Conrad The Cobbler

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Matthew 25:35 (NIV)

This is a poem by Edwin Markham about Conrad the Cobbler.

Conrad lived in a European village over a century ago. According to the poem Conrad had a dramatic dream in which Christ appeared to him and told him he was going to visit the shop the following day. The dream was so real that Conrad instinctively felt that it was more than an idle dream but a sacred promise. He therefore got up early, swept his shop clean, made bread for the Master, shined the shelves, placed holly on the rafters, and waited. Early after dawn two friends came to see Conrad and he could not help sharing the secret. They had known the old man for years and knew if anyone deserved a visit from the Master it would be he.

His friends went home; and his face grew still

As he watched for the shadow across the sill.

He lived all the moments o’er and o’er,

When the Lord should enter the lowly door –

The knock, the call, the latch pulled up,

The lighted face, the offered cup.

He would wash the feet where the spikes had been,

He would kiss the hands where the nails went in,

And then at last would sit with Him

And break the bread as the day grew dim.

But the Master did not come. Late in the morning Conrad looked out his window and saw an old beggar with injured feet. Deeply moved by the man’s plight, he called to him to come in for shoes. The old man hobbled in and Conrad made him a pair of fine shoes for his weary feet. Grateful that the Lord had not come during this time, Conrad bade the old man goodbye and cleaned up his shop. He waited but still the Lord did not come.

At noon Conrad heard a soft knock and he rushed to the door, thinking this was the Lord. But it was an old woman carrying a load of sticks. “Sir, I’ve heard that you are a kind man. Could I have something to eat?” Irritated at the interruption but too kindly to turn her away, Conrad invited the old woman in and gave her all he had, the very bread he had baked for the Master. Then, after she had finished the meal, she asked him if he would help her carry the sticks to the edge of the village. Not wanting to leave the shop in case Jesus came, Conrad nevertheless tacked a hastily scrawled note on the door that told the Master he would be right back. He then hurried the old woman to the edge of the village, gave her the sticks and ran all the way back. He breathed a sigh of relief to see the note had not been disturbed and went inside to wait.

But, the Master did not come. The afternoon passed and doubts began to creep into Conrad’s heart. Then a soft rap was heard and Conrad’s heart leaped within him.

Then to his door came a child

Lost and afraid in the world so wild

In the big, dark world. Catching it up,

He gave it the milk in the waiting cup,

And led it home to its mother’s arms

Out of the reach of the world’s alarms.

Then rushing back to see if the note had been disturbed, Conrad was relieved to find it had not been touched. He sighed with relief that the Master had not come while he was away. And, he waited.

The day went down in the crimson west

And with it the hope of the blessed guest,

And Conrad sighed as the world turned gray:

“Why is it Lord, that your feet delay?

Did you forget that this was the day?”

Then soft in the silence a Voice he heard:

“Lift up your heart, for I have kept my word.

Three times I came to your friendly door.

Three times my shadow was on your floor.

I was the beggar with the bruised feet;

I was the woman you gave something to eat;

I was the child in the homeless street.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” Matthew 25:35-40.

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