Over YEARS of preaching the Gospel, I have related the TRUE story of “Jean François Gravelet,” who show name was “Blondin.”
I have included the Smithsonian account of his tightrope walking activities so that you can separate truth from fiction.
This is an IDEAL ILLUSTRATION of what it means to. . . .
trust In Jesus
put your faith in Jesus.
(Here is a link for audio clip — as used in a Gospel message.)
Put your faith in Jesus!
Put your trust in Jesus!
Put your confidence in Jesus!
I have with me — I just know no better way — I got a ticket from Niagara Falls — IMAX theater — and I went to see the story of Niagara.
And it says on the ticket – It has a picture of one of my favorite illustrations – Blondin.
His real name is François Gravelet
It says — Jean François Gravelet
AKA — The Great Blondin
“Performed the first tightrope walk” — it’s become popular again, hasn’t it —
“over the falls between the Canadian and American side on June 1859.”
“His feats became progressively more daring after his first trip.”
“He was later blindfolded
Rode a bicycle
And even carried his manager on his back”
— which is what’s pictured here – he has as manager on his back, going across Niagara Falls.
Now the reason I like that account so much is because — it just demonstrates — I don’t know a better way to make the point of what it means to put your faith – put your trust in Jesus.
One of the times he went across Niagara Falls — they stretched out the rope – he tight-roped across — they cheered him on — he got to the other side
He said, How many people think I can make it back pushing a wheelbarrow?
He goes over and pushes a wheelbarrow across to the other side.
They cheer him on — and then he says, How many people think I can do it with somebody in a wheel barrel?
Of course, they cheered him on.
but no one was willing to get in!
No one was willing to get into the wheelbarrow to go over
You know why? — because they really didn’t believe it.
Because had you really believed it — that he could get you to the other side – you would have got into the wheelbarrow — just like his manager got on his back.
Imagine if he said, Who would like to get on my back next.
Think I can do it?
Hop on! —- outside of his manager was in it for money – risking his life for it.
They didn’t have any catch strings
They didn’t have anything if . . .
You were — You were goner.
Believe he can make it? — Get on his back.
Believe I can get you to the Father? — Trust me!
That’s what it means to believe.
It doesn’t mean — oh yeah yeah yeah
He’s a – He’s a savior
We’re sinners and we need
. . . a oh no no no
It means Are you willing to put your faith — your confidence – your trust
I’m going – I’m going with Jesus.
I’m putting my faith – my confidence – my trust that He is who He said He is — and He did what He said He did
That He is the Christ
He is the Messiah
And that when he died on Calvary — He didn’t die for His sins — he died for my sins.
That He paid my bill
That when I stand before The Father — I’m going to have on His righteousness because He bore my sins.
My debt is going to be paid for.
My sin debt
My bill — paid in full — it is finished — the end of the discussion
I’m trusting Jesus.
— Ted Martens
* Below: The Smithsonian Record Concerning “Blondin”
“History’s most famous tightrope walker (or “ropedancer” or “funambulist,” in 19th-century parlance) performed without the luxury of such assurances.
During the winter of 1858, a 34-year-old French acrobat named Jean François Gravelet, better known as Monsieur Charles Blondin, traveled to Niagara Falls hoping to become the first person to cross the “boiling cataract.” Noting the masses of ice and snow on either bank and the violent whirls of wind circling the gorge, Blondin delayed the grand event until he would have better weather.
He always worked without a net, believing that preparing for disaster only made one more likely to occur. A rope 1,300 feet long, two inches in diameter and made entirely of hemp would be the sole thing separating him from the roiling waters below.
Blondin, born in 1824, grew to be only five feet five and 140 pounds; he had bright blue eyes and golden hair (which gave him his nickname).
He believed that a ropewalker was “like a poet, born and not made,” and discovered his calling at the age of four, mounting a rope strung between two chairs placed a few feet apart.
He first came to America in 1855 . . . when the idea struck to cross the falls. . . . Blondin also understood the appeal of the morbid to the masses, and reveled when gamblers began to take bets on whether he would plunge to a watery death. (Most of the smart money said yes.)
On the morning of June 30, 1859, about 25,000 thrill-seekers arrived by train and steamer and dispersed on the American or Canadian side of the falls, the latter said to have the better view.
Both banks grew “fairly black” with swarms of spectators, among them statesmen, judges, clerics, generals, members of Congress, capitalists, artists, newspaper editors, professors, debutantes, salesmen and hucksters.
