A Ticket to Ride

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Preachers and teachers usually keep a signature story in their back pocket – something they can always count on to drive home a key point.
One of Billy Graham’s signature stories concerned Albert Einstein.  Like a lot of the oft-repeated anecdotes concerning the brilliant physicist, it’s hard to differentiate between truth and fiction.  But the story works nonetheless. 
According to Graham, Einstein hopped aboard a train, heading for an out-of-town engagement.  As the conductor made his way down the aisle, stopping to punch tickets, the scientist began to rummage through his coat.  Then he looked in his briefcase.  He couldn’t find his ticket. 
When the conductor arrived, he leaned down and said, “Don’t worry, Dr. Einstein.  We all know who you are.  I’m sure you bought a ticket.”
The conductor continued to make his way down the aisle.  Before he moved on to the next car, he looked back and saw Einstein down on his hands and knees, still searching for his ticket.  He came back and said, gently, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry about it.  I know who you are.”  Einstein looked up and said, “I, too, know who I am.  What I don’t know is where I’m going.”
Graham had a field day making the distinction between people who seem fully self-aware but are clueless concerning their ultimate standing with God.
Late in the life, the evangelist struggled with Parkinson’s.  He made fewer and fewer public appearances. 
One of his last ones was in Charlotte, North Carolina, where civic leaders hosted a luncheon in his honor.  Graham, perhaps for the last time, told the story about Einstein on the train.
Then he pointed out the new suit he was wearing.  He admitted that his wife, children, and grandchildren had all commented that he had begun to look a bit slovenly.  He had purchased the suit for two occasions.  One was for this luncheon.  The other was for his burial.
Billy concluded, “When you hear that I am dead, don’t immediately think of my suit.  Remember this: I know who I am, and I most certainly know where I am going.”
Across the entire scope of Jesus’ teaching, there’s no verse quite like John 5:24:
“Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.” 
The “real, lasting life” that Jesus promises isn’t merely something that awaits us on the other side of the cemetery.  
For those who have abandoned themselves to Christ, it’s a present reality – a mode of existence that has already started.   
We’ll never have to get down on our hands and knees for fear that we’ve somehow misplaced our ticket.
That’s because Jesus has promised to be there at the end of the trip, waiting to embrace us.