Once upon a time there was an old sea captain. His hair was white from the years he had spent at sea, and his skin was like leather, stained by the sun and the salt. In his many years on the sea he had seen a lot of heartache, pain, and sorrow. Indeed, he had been the cause of much of it.
The captain had spent most of his life searching for pleasure and comfort and riches, going from place to place, from town to town, from seaport to seaport, always searching; willing to do anything to obtain these. He answered to no one except himself, and thought of no one unless they could offer something to him.
But now, being old and worn from years of hard living, his feeble body had given way. He could no longer sail upon the sea, and having spent all he had, he found himself alone and begging for food. The irony was, the very people who he himself had ignored during his endless pursuits, now all but ignored him, except perhaps to offer a brief glance of disgust or displeasure. And even those he had once called friends, had now turned their backs on him.
One day the King arrived at the town where he was, and the people were buzzing about in preparation. The old captain sat down on a cobblestone wall, and watched the people cleaning, straightening, and brimming with excitement. He was waiting for the town watchman to announce the King’s arrival, so he could find a dark alley to retreat to. He had never had any use for the King–and besides, he knew he was too dirty to be seen.
As he was waiting, a stranger came up beside him and sat down. This surprised the captain, as no one ever dared go near him. “I have nothing for you to steal, Sir”, the captain said. “What I once had is now gone. All I have now are the clothes on my back, and even they are but rags.”
The stranger said nothing. He simply smiled and looked intently at the captain. After what seemed like a long time the stranger spoke, “Indeed it is true that what you once had is now gone. Your life’s pursuit has come up empty, and now you sit with no hope left.” The captain, gazed up at the stranger in shame—eyes filled with tears.
“But I tell you, Jonathan,” the stranger began.
It had been so long since anyone had called him by his given name that it made him quickly look up. “How do…do you know my name?” the captain said through tear-soaked eyes.
The stranger continued, “I knew you before you were born, before you were formed in your mother’s womb, I knew you. Jonathan, I have watched your life unfold. I know where you have been and what you have done and everything you will do. I have come today to offer you what you have been looking for, but have never found.”
The captain, fell to his knees shaking, “My Lord, who are you?”
“I am your King.”
Upon this the captain, keenly aware of his filth, both in his body and heart, fell face to the ground and sobbed. “Please go, Sir! What could I possibly offer you for this treasure you speak of?”
“Jonathan! This gift I give you is free; you must simply accept it. There is nothing you must do or give to earn it. What could you possibly offer me?”
Hope began to well up inside the old captain, and he looked up at the King and whispered hoarsely, “I will take your gift!”
At once four men, in finely embroidered suits, walked over to the King and Jonathan. The King nodded to them and they took the old man by his hand, and led him to a stagecoach. The King spoke to Jonathan, “Go with them, for I have prepared a bath for you, new clothes for your back, and rich food for your stomach. When you are cleaned and refreshed you will join me this day.”
When Jonathan had done all the King had instructed he was brought to an entrance outside the town wall, where the King was waiting. “Are you ready Jonathan?” the King said as He offered Jonathan his hand motioning for him to sit beside him in his carriage.
“I am not fit to sit beside you O King! You know what I was, and what I have done. Let me walk alongside your carriage. That is enough for me.”
“Jonathan, you are clean. I want you to sit beside me.” he said with a tender smile.
Jonathan took his hand and sat beside the King as they entered the town gates. The people cheered and waved flags, and bowed as the carriage approached. When they saw Jonathan sitting beside the King they were amazed, and a few of the towns- folk recognized him as the old captain.
Some began to shout, “What is HE doing with the King? That man is a beggar, a thief, a murderer, and a liar!”
The King at once stopped the carriage. ‘This man is Jonathan. His filth is washed away. He now serves the King. Welcome him as you would welcome Me.”
Today, let us remember that we too have been captains of our own ships. We have sailed upon the seas of our own desires, passions, and self- interest. We have been soaked in sin from the beginning, and we did not seek the King or honour Him. Let us remember that we have nothing to offer except our total surrender.
Let our cry today and everyday be one of gratitude and of bewilderment for a love so great as to give us hope and new life where before there was only hopelessness and death. Let us cry out to our Lord Whose blood has washed us clean, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 1-10)
(Psalm 189:15-17, Roman 3:10-12, James 4:8-10, Eph. 2:8-9, 1 John 1:7-9)