s dreams. Oklahoma was being ravaged by depression and despair. And so John packed up his few possessions and with his wife and little son, Greg, headed East in their Ford. They made their way toward Missouri, to the edge of the Mississippi River, and there he found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges that spanned the massive river.
Day after day John would sit in a control room and direct the enormous gears of an immense bridge over the mighty river. He would look out wistfully as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge. Then, mechanically, he would lower the massive structure and stare pensively into the distance as great trains roared by until they became specks on the horizon. He watched sadly as they reminded him of his lost dream to visit far-off places.
Then in 1937 a new dream was born in his heart. He looked forward to work shoulder-to-shoulder in intimate friendship with His son, Greg, now 8. The first day of this new life brought fresh hope and purpose. together they set off for the immense bridge. Greg looked on in amazement as his dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge. As he watched he was so proud of his father and how he could control such a stupendous structure.
Soon it was noon. John had just elevated the bridge for some ships to pass. Then, with his son in hand, they headed off for lunch. They went down a narrow cat-walk onto an observation deck over the Mississippi and watched as the ships passed below. John told his son many stories about the ships and their destinations. Then suddenly in the middle of a story, they were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train. Looking at his watch in disbelief he saw that the train was on time and the bridge was still raised and the Memphis Express was just minutes away! He suppressed his panic, not wanting to alarm his son. He calmly told him to stay put and quickly ran up to the control house. Then he checked that the river was clear of ships and then looked to make sure nothing was below.
As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest. Foe there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.
Apparently Greg had tried to follow his Dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Even now he was wedged between the teeth of two main cogs in the gearbox. Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed profusely. Immediately an even more horrifying thought flashed through his mind. For in that instant he knew that lowering the bridge meant killing the apple of his eye, crushing him to death.
Desperately he tried to think of a solution. A plan emerged. He could climb down a rope from the catwalk and grab his son and then rush back and pull the control lever just in time for the oncoming train. But as soon as he had these thoughts he realised the futility of his plan. There was not enough time. What could he do? In anguish he considered the oncoming train with its 400 passengers rushing closer towards the bridge and certain death if he did nothing. But this was his son, his only son, his pride and joy. In his mind he could see the tearstained face of the boy’s mother. But if he saved him he would be letting many others die.
In a moment he saw there was only one thing he could do. He knew he had to do it. So, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever. The cies of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground slowly into position. With only seconds to spare the Memphis Express roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.
Joyhn Griffith lifted his tearstained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. A businessman was reading the newspaper. The conductor was looking at his watch. Ladies were sipping their afternoon tea in the dining cars. Others were playing cards. A small boy, much like his son, was eating ice-cream. Many passengers either seemed to be engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter. No one looked his way. No one even cast a glance at the giant gearbox that housed the mangled remains of his son.
In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room and cried out: 'What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you care? Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you? What’s wrong with you?' No one answered, no one heard. Not one seemed to care. And then soon the train was over the bridge and off into the distance.
This is a faint illustration of what God the Father did in sacrificing His Son, Jesus, for us, so that we would not die but have forgiveness and eternal life: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved' (John3:16,17).
John Griffin was caught by surprise but God in His great love and sovereign purpose determined to sacrifice His son so that we might live: 'You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you' (1Peter 1:18-20).
Moreover the love of Jesus Christ the Son is shown in that he was not accidently caught but willingly gave up his life for the sins of mankind. 'Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father' (John 10:17,18).
It is the proof of God’s amazing love for us that He would be willing to sacrifice His Son for people who don’t deserve it, who so often ignores Him as they rush on in their busyiness and pleasures. 'God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us' (Rom 5:8). One prophecy of Jesus says: 'Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the LORD has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger' (Lam 1:12).
Take my son...
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son. About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, 'Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.'
The young man held out this package. 'I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.'
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes
that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man andoffered to pay him for the picture.
'Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift.'
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them anyof the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son.
The auctioneer pounded his gavel. 'We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?'
There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted,
'We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.'
But the auctioneer persisted. 'Will someone bid for this painting?
Who will start the bidding? £100, £200?'
Another voice shouted angrily. 'We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!'
But still the auctioneer continued.
'The son! The son! Who'll take the son?'
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room.
It was the longtime gardener of the man who had loved his son.
'I'll give £10 for the painting.'
Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
'We have £10, who will bid £20?'
'Give it to him for £10. Let's see the masters.'
'£10 is the bid, won't someone bid £20?'
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son.
They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.
The auctioneer pounded the gavel. 'Going once, twice, SOLD for £10!'
A man sitting on the second row shouted,
'Now let's get on with the collection!'
The auctioneer laid down his gavel. 'I'm sorry, the auction is over.'
'What about the paintings?'
'I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!'
God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: 'The son, the son, who'll take the son?' Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.
1John 5:11,12: 'God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.'
Romans 8:32: 'He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?'