Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Billy Graham at Christmas

My parents still live in Charlotte, home of Billy Graham, as well as my family, and they sent me this wonderful story which so epitomizes this wonderful soldier of Christ. I thought I would share it.

Billy Graham is 86 years old with Parkinson's disease.

In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son,
Billy Graham, to a luncheon in his honor.

Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggles with
Parkinson's disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, "We don't
expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you."

So he agreed.

After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to
the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said, "I'm reminded today of
Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored
by Time magazine as the Man of the Century.
Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train
when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets
of every passenger. When he came to Einstein,
Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his
ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn't there, so he
looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the
seat by him. He couldn't find it.

The conductor said, "Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know
who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it."

Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the
aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he
turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and
knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, "Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein,
don't worry, I know who you are. No problem. You don't need a
ticket. I'm sure you bought one."

Einstein looked at him and said,
"Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.'"

Having said that Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I'm wearing?

It's a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren
are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used
to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit
for this luncheon and one more occasion.

You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be
buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want you to immediately
remember the suit I'm wearing.. I want you to remember this:

I not only know who I am, ... I also know where I'm going."

Amen to that


Zane said...

Ben, are you the author of a fine book on the role of women in the early church? I checked your blog profile with hopes of confirming that.

Would love to correspond. Jesus blessings to you from another former North Carolinian,

Zane Anderson
House Church Network

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Zane: Yep that would be me. In fact I did three books on Women in the NT. And may your N.C. barbecue be obtainable where you are. Check my book page.

Christmas blessings,


Isaac said...

Dr. Witherington- I enjoyed your post on Billy Graham, but I always wince at martial language, such as "soldier of Christ". I know that this language is a part of our way of expressing our faith, but I hope that we can move past metaphors of warfare (which actually might relate to your Lennon post, as well), and move on to more positive expressions. Language of struggle or suffering seems to be closer to the spirit of the gospel. Would love to read a post on this, if you feel strongly one way or the other.

Anand Paleja said...


The Bible actually makes similar analogies...

See 2 Timothy 2:3-4 and Ephesians 6:10-18

Isaac said...

I'm aware of the passages. Metaphors are not perfect and what might be useful in one setting can be detrimental in another. It's my opinion that martial metaphors (warfare, soldiers, weapons, armor)create an unhelpful tension that positions the promotion of peace against what sounds like a religion that is very involved in violence. Terms like 'prayer warriors', as well as many other phrases associated with 'spiritual warfare' can be, I believe, expressed just as meaningfully in terms of suffering and struggle while not causing this tension. There is no need to make metaphors sacred (in fact, martial language can, and has,lead to the acceptance of violence, "becuase it's in the Bible"), and if new metaphors are more useful, I think it's wise to use them. Dr. Witherington used the metaphor from 2Tim, but I just feel that servant language is more appropriate in our present setting and more accurately describes Rev. Graham and his ministry.

Ben Witherington said...

I understand your concern, Isaac, which was reflected in Methodist mynal decisions about hymns like "Onward Christian Soldiers"

Anand Paleja said...


I'm not saying that the metaphors are sacred; however, I am saying that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.

Christopher said...

I recieved this link from a Professor friend of mine. That is a wonderful image of Billy Graham.

John said...

Ben, this is a brilliant story, and Billy is a brilliant man, and a fine soldier of Christ. Be blessed for sharing this.

Be encouraged!

Mel Cartera said...

Beautiful story. My favorite quotation from the Rev. Billy is "Some day you'll hear the news that I have died. Don't you believe it. I've only changed address."

May I ask your permission to reproduce this story in my blog? Thanks very much, and God bless you!