“You a religious man?” The withered man asked.
I nodded. “A disciple of Jesus.”
“Sounds like a cult.”
“It’s not.” I assured him.
A long moment of silence ensued and the only sound was that of the train rumbling on and on and the air whooshing past not more than a foot away from us on the other side of the glass. It hit me then just how beautiful God’s creation really was sometimes. It impressed me so much just then that I let out an audible “Hm.”
“What?” the bearded man wondered.
I chuckled softly. “Oh, it’s nothing.”
“No, tell me.” He looked at me from behind his bushy eyebrows and it struck me just how soft his eyes looked, as if he was looking at a newborn baby – his brand new grandson perhaps.
“Oh I just noticed how beautiful it is.” And I gazed outside into the darkness.
“There’s nothing but darkness.” The man said, confused.
“Oh but there’s much more than darkness.” I smiled at the sophisticated way that I knew this was going to sound. “Would there be darkness without light? And would there be light without darkness? And would there be either without God Himself?” I almost laughed aloud at how ridiculous this sounded. Never before had I voiced these thoughts. Heck, I had just thought these thoughts moments ago! But I continued anyway.
“You see, in the beginning, God created everything. He separated the darkness from the light, and it was beautiful and he saw that it was good.” I paused, amazed that this was happening.
“Because everything God made was beautiful and perfect. And it all culminated together on the sixth day when he made you and me. Mankind was born on the sixth day of existence, and God loved Adam more than all his other creations, so He gave him dominion over the rest of it.” I looked into the man’s eyes. They were intently fixed on mine, unblinking.
“But then man sinned. Yes, man sinned mere days after he was created. He ate of the forbidden tree, he and his wife together, and they realized their sin and they were ashamed. So ashamed they hid from God and when God came to them, they made up a story to cover it up.” Small pause. I couldn’t believe this guy was still listening. I expected him to get up and leave at any minute. But he didn’t. He stayed. He listened. He wanted to hear the end of the story.
“Man and woman were banished, expelled from the garden for their sin forever. And it wasn’t until centuries and centuries later that sin was paid for once and for all. It was paid on a cross, on a tree; it was a Roman custom to crucify their criminals on a cross, in public for all to see. But this man, Jesus, had committed no crime. No sir, he was spotless, sinless, perfect. He was God’s one and only son, sent to Earth to live as a man – to feel temptation, to feel persecution, to suffer pain and anguish, and to ultimately die a humiliating criminal’s death – ridiculed by all who witnessed it.” I paused and looked back at the man. Tears were streaming down his face, but he didn’t take his eyes off me. Not once did he wipe his tears. He merely stared, anticipating my next words.
“But Jesus was not defeated. No sir, Jesus conquered death. Merely three days after he was crucified, he left the grave a very alive man and ascended to heaven to live with God for eternity. But before he left, he appeared to his disciples, his friends and followers, and gave them one last command. ‘Go therefore and make disciples’ He said. ‘Spread the Good News’ He said. So that’s what I’m doing. And that’s what I meant when I said I was a disciple of Jesus. And no, it’s not a cult. It’s much, much more than that. It’s a personal relationship with the only one who can save your soul from hell. It’s a relationship with the savior of the universe. You can be his friend and talk to him the way I’m talking to you right now. Now how cool and amazing and beautiful is that?”
When I looked back at the man, his head was drooped into his hands and he was sobbing.
“No one has ever told me what you just told me.” He managed through the tears.
I was shocked. I was appalled that a man of his age – he must have been in his late eighties – had never heard the gospel before. I didn’t think that was possible. Everybody knew about Jesus. Everyone had sat through a lecture from their father, mother, husband, wife, girlfriend, step-father, grandmother, or baby sitter about how they needed Jesus in their life. But not this poor old man. Not once had anybody sat him down and explained to him what this whole “Jesus thing” was about. It took an eighteen-year old punk kid stranger for him to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And right there I wept with him. For him.
That day, the old man on the train became a disciple of Jesus Christ and a very good friend of mine. In the months to follow, I showed him the Bible, I prayed with him, I played cribbage with him; I loved him. And it’s a good thing somebody did too, because that same year, he passed away.
So now, every time I ride that train, I sit in the same place and look out the window into the darkness and think about my old friend who had never heard the Gospel. And I pray. I pray for other people in similar situations – other grandpas and grandmas and mothers and fathers and nieces and nephews and uncles and aunts and sons and daughters – who have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ.