On August 19, 1859, “The Great Blondin” planned to make history…again. The famous tightrope walker had already crossed Niagara Falls several times, but on this day, he’d planned his most nerve-wracking feat yet: carrying a man across the falls on his back.
There was just one problem.
When Jean Francois Gravelot – better known as The Great Blondin – arrived at Niagara Falls in June of 1859, the Frenchman knew right away the majestic setting would be home to his signature daredevil stunt: tightrope walking.
For several days he diligently toiled, stretching a 1,300-foot-long rope across Horseshoe Falls – a rope that was only 3 inches in diameter! Needless to say, his work attracted the attention of locals, tourists, and the media, and by June 30th, he was ready to do what no human had done before: cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
With thousands attending his first performance, the entertainer began by working his audience into a frenzy with sensational words and gestures. The crowd was already on the brink of fainting when The Great Blondin walked out onto the rope. Step by tedious step, he moved over the deafening falls, occasionally shaking the rope – on purpose – to get a rise out of the crowd.
Finally, to the crowd’s delight (and relief), The Great Blondin made it safely to the other side. But the show wasn’t over; ever the entertainer, The Great Blondin went on to do several more death-defying tricks out on the high wire. Spectators watched him run along the rope, walk across it on stilts, and even hang from it by one leg!
For several weeks, when weather permitted, The Great Blondin entertained the multitudes who gathered on the river’s shore. Each show attracted droves of spectators because they never knew which performance might be his last; each time, they were rewarded for their attendance. They might see The Great Blondin do back flips on the rope, ride a bicycle across it, or push a wheelbarrow along it! It seemed there was nothing he couldn’t do out on the rope.
But on August 19th the assembly swelled like never before. On that day, The Great Blondin had promised to carry a man across the falls on his back. Many in the crowd had already seen his performance and were confident The Great Blondin could pull it off successfully. They were prepared for a great show, but they weren’t prepared for what The Great Blondin said.
“Who will be that man?” Blondin asked the crowd.
The attendees gasped in response. As The Great Blondin reached out his hands toward those standing near him, crowd members did all they could to avoid direct eye contact. The showman asked his question again.
“Who will be that man?”
Again, the only sound that could be heard was that of the roaring water. Over and over, The Great Blondin implored someone to trust him enough to join him. No one budged.
Though they’d seen him cross Niagara Falls many times, no one was willing to trust The Great Blondin with their life.
Jesus knows how The Great Blondin feels.
Many people think Jesus is captivating, so they willingly give Him their attention, eager to see what He will do…but when it comes to fully devoting our lives to Him, so many of us stand in a faceless crowd, unwilling to trust Him completely.
Daredevils Do Amazing Things by Robert Kraske. Random House, 1978, Pages 8-26.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)