Most people have seen the movie, Titanic, and its fictional love story about a poor boy, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), and a rich girl, Rose (Kate Winslet), on an ill-fated ocean voyage. The movie won the 1997 Oscar for Best Picture. Its box-office sales of over $1.8 billion rank it as the second most successful movie of all time, behind Avatar.
Hollywood created its own fictional heroes for the movie script, but on April 14, 1912, there were many real heroes. One of them was named John Harper.
John Harper, a thirty-nine year old widower and a Baptist preacher, was traveling to Chicago aboard the R.M.S Titanic on its maiden voyage with his six-year old daughter, Nana. He was scheduled to preach some evangelistic meetings at the Moody Church.
At 11:40 p.m., the Titanic hit an iceberg on the starboard side of the ship. As soon as Harper realized the ship was going to sink, he took his daughter to a lifeboat and placed her aboard. “Nana, I’ll see you again someday,” he said to her.
Then, while flares lit up the sky, he marched up and down the decks yelling, “Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!”
At 2:20 a.m., a rumble arose from deep within the ship as it broke in half. Hundreds of people, including Harper, jumped into the 28-degree (-2 C) water as the Titanic slipped into its watery grave.
As soon as Harper hit the surface, he frantically swam from one person to the next, leading them to Jesus before the people succumbed to the icy waters and hypothermia. He asked one young man who clutched a piece of wood, “Are you saved?” The young man answered that he was not.
Harper tried to convince the young man, but the man refused to listen. Harper took off his life jacket and threw it at the man. “Here then, you need this more than I do,” said Harper as he swam off to other people.
A few minutes later, Harper returned to the man and successfully led him to Christ. Then, Harper attempted to swim to other people, but the icy waters were too much for him. “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” he shouted before he sank under the waters.
Of the 1528 people that went into the icy waters that night, lifeboats rescued only six. One of them was the young man who later recounted how Harper had led him to Christ.
Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose (Isaiah 46:10)
Maybe some will believe John Harper ran into some bad luck by being on the Titanic, but don’t believe that for even a second. You see, our loving Father looked into the future and knew the Titanic would sink on that fateful night. He could have stopped Harper from being aboard that ship by any number of ways if He had wanted to do that. But instead our Father used John Harper as His representative in the midst of a terrible tragedy. A man willing to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith all the way to his last breath.
I truly believe John Harper represents the type of hero the Lord will be raising up in the days ahead as our nation seemingly heads toward its disastrous finish.
(Continued in Part 2)