John Griffin, an Oklahoman in his early twenties, newly married and blessed with a beautiful baby was deeply shattered in the 1929 Great Stock Market Crash. Brokenhearted and sad, John packed up his few possessions and headed East with his family. John found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges across the mighty Mississippi.
Day after day John would sit in the control room and direct the enormous gears of the immense bridge over the river. He would watch as the bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge.
In 1937 John had a new dream in his heart. His young son, Greg, now eight years old developed great interest in his father’s work. To John this brought hope that Greg would follow his father in a future bridge operation career.
One day they packed their lunches and headed toward the immense crossing. Greg looked in wide-eyed amazement as his Dad pressed down the huge lever that raised the vast bridge. His father must surely be the greatest man alive to control the movements of such a stupendous structure.
When noontime arrived John elevated the bridge to allow some scheduled ships to pass through. Then he and his son left the control room and found a place to have lunch.
John told Greg stories of his work at the bridge until a startling reality took place. It was the shrieking whistle of a distant train. The bridge was still raised and the Memphis Express would be at the bridge in minutes.
John calmly instructed Greg to “stay put.” He quickly leaped to his feet, jumped on the catwalk and ran toward the ladder leading to the control house. Once there he searched the river to make sure no ships were in sight. Then, as he was trained, he looked down to be sure everything was all right below the control house. What John saw was devastating. His son had attempted to follow his Dad but fell off the catwalk, wedging his leg between the teeth of two main cogs in the gearbox.
John was faced with an unbelievable decision—to save his son or save the passengers on the approaching train. He thought of how he might get to his son and pull him free. But there was not enough time. The 400 passenger train would soon emerge from the trees and speed across the bridge. Burying his face under his left arm John plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the noise of the bridge grinding into place. In a matter of seconds, the Memphis Express rolled over the bridge.
John lifted up his tear-stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train. He saw a businessman reading the morning newspaper, a uniformed conductor glancing at his vest pocket watch, ladies sipping afternoon tea, a small boy, looking strangely like his son, enjoying a dish of ice cream and many others engaged in idle conversation or careless laughter.
No one even looked John’s way. No one cast a glance at his gigantic gearbox that contained the mangled remains of his son.
In anguish John pounded the glass in the control room. He cried out, “What’s the matter with you people? Don’t you know? 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. No one even looked. Not one of them seemed to care. The train moved rapidly over the waters and disappeared. – Christianity in Crisis-21st Century, vol. 4
This remarkable story deeply moves me. It is a faint glimpse of what God the Father did in sacrificing the Son of His love, Jesus. His sovereign will and purpose and His great love made it all possible. Like those in John’s story we just don’t notice the sacrifice that was made. We just push on with our lives, not really caring at all what God has done for us.
Consider these special truths:
“All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone unto his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isiah 53:6
But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” I Peter 3:18
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
The question is “Would God save His Son or redeem the world?” The Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection was not to save 400 passengers on the Memphis Express. It was to change the whole world, millions upon millions. Such an unbelievable choice allows us to avoid terrible disaster and safely cross to our heavenly destination.
Till Next Time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain