I Hope This Stops You Dead in Your Tracks!

The first time I read the story below, I thought to myself, “there’s no way this actually happened; surely, it was made up as the perfect Good Friday sermon analogy.” After further research, I discovered its contents are entirely valid. This is the true story about a Missouri man named John Griffith, who worked as a drawbridge controller on the Mississippi River. I trust what he did, like what God the Father and God the Son did on Good Friday in 30 AD, will stop you dead in your tracks.


One day, in the summer of 1937, John Griffith decided to take along his eight-year-old son Greg with him to work. At noon, he put the bridge up to allow ships to pass and sat on the observation deck with his son to eat lunch. Time passed quickly. Suddenly he was startled by the shrieking of a train whistle in the distance. He quickly looked at his watch and noticed it was 1:07 – the Memphis Express with four hundred passengers on board, and it was roaring toward the raised bridge!


John leaped from the observation deck and ran back to the control tower. Just before throwing the master lever, he glanced down for any ships below. There a sight caught his eye that caused his heart to leap to his throat. His eight-year-old son, Greg, had slipped from the observation deck and had fallen into the massive gears that operated the bridge. His leg was caught in the cogs of two main gears! Desperately, John’s mind whirled to devise a rescue plan. But as soon as he thought of a possibility, he knew there was no way he could do it. Again, with alarming closeness, the train whistle shrieked. He could hear the clicking of the locomotive wheels over the tracks. That was his son down there – yet there were four hundred passengers on the train. John knew what he had to do, so he buried his head in his left arm and pushed the master switch forward. That great massive bridge lowered into place just as the Memphis Express began to roar across the river.


When John Griffith lifted his head, he looked into the passing windows of the train. There were businessmen casually reading their afternoon papers, finely dressed ladies in the dining car sipping coffee, and children pushing long spoons into their dishes of ice cream. No one looked at the control house, and no one looked at the great gearbox. With wrenching agony, John Griffith cried out at the steel train, “I sacrificed my son for you, people! Don’t you care?” The train rushed by, but nobody heard the father’s words. 


The Prophet Jeremiah asks, “Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?” (Lamentations 1:12) I suppose all of us have been, even for extended periods of time, no different than those passengers of the Memphis Express: casually going about our own daily business, or perhaps too stressed out from the craziness of life to take notice of something like a mere cross.


Crosses now adorn all of society, too much so I believe. They have become fashionable to the religious and irreligious alike, with no discernable divide between the secular and sacred. They’re imprinted on your t-shirts, nonchalantly so. They currently hang as decorative pieces accenting the décor in your living room. I’ve never liked seeing their presence in bathrooms. Please don’t do that. Your person likely exhibits one at present; what once evoked horror and extreme sorrow hardly now gleans a second glance.


In summary, we’ve grown all too familiar with the ever-presence of crosses: the inherent shock value they once possessed has completely dissipated over time. If only for today and tomorrow, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you were to stop dead in your tracks at the sight of a cross, my purpose in this blog will be complete. To pose the question from Jeremiah once again: “Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?” I trust the answer will be no…at least for now.

Jesus said, for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.


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