One of the biggest challenges in evangelism, is helping people understand what it means to authentically believe in the Gospel. If we teach as Jesus taught, then we use stories to help transform abstract ideas into concert concepts. I hope you find the following story helpful as you seek to see people believe in Jesus and be saved.
In June of 1859, Jean Francois Gravelet stretched a tightrope across the Niagara Falls. Almost everyone in America is familiar with this great icon of tourism. It’s a massive waterfall, dumping 1,590,000 gallons of water per second over its edge. That’s raging water! Gravelet, who also went by the stage name of “The Great Blondin,” had a rope secured 130 feet above the raging water and stretched 330 feet across. Then, he announced that he would walk across Niagara Falls on the thin rope.
Thousands of people showed up to watch, and as He was about to begin his spectacular feat, he looked out at the gathered masses and asked them to get him a wheelbarrow. A low male voice came from the crowd, “What for?” A different high pitched voice followed, “We don't know.” A raspy, old, male voice chimed in, “Sometimes these guys use umbrellas, other times they use bicycles, and many of them use big poles. We don't care, get the guy a wheelbarrow. We just want to see him fall!” Laughter permeated amongst the group of spectators, and in a few minutes, Blondin had his wheelbarrow. With his hands gripped on the handles, he rolled the bucket on its one wheel all the way across the massive waterfall.
Once he made it to the other side, the crowd burst into applause. Instantly, the high flying enthusiast turned around, and he walked all the way back across the tightrope! As he arrived successfully to a safe place, the crowd went into a frenzy of amazement! Then, to their utter astonishment, the Great Blondin started to cross again for the third time. He was about to take his first step, when he looked out at the crowd, and paused to ask them a simple question.
The crowd’s necks were stretched upward, and their eyes were squinted beneath the tiny shade provided by the saluted posture of their hands across their eyebrows. Blondin let them stare a few seconds longer, clutching another moment of dramatic affect. Then, he asked, “Do you guys believe I can do it again?” With a roar, the people instantly replied, “Yes!” They had just watched him do it twice. Their minds calculated his skills, times the length, plus the success rate, and it all added up to the fact that he was completely capable. So their volume increased, and they kept chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Blondin waved his hands, as to invite the crowd to quite down, but they kept cheering, “YES! We believe! We believe!” He intensified the waving movement with his hands, and incrementally the huge throng started to hush. In a domino effect, silence began to fall over the crowd from the front to the back.
Satisfied that they could all hear him now, Gravelet scanned the faces of those who had gathered to watch his death defying feat. Moments earlier, they were screaming that they believed he could do it, and now they stood silent, inquisitive about his next step. He stuck out his arm and pointed his finger at the left side of the crowd, slowing moving it to the right side, and with a loud voice, he probed, “Okay then, the person who really believes, get in the wheelbarrow!” By now, his hands were directed at the wheelbarrow, fingers extended, palms up, welcoming any takers. The silence deepened. No clapping, no cheering, just the sound of the falls churning in the background. His words, like the falls, were tumbling through their minds, “Get in the wheelbarrow.” His invitation was a fork-in-the-road, as each individual was now challenged to make the conduct of their lives match the claims of their lips. If they really believed, they would have to prove it.
Did you know that when it comes to believing in Jesus, Christ is asking no less of you and me? We are transgressors against the Law of God; and, consequently, we will stand in judgment one day. Romans 3:23 says, “We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners. I've never met anyone who hasn't broken one of the Ten Commandments of God. I’m certain you have your share of sins, just as I do! Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” Because of our sins, we are in danger of being tormented in Hell forever. But the rest of Romans 3:23 says, “…The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, went to the Cross, and died to take our punishment for our sins. Three days later, He rose from the dead. And now, at this very moment, He’s in heaven, at the right hand of the God the Father. Jesus stands in the gap between us and the coming force of the wrath of Almighty God, and He asks, “Do you believe that I can safely carry you over to the other side? Do you really believe?”
There is a great amount of people around the world that respond with a loud, “Yes!” We say our prayers and visit church on Easter and Christmas. Many drop money into the offering plate; regularly attend Sunday school, and frequent services and mass. Many learn to prophesy in His name, cast out demons in His name, and they do wonderful works in the name of Jesus. Yet, through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt.7:21-23), we learn that those activities do not constitute true belief. Like the crowds who came to watch Blondin, those activities are often nothing more that the rustlings of the masses who have gathered to be a part of the big show. And Jesus, just like the Great Blondin, is waving His nail-scarred hands over the masses, beckoning for our silence and saying, “If you really believe, get in the wheelbarrow.”
When I tell the story of the Great Blondin, it often leaves people a bit perplexed. They look at me puzzled, and say, “Tony, I’ve heard about the cross; I’ve heard about the crown of thorns and the empty tomb; but I have not heard anything about a wheelbarrow.” I quickly clarify that there is no magic or sacred wheelbarrow. I am simply using the story as a metaphor. It’s a physical story, illustrating a spiritual point. The metaphor helps people to get spiritual, as well as mental, traction on what it means to believe.
Physically, what would someone need to do, in order to prove that they really believed the Great Blondin could cross Niagara Falls again? He would need to get out of the crowd, climb up the ladder, crawl into that wheelbarrow, sit really still, and put his faith and trust in the Great Blondin and his ability, to get him over to the other side safely. What is the spiritual equivalent to believing in Jesus? It is summed-up in a merging of Romans 10:9, “Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved,” with Luke 13:3, which says, “I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” When you connect these two verses, you break the code to what it means to get into the wheelbarrow with Jesus.
Head-belief motivates you to serve, but heart-belief motivates you to surrender. The heart that surrenders is one that acts in repentance and faith. To repent is to hear the call of Christ and to respond to it in faith. Traversing the gamut of mental, emotional, and physical risks, that accompany the call of Christ, is the life of faith. Put those two ideas together, and you have the workings of what it means to trust. Any takers of Gravelet's invitation would have to trust him to carry them in that wheelbarrow. In the same way, if we are to be carried safely over into Heaven, it will require us to do our parts in repentance and faith, all the while trusting that God will do His part in extending mercy and grace. The Lord, Who Alone, can take us safely over to the other side, is stretching out His hands, beckoning all of us to take our belief a step farther, put our faith and trust in Him, and surrender our lives to His Lordship.
Used with permission from the author. Chapter 9 of Tony Nolan’s book, Gasp! You will spend forever somewhere: How to make sure it’s Heaven”