1 Corinthians 1:23-24 - But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
In 1716 Richard Phelps cast a great bell which still hangs in the southwest tower of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Neither the year nor Mr. Phelps are important to the telling of this story. The bell, however, is of some consequence. If you hail from Britain's capital city, you know the bell is only used to call out the hour and to toll at the death and funeral of a royal family member, the bishop of London, the dean of the Cathedral, and the lord mayor -- if he has the singular fortune to die in office.
It is the bell which is important to this story, the story of a sentinel who, centuries ago, served night duty at Windsor Castle. This special night the soldier was accused by the guard who came to relieve him. The charge: sleeping at his post. The sentinel was put before a court martial which was prepared to find him guilty and sentence the disgraced soldier to death.
That is exactly what would have happened, but they gave the soldier one last opportunity to speak, to prove his innocence. With some degree of fear, knowing the officers hearing his case would be hard-pressed to believe his story, he began: "I was awake. I know I was awake because I heard the big bell of St. Paul's Cathedral strike the hour."
From the faces of the tribunal members, he could see he hadn't moved them. They asked, "Do you have anything else?"
He did. He added, "That night, when the clock should have struck 12, I heard it ring 13 times."
No one believed the soldier's explanation. Still, the officers, knowing a man's life was at stake, decided to investigate the claims. The tribunal called in the master of the bells, the custodian of the clocks. They asked, "In recent memory, has the clock ever struck 13 rather than 12?"
Embarrassed, the two replied: 'Sirs, it shouldn't have happened; indeed, we're embarrassed to admit, yes, there was such an instance. The clock's works malfunctioned, and the clapper struck 13" -- 13 times the night the guard had been on duty. The proof was accepted. The court released the prisoner. He lived to be almost 100, and he smiled every time he heard the bells of St. Paul's.
By sticking to the telling of a true, albeit almost impossible, story, the soldier saved his life.
In contrast to the soldier we have the apostles of our Lord. They too told an almost impossible story. They told a dying condemned world about the love of the Lord who sent His Son into this world to seek and save the lost and give up His life as a ransom for sinners.
In telling the story, they ended up confessing they had slept on duty the night the Savior had asked them to keep "watch and pray" (see Matthew 26:41). They had been asleep on duty when He shouldered the world's sins, and most of them had been in hiding when He was crucified. They had to admit that they had, at first, denied the reports of the Savior's prophesied resurrection. But they also had been given the faith, the courage to tell the world the truth: Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, and salvation was free to all who believed in Him as Savior and Lord. It was an almost impossible story, but it was true. It was so true they were willing to be martyred rather than denying or changing it.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks for the many witnesses who, with their lives, remained faithful to the truth. For this wonderful story of salvation, I give thanks. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one from Wikipedia. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_stroke_of_the_clock
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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