In 1830, a man named George Wilson killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mail. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. However, then President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, sent him a pardon. But Wilson did a strange thing. He refused to accept the pardon and no one seemed to know what to do. So the case was carried to the Supreme Court. The great Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the opinion. In it, he said, “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.”
And he was.
Pretty sad. To have been given such a gift of forgiveness and to refuse it. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
In light of Pastor Jordan’s message last week, “What Happens After Death?”, this refusal to be pardoned becomes all the more tragic. We are all hurtling towards the end of our lives. Because we have turned away from God to live for and please ourselves, we have cut ourselves off from the only life-giving source and stand condemned for eternity. But God has intervened and through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can receive a full pardon by merely accepting his forgiveness, based on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. All you have to do is turn away from your self-sufficiency and turn to him.
George Wilson was foolish. But when you think about it, had he not been hanged in 1830, he still would have still died a long time ago. Death was inevitable for him as for us. Even more important for him than accepting President Jackson’s pardon, was whether or not he accepted God’s. His existence since that time and for all eternity was and is based on how he responded to God’s offer of forgiveness.
You also need a pardon. God is offering it to you. But as Chief Justice Marshall commented on George Wilson’s situation, the value of it is realized only in its acceptance. Only here, it’s not just your life that is at stake. It’s your eternal destiny!
“This is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life.” – 1 John 5:11,12