This is a fictional story. As I lay in bed last night, I thought of people suddenly appearing at the gates of heaven. What would go through their minds about what they had done as their life’s work? That essay may follow, but as I thought developing that ideas, this story came to me. It may become a 2 or 3 part story, but this is what has come to me so far.
A tour bus left the fancy hotel in Beijing on a day trip to the Great Wall. There was an accident along the journey, and the bus flipped down a steep slope. When rescue personnel arrived, they sifted through the remains of the bus, rescuing those who were still alive. A crude triage was set up so that the many survivors, still clinging to life, could be prioritized for transport to the emergency rooms in the area.
But there was a second triage. In the bus with all of the dead bodies of tourists, Jesus and a few angels walked through the crowd. As Jesus looked down on one of the dead bodies, the soul arose. The soul and Jesus had a conversation. They didn’t talk. They heard each other’s thoughts.
The soul of the man thought, “What are you doing here? I don’t believe in you.”
Jesus asked, “Not even now?”
The man replied, ”I am not sure what you mean. What is now? I was on my sat-phone, calling my secretary. Then, it seemed the side of the bus slammed against me and I blacked out. I don’t know how to process what this is.”
Jesus asked, “Yes, it is 9:00pm on a Saturday night in the US. You were going to dictate a letter that had to be on your desk for signature Monday morning. You had lied to your Chinese contacts and duped them into buying something at a price twice the cost. You were a shrewd man. The Chinese are so good at negotiations. The contracts are usually in their favor. You had to hurry. It didn’t matter that your secretary was sitting with her dying mother.”
The man asked, “You said, ‘were?’”
Jesus smiled, but with sadness in His eyes, “Yes, to help you process what this is. You have passed on. This is the afterlife that you told everyone did not exist.”
Jesus then went to another man, much younger. His soul seemed lost and confused. Jesus asked, “What is your question?”
The young man said, “I don’t have a question. I’m ready to go to hell. I was hoping that the myth of Christianity wasn’t real. That you would just die, you know? I have had a hard life. I killed people in the war. I killed a lot of them. I didn’t sleep much. The pain and the guilt have followed me ever since. I grew up in a Christian home, but I rejected what my parents taught me. The world chews you up and spits you out. Christianity never answered my questions. Besides, I could never be forgiven. There is too much blood on my hands.”
Jesus calmly patted him on the shoulder, “You cannot hide your thoughts from me, and I won’t hide the answer.”
The young man asked, “I was wrong about the afterlife. Was I wrong about doing unforgivable?”
Jesus replied, “I stood by your side as you were struggling with depression and sleepless nights. I was waiting for you to call out to me. My sacrifice was sufficient to cleanse you of all your sins, but you shut me out.”
Jesus moved to a woman. She thought, “It’s about time that you got to me. Those are lost souls. Anyone can tell that. I was here as a missionary.”
Jesus asked, “Oh?”
The woman was a little put out by the question. “You know that I smuggled Bible is a hidden compartment of my suitcase. It was easy. The customs people were worried about bombs and such. I delivered them to the proper address. I was going home tomorrow. Now this!”
Jesus replied, “I know about your delivery of Bibles. They will be used to spread the Word here in China, but I also know that you were asked to help in their orphanage when you made the delivery, but you had other plans. Instead, you visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. You filled the hidden compartment in your suitcase with jewelry and porcelain at the pearl market along with silks from the silk market. You were going to make twice the cost of this trip in profits upon your return. When you returned, you planned to claim nothing at customs. This trip that the church paid for was a dry run to see if this would be profitable way of making a living while enjoying world travel. You already had your eye on Thailand and Singapore for the next trip.”
The woman protested, “But I brought the Bibles!”
But Jesus had walked on to the next man, an old man of retirement age.
Jesus asked, “Well, weary traveler, are you glad that the trip is about over?”
The old man said, “I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I’ve always flown to some far corner of the world, got my work done, and flown home to be with my wife. She has medical issues, but I guess you know that. But this time, my flight was cancelled at the last minute. I told the boss, that’s him being loaded into the ambulance. Nice guy… I told the boss that we should go to the airport and fly another airline. I had done that on a trip back from Shanghai about ten years ago. It was a wild flight with a lot of different air carriers, but I was only an hour late getting home. The boss said that the extra day could be used seeing the Great Wall. He knew I would never go otherwise. He’s a good sort though. He used to be Catholic. He told me once, ‘If I need an opinion, the priest would tell me what it is.’ After his divorce, I don’t know where he gets his opinions. He doesn’t talk much. It took me five years of positive reinforcement to get him to stop at my desk and say, “Good morning.” I don’t know if his social awkwardness cost him his marriage, if it was all of the time on the road, or if it was something else.”
Jesus asked, “Do you have any questions?”
The old man said, “I’ve got plenty. Can you forgive me for all of the weekends when I missed church? The boss insisted that work in Asia had to start on Monday morning. That meant missing a lot of Sunday services. I always felt guilty about that. Spent more time reading the Bible. To make up for the loss, you know.”
Jesus answered with a question, “Do you really have to ask if you’ve been forgiven?”
The old man smiled, “I have loved You for many years. You are faithful. I am forgiven. I tried to bloom where you had planted me, but I kept looking for a job with less travel. My wife is so sick. Will she be alright?”
Jesus smiled, “She’ll join us soon. She’ll move in with your son and his small children. She’ll read the Bible to them and tell them of how much you loved them.”
The old man was still not satisfied. ”But why was the flight cancelled? I should be home with her.”
Jesus answered, “The boss that you said was a ‘good sort.’ He had scheduled the work through Saturday. Since you were salaried, you wouldn’t get paid for that day. You wouldn’t be paid for the flight home today either. Your company always gives people one day to sleep in and get over the worst of the jet lag, but your boss insisted that you go into the office tomorrow. He was going to lay you off without a severance package. You know that your heavenly father is the sovereign Lord of the universe. It wasn’t that hard to arrange bad weather and prevent a plane from taking off. You would have nothing to give your wife after you were laid off, but now she gets the company’s insurance policies. In fact, with accidental death on company business, she’ll collect three years’ worth of salary instead of nothing. She’ll buy your son a new home, and she’ll spread love to all who meet her.”
An angel approached. Jesus said to the angel, “Can you see that my faithful servant has a nice ride to heaven? I’ll continue the work here.”