FOUR MEN &
By Adauto Rezende
Years ago I went to a hospital in Toronto to visit a patient who was terminally ill with cancer. The whole family was present, and this man, afflicted by the disease, asked me to pray for him. He said that he knew his days were over and he wanted to give his life to God. After reading the Scriptures, and explaining to him how Jesus had paid for our sins, and how he could become a Christian. We prayed together, and he surrendered his life to Jesus, accepting him as his only Savior and Lord. His face changed, his eyes sparkled and suddenly there was a tremendous peace in the place. Surprised, his family members watched a powerful inner-transformation before their very eyes, although they were not yet Christians.
Moments later, while I was talking with his children, his wife called me apart. She had just met a woman in the hospital corridor, whose husband was in the same condition, asking if I could go to visit the man.
At her request, I went there. As I walked in, I saw a man very angry and upset. After a short introduction, I opened my Bible and gently asked him if he would like to give his life to Jesus Christ. He didn’t answer me, but shouting and cursing spoke to his wife saying: "Where is my money idiot? I want all the money by my side.” The desperate woman opened a drawer by his bedside and pulled out a bundle of hundred-dollar bills and handed it to him. Holding the money he stopped shouting and calmed down. He told me to leave, and at his command, his wife accompanied me out of the room.
Three days later, the other patient died, leaving behind his wife and three children. There was incredible inner peace in all of them; for they were sure that their father got saved and went to the Lord. Some of his family members attended our church after his death.
About three months later, while walking near the same hospital, I heard someone calling me across the street. I looked to see who it was, and there was the wife of the second patient. She came and asked me if I could visit her husband again. She told me that he was in his last days, and the doctors said he could die at any moment. In desperation, she took me to the hospital, and upon arriving I met the man I had visited before, only now in a precarious condition. The facial bones were visible, and the merciless disease had destroyed almost every organ of his body. I went close to him and again I asked the same question; “Do you want to give your life to the Lord Jesus? There is still hope for you. Jesus said that whoever believes in him, even if he dies, he will live.”
The man gave me no answer, but looked at his wife and again very loudly accused her that she has stolen his money from his bank account. The miserable woman, as she did on my first visit, showed and gave to him, probably fifty thousand dollars to appease him from the screams and profanities coming out of his mouth. She apologized and told me to leave the room. I left the place leaving behind an unhappy wife, and a skeletal human being, who in the last moments of his life, continued to seek in the money, the last comfort for his soul. This incident reminded me of the last hours of Jesus Christ's before his death. According to Luke’s1 narrative, they crucified Jesus between two criminals. The first blasphemed God and challenged Christ to get them out of that situation. The second, when he heard him, rebuked him, saying that they were there because of their crimes, but the one between them had done no evil. Then he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “ Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”2 The first criminal only wanted to leave the cross to go back to his life of crimes, corruption, addictions and worldly passions.
There was some resemblance to the last diseased I went to see. Even though he was not a criminal, yet all he cared about was his fortune. He wanted to live just to enjoy his investments, his pension, his trailer, the wine he had made in the summer and get drunk with his friends in the neighbourhood taverns. As for his wife, his children, and above all; God, he did not care about them. They were not part of that individual's concern and plans. Even with death at his door, he thought of no one, not even the Lord. His rebellion had taken unbearable directions, as he gradually discovered that his money and possessions could not add a minute to his life. God in His mercy extended another three months to him, to prove to those who were praying that regrettably, repentance, confession, salvation and heaven were not part of his lifestyle.
Back to Luke’s narrative, it tells that the second thief, unlike the first, did not complain about the pain he felt, did not blame his parents, the government, his children, or his enemies for being on that cross. He recognized that he was in that situation because of his own sins.
He also did not ask the Lord to take him off the cross but said a simple prayer from someone who knew that after death he would spend all eternity either in hell or with the Lord. In a humble gesture of a repentant sinner, he cried out to God for mercy who readily answered him. So did the first diseased man I visited. In the last moments of his life, he cried out to God for his salvation, saying, Lord Jesus, remember me. And the Lord Jesus promptly answered him as readily as the thief on the cross. Almost two thousand years later, a sinner living his last days in a Toronto’s hospital, also went to paradise and surely he found there the repentant thief and who knows, after a chat, they found that both had much in common.
I noticed on the two episodes, though separated by hundreds of years, some parallels. I saw two happy endings, and two sad endings, two conquerors and two losers, two wise decisions and two foolish ones. There were four lives and two different destinations for each of them. Man, having been created according to the image and likeness of the Creator, has free will and the power to decide the way to go. Two thousand years have not changed the heart of man, who remains in the same dilemma. Accept or reject God's offer, receive or refuse the goodness and love of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
As Jesus Christ said, there are two ways and two doors. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”2 At the end of the journey, everyone will reach the place of their destiny on the two paths which they decided to enter it and walked through it.
In conclusion, I would like to challenge you to think about when the time comes for your last moments on this planet. Will your heart be able to accept the pain of death? Can you say the words of the repented criminal? I recommend you not to wait too long. Your end could be closer than you think. Make the most important decision of your life. Death will not lose the day or time to take you to your last destination.
STOP, THINK AND REFLECT.
It is a case of life and death. Enter the right door: JESUS CHRIST!
1. Luke 23: 32
2. Luke 23: 39-43
3. Matthew 7: 13-14