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The Greatest Love Ever Known

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I stumbled upon this story a while back that has been retold many times, and as I read it again recently, it caused me to think about God’s love which cannot be measured or fully comprehended, and I wanted to share it with you today. It’s listed as an allegorical short story called, “To Sacrifice a Son” written by Dennis E. Hensley and was first published in a Michigan Baptist Bulletin in 1967.

There was once a train bridge that spanned a large river. During most of the day, the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river parallel with the banks, allowing ships to pass through freely on both sides of the bridge. But at certain times each day, a train would come along and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river, allowing the train to cross. A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place for the trains to cross. One evening as the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come, through the dimming twilight he caught sight of the train lights.

He stepped to the controls and when the train was within a certain distance, he turned the bridge into position, although to his astonishment, he found the locking control was not working. If the bridge was not locked in position it would wobble back and forth at the ends and cause the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river, and this was a passenger train with many people aboard. His small son had spent the day, and in a panic, he told him to stay there and he would be back shortly. The man then ran across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a control lever that he could operate manually to lock the bridge in place. He would have to pull the lever back firmly as the train crossed.

He could hear the rumble of the train, as he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply all of his weight to keeping the bridge locked. He kept applying the pressure as many lives depended on this man’s strength. Suddenly, from the direction of his control shack across the bridge, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. “Daddy, where are you?” His five-year-old child was crossing the bridge to look for him. He cried out, “Run! Run!” but the train was too close; the boy was confused and it was evident he would never make it across the bridge in time. In the same instant, he thought about letting go of the lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety. But he realized that he could not get back to the lever in time for the train to pass safely. Either the people on the train or his little son would have to die. He made his decision.

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The train flew by safely and no one was aware of what had happened. Not one person had noticed the devastated figure of a sobbing man, on his knees in agony, nor did they realize the torturous pain that he and his wife would have to live with after losing their son. Yes, it is truly heartbreaking to think this would ever actually happen, however, we are reminded of a true event and the greatest act of love that has ever been known when God gave His only Son to be crucified so that all who believe can be eternally saved from sin. Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken on that day? And how He must feel when we are so busy with little thought or appreciation for the price He paid so that we could have an opportunity to know and love Him.

The good news is that Jesus rose from the dead, and now sits on the throne with the Father. Likewise, those who give their lives to God in this life are promised to reign with Him in the next life. There are popular songs that talk about the greatest love ever known, but they have forgotten about God. Maintaining a reverential fear for The Almighty and a relentless awareness to obey Christ is only given to those who recognize how desperately they need Him. This covenant vow of love bonds Father and child together forever.

Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky, where he is an ordained Christian minister, community chaplain, and author. Read more about the Christian life and his new book about miracles, “Receiving Our Healing,” at billyhollandministries.com or email him at [email protected].

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