On the shore of the River of Life, a small group of friends had assembled. The topic of testimony came up.
The Apostle Paul said he was in his late twenties when he got thrown from his horse and heard Jesus’ voice from heaven. Zacchaeus said he was in his mid-thirties when Jesus called him down from the sycamore tree. Nicodemus said his born-again experience did not come until he was well into his forties. Joseph of Arimathea said he was not given the courage to call Jesus his Savior until he was in the second half of his fifties.
Some of the details of their Bible stories were referred to and commented upon as they fondly remembered their conversion stories. Then each began adding information they didn’t know about the other.
Paul said he never got on a horse again. Zacchaeus said he was afraid of heights but was sure glad his desire to see Jesus outweighed his fears. Nicodemus said he still can’t believe how silly he sounded when he thought Jesus was telling him to get back in his mother’s womb. Joseph said how humbled he was knowing that when he died, he was put in the same tomb as Jesus.
Pretty soon another buddy, the thief on the cross came by and joined the discussion. His dramatic last-minute conversion story brought smiles to them all again. There was more self-disclosure and chuckles as they each spoke of their “come-to-Jesus” moment.
Just down from these saints was another man. He was overhearing bits and pieces. He got the courage and came over. He told them how awe-inspiring each of their dramatic conversions were and that he wished he had something comparable to share. He gave his rather vanilla story (his words) that his parents baptized him and raised him in the church. And that as he looked back upon his earthly life, there wasn’t much drama. In fact, he could not think of a time he did not have faith in Jesus.
The five better known men responded. They each spoke quietly, emotionally. Paul reminded the man how much he had persecuted the church, even putting Christians to death. Zacchaeus lamented all the lives he ruined by shamefully stealing money from his countrymen. Nicodemus wondered how much more he could have learned from Jesus had he came to faith earlier. Joseph of Arimathea regretted his fear of man and how that kept him from speaking truth about Jesus during the Sanhedrin’s hate filled meetings.
It was the thief on the cross, however, who was most emotional, bemoaning his disregard for others, the pain he inflicted, and greatest of all, that on earth he was only able to live for Jesus for two hours, and all of that pinned to a cross.
After listening to them, the man had a thought he never had before. It was not a comparative or competitive feeling men can sometimes have in discussions such as these. It was simply a realization.
His “boring” testimony screamed just as much grace, perhaps even more then the exciting ones he had heard. God’s grace had been given him all his life. He had been shielded from so much heartache and pain. He had been treated to decades and decades of sermons, communions, and fellowship. There had been failings and hard lessons, for sure. But God’s saving plan exercised when he was a young boy gave him an entire lifetime to walk with Jesus and endeavor to glorify his name.
The Apostle Paul, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea quietly shook heads in agreement when the thief on the cross spoke for them all, “What a testimony, friend. What a testimony. I wish that were mine.”
Pastor Rich Hamlin
January 7, 2021