Vendors hawked everything from lemonade to whiskey, and Colcord gave tours to the press, explaining the logistics of what the Great Blondin was about to attempt.
A light rope, not even an inch thick, had been attached to one end of his hempen cable so it could be conveyed across the Niagara River. On the American side the cable was wound around the trunk of an oak tree in White’s Pleasure Grounds, but securing it on the Canadian side presented a problem. Blondin’s assistants feared that the light rope wouldn’t bear the weight of the cable as it was drawn up the gorge for anchorage in Canada, but the rope dancer, to the delight of his audience, executed a daring solution.
After tying another rope around his waist, he rappelled 200 feet on the small rope, attached the second rope to the end of the cable, and then blithely climbed back to Canadian ground and secured the cable to a rock. To prevent swaying, guy ropes ran from the cable at 20-foot intervals to posts on both banks, creating the effect of a massive spider web. Blondin could do nothing, however, about the inevitable sag in its center, approximately 50 feet of cable to which it was impossible to fasten guy ropes. At that spot, in the middle of his crossing, he would be only 190 feet above the gorge. “There were hundreds of people examining the rope,” reported one witness, “and, with scarcely an exception, they all declared the inability of M. Blondin to perform the feat, the incapacity of the rope to sustain him, and that he deserved to be dashed to atoms for his desperate fool-hardiness.”
Shortly before 5 p.m., Blondin took his position on the American side, dressed in pink tights bedecked with spangles. The lowering sun made him appear as if clothed in light. He wore fine leather shoes with soft soles and brandished a balancing pole made of ash, 26 feet long and weighing nearly 50 pounds. Slowly, calmly, he started to walk. “His gait,” one man noted, “was very like the walk of some barnyard cock.” Children clung to their mothers’ legs; women peeked from behind their parasols. Several onlookers fainted. About a third of the way across, Blondin shocked the crowd by sitting down on his cable and calling for the Maid of the Mist, the famed tourist vessel, to anchor momentarily beneath him. He cast down a line and hauled up a bottle of wine. He drank and started off again, breaking into a run after he passed the sagging center. While the band played “Home, Sweet Home,” Blondin reached Canada. One man helped pull him ashore and exclaimed, “I wouldn’t look at anything like that again for a million dollars.”
After 20 minutes of rest Blondin began the journey to the other side, this time with a Daguerreotype camera strapped to his back. He advanced 200 feet, affixed his balancing pole to the cable, untied his load, adjusted it in front of him and snapped a likeness of the crowd along the American side. Then he hoisted the camera back into place and continued on his way. The entire walk from bank to bank to bank took 23 minutes, and Blondin immediately announced an encore performance to take place on the Fourth of July.
Not everyone admired Blondin’s feat. The New York Times condemned “such reckless and aimless exposure of life” and the “thoughtless people” who enjoyed “looking at a fellow creature in deadly peril.” Mark Twain later dismissed Blondin as “that adventurous ass.” One indignant resident of Niagara Falls insisted that he was a hoax, that there was “no such person in the world.” Nevertheless, on July 4, Blondin appeared at the American end of the cable, this time without his balancing pole. Halfway across, he lay down on the cable, flipped himself over, and began walking backward. He stopped again to take a swig from his flask, and then made it safely to the Canadian side. On the journey back he wore a sack over his body, depriving himself of sight. “One can scarcely believe that the feat was indeed real,” wrote one reporter, “and stands gazing upon the slender cord and the awful gulf in a state of utter bewilderment.… I look back upon it as upon a dream.”
Blondin announced subsequent crossings, promising that each would be more daring than the last. On July 15, with President Millard Fillmore in attendance, Blondin walked backward to Canada and returned to the U.S. pushing a wheelbarrow. Two weeks later, he somersaulted and backflipped his way across, occasionally pausing to dangle from the cable by one hand. Shortly after that he made another crossing, and, after a brief rest, appeared on the Canadian end of the cable with Harry Colcord clinging to his back. Blondin gave his manager the following instructions: “Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.”
A few of the guy ropes snapped along the way, but they made it.
He crossed at night, a locomotive headlight affixed to either each of the cable. He crossed with his body in shackles. He crossed carrying a table and chair, stopping in the middle to try to sit down and prop up his legs. The chair tumbled into the water. Blondin nearly followed but regained his composure. He sat down on the cable and ate a piece of cake, washed down with champagne. In his most famous exploit, he carried a stove and utensils on his back, walked to the center of the cable, started a fire and cooked an omelet. When it was ready, he lowered the breakfast to passengers on deck of the Maid of the Mist.”