Abraham Lincoln - the hero of my boyhood - died on Good Friday. I knew that because I was sort of a Lincoln encyclopedia when I was a kid.
But until this month, I didn't know his final wish. Whispered to his wife just before that fatal shot at Ford's Theatre. What's so moving is how very much it has to do with Good Friday.
Abe Lincoln grew up with a God-loving mother and a religious but demanding and distant father. His mom died when he was a boy. As Lincoln grew, he went from spiritual skeptic to a Bible-bashing unbeliever.
But somewhere along the way, he began to realize his deep need for God. I guess losing a son and carrying the weight of a bleeding nation can do that for a man.
The Civil War ended five days before that fateful Good Friday. On what would be the Great Emancipator's last day on earth, he and his wife went for a carriage ride. And, with the war over, they dreamed together about the months and years ahead.
Then at the theatre that night - as the assassin crept into the President's box - Abraham Lincoln uttered his final wish. "We will visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior. There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem."
And then he was gone.
In his last moments, he was thinking about Jesus. "The Savior," he called Him.
And the journey Abe Lincoln wished for is a journey I have made. Because it is ultimately a journey of the heart.
Walking with Jesus. Through the cheering multitudes of Palm Sunday. Through the jeering crowd of Good Friday. And then following the trail of blood to that place of death called Skull Hill.
The crown made of thorns jammed into the forehead of the King of Kings. The merciless mockers, blaspheming the One angels worship. The spikes pounded into the hands that shaped the universe. The "God, why have You forsaken Me?" cry of God's one and only Son.
My heart screams, "Why?"
The Bible answers: "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
For me. That's what levels me. Jesus chose to go through that hell - for me. And hell it was. Because "He personally carried away our sins in His own body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24). All the pain, all the guilt, all the eternal separation from God for all the sinning of my life. Jesus took my hell so I could go to His heaven.
Yes, my heart has been to His cross. I went there with my sin and left forgiven. I went there dirty and came away clean. I went there without Him in my life and left there with the promise I'll never be without Him again.
Because I got what He died for when those two words captured my heart.
"For me." He did this for me. I embraced Him as the Savior. For me. For my sin. I flung open the door of my heart to this One who has loved me like no other. He said, "If you open the door, I will come in" (Revelation 3:20). He kept His promise.
And He will for you. If you'll make your way to that cross. And tell Him - "For me, Jesus. For me."
If you've never told the Man who died for you that you're pinning all your hopes on Him, I invite you to join me at our website, YoursForLife.net. And let me share with you how this day can be your personal Jesus-day. He walked out of His grave that Easter morning so He could walk into your life. Today.
(Lincoln account based on the book, "Lincoln's Battle with God," Stephen Mansfield, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2012, pp. xiii-xvii.)