Recently I heard a message entitled Lessