The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)
It was an evening that was much the same as the previous few evenings of the week of revival. The sounds of the preacher’s words mixed with the creaking of the old wooden pews as the people shifted around to get comfortable.
On this night, the crowd consisted of only about ten people out of the roughly fifty that attended Sunday services. The week’s services were culminating with this night’s sermon on the crucifixion.
As the preacher read chapter 23 from the Book of Luke, Simon, who was wearing his Sunday best, listened intently.
As the preacher started talking about Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross to Calvary, our Simon watched the events of the crucifixion of Jesus unfold in his mind. He began to feel as if he himself was witnessing the events as well as the weight and the pain of the cross. He could hear the women wailing and mourning as they followed Jesus to Calvary. He heard the words “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children” as Jesus spoke them. He watched as the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross and hoisted Him into the air. The tears began to roll down Simon’s cheeks as he watched the soldiers casting lots for the clothes of Jesus. The words of Jesus asking the Father to forgive those who crucified Him faded into the words of the revival preacher as Simon found himself back in the pew. The preacher was asking for sinners to carry their burdens to the cross and people started to stare as Simon’s quiet tears became an audible whimper. The service ended when the preacher asked “What burdens are you carrying and who are you carrying them for?” Although Simon didn’t have the strength to go forward, he knew that he could never be the same after the events he had witnessed.
Three Years Later...
Jesus wept. John 11:35 (NIV)
Doris began to get an uneasy feeling as she sat sipping her morning coffee and waiting for the call from next door. Although she had never seen Simon take a drink, she was wondering if he was incapable of dialing the phone. It was the normal routine for the phone to ring at seven a.m. sharp and hear the soft voice of Simon asking her how she was doing. As seven turned to eight, she recounted how she had not seen him doing anything outside for quite awhile and felt pity as she suspected that the drinking had gotten worse. The word on the prayer line was that alcohol was completely taking over his life and that he really needed prayer. As eight o’clock turned to nine, she remembered seeing the red eyes every Sunday morning as Simon made it a point to shake the hand of everyone. She recalled how it looked like he had spent the night partying and the pity that everyone felt as they noticed his ragged clothes. She wondered if anyone else thought that the cologne he wore was to mask the smell of whiskey from the night before. Finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to give him a call. She began to grow angry as it rang for about the tenth time and she envisioned him passed out on the floor. By the twentieth ring, she resolved to go over and tell him that Jesus was not happy with his drinking and he needed to repent.
As she walked across the yard that separated their homes, deep sorrow filled her heart as she remembered how just a few years ago he had dressed nicely and had a good job. It tore at her heart as she thought of how the alcohol had stolen his job and much more. As she reached the door, the sorrow turned to dread. She didn’t even bother to knock and dread turned to fear as she opened the door. She flipped the switch for the light but the darkness remained as she called out his name. When no answer came, she started down the hallway expecting to find him asleep in bed. The bed had not been slept in and she looked across the hall to the other room. She let out a gasp as she entered the room. There was no need to try to wake him or to get him up off of the floor as she could already tell that he was gone. She began to cry and turned for the door as a million thoughts ran through her mind. Doris knew that Simon didn’t have any family left and went to the phone to dial 911. She slumped into a chair as the operator told her she was sending an ambulance.
The next thing she knew was that a medic was shaking her and asking if she was okay. Although she couldn’t get the words out, she pointed to the room and the medics headed that way. After what seemed an eternity, the gurney was wheeled out but the medic stopped and held out a book. Doris was puzzled as the medic said that the book had been under her husband. As she looked down at the notebook, she mumbled that he had not been her husband. She was still in a state of shock as she clutched the notebook but, for some unknown reason, she walked to the kitchen counter. Her eyes were drawn to a stack of bills and it was easy to tell that the one on top was a notice of pending foreclosure from a mortgage company. Doris began to feel light headed and went to the sink to splash some water on her face. Even as she turned the handle on the faucet, she really didn’t expect anything to come out. Once again, she had to sit down but this time she sat on a barstool at the counter.
Although she didn’t know why, she found herself opening the notebook the medic had found. As she opened the cover, she noticed a program guide taped to the inside cover. As she read the guide, she remembered the program and the night of the revival. She remembered the whimpering of Simon and the staring from that night. As she looked to the first page, she noticed that her name was at the top. Under her name was a long list of items but it was difficult to read because the ink had run and was smudged in places. It looked as if the notebook had gotten wet on the inside but not on the outside cover. This puzzled her as she read down the list of items under her name. She noticed things from past issues with her health as well as the loss of her beloved husband. She saw “just draw her closer to you Lord” as well as “Lord, just give her a hug today”. There was no holding back the tears as she read the final item on the list which was “Lord, let me keep the phone so I can call her each day”. As her tears soaked the page, she realized why the ink was smudged and she felt so guilty for assuming that he was a drunk. When she could cry no more, she picked up the phone and dialed the church. The secretary answered and took the news of Simon’s passing and put the prayer chain in motion. As she hung up the phone, another round of tears started and she decided to head for home while she thought she could make it. As she made the short walk, she remembered some of the times that she had seen written about in the notebook. It occurred to her that she could not explain how many of those problems had been remarkably resolved. She remembered a time when the doctors said she had breast cancer but the next visit it was gone. She recalled the unbelievable comfort she had felt even after her husband’s death and the days when she truly felt like God was giving her a hug.
When she finally made it home, she sat on the sofa and again opened the notebook. She began to flip through the pages and noticed a page for every member of the church. As she reached the end of the pages, the question “Where’s Simon’s page?” entered her mind. As she searched again for his page, she wondered how much time this man had actually spent shedding tears and talking to the Lord on their behalf. She kept asking herself how he could pray for others with such passion and not even care about losing his home. A flood of guilt overtook her and the tears were unstoppable as she recalled some of the looks he had received in the church on Sundays.
Three Days Later…
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126 (NIV)
“His eye is on the sparrow” played softly in the background as the line moved towards the “casket”. There were looks of pity and whispers as people noticed the simple box instead of an ornate casket. The line slowly passed the closed box and the people took their seats. The preacher stepped up to the microphone and read Luke chapter 23 and part of chapter 24 about the resurrection. The preacher passed around the notebook that Doris had given to him and ended with the question “What burdens are you carrying and who are you carrying them for?”
As the notebook was passed up and down the rows of people, the tears began to flow. It started with a few whimpers but by the time the book hit the final row the wailing and mourning were deafening. Finally, Doris stepped up to the microphone and read Revelation 7 verse 17 about how God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. She ended by saying in a hushed voice “Simon ran out of tears”.