I’ve always loved using illustrations in my sermons just as Jesus used parables to explain the truth more clearly. I collected dozens of such books from antique book stores, especially when I visited London. Here is one I think you will appreciate for the message it brings.
Yeas ago, there was once a swing bridge built on a huge pillar out in the middle of a large river. During most of the day, the bridge sat sideways with its length running parallel with the river banks, allowing ships to pass thru 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 so it crossed the river, allowing the train to pass over.
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, the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come. He checked his watch, and at the scheduled time he stepped to the controls and turned the bridge into position. But to his dismay, he found that the locking control on the other side did not work. If the bridge was not locked in position it would wobble back and forth at both ends and cause the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. And this would be a passenger train with many people aboard.
Suddenly, thru the dimming twilight, he caught sight of the train lights coming down the tracks. He quickly hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a manually operated control lever which he could operate to lock the bridge in place. But he would have to pull back the lever and hold it firmly in place as the train crossed the river. So he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. He could hear the rumble of the train behind him, so he kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on this man’s strength.
Then, from the direction of his control shack on the other side of the river, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. “Daddy, where are you?” His little four-year-old son was crossing the bridge looking for him. His first impulse was to yell at the child, “Hurry! Hurry!” But the train was already too close; the boy’s tiny legs would never allow him to make it across the bridge in time. In the same instant, he thought of leaving 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. One thing was for sure, either he had to think of the many people on the train or his little son. It took only a moment for him to make his decision. He closed his eyes and pulled with all his might on the lever to keep the bridge locked in place.
The train sped safely and swiftly by over the river on its way. No one on board was even aware of the tiny broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the rushing locomotive. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed. Neither did they see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked before, to tell his wife the horrible news of how they had just lost their little boy.
As we comprehend what this experience must have meant to this man and how it affected him, we begin to realize what our Father in Heaven must have had to endure when He sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that the earth trembled and the skies darkened when His Son was crucified? And how it must now affect Him when people ignore that bridge and try to paddle their way across the rapidly flowing river of death with little thought or appreciation for the sacrifice God made. But those who do take the bridge to the other side, the day they see Jesus, the one who gave His life for that bridge, they will no doubt fall down at His feet to thank and praise Him and the Father for their wonderful act of love, grace, and mercy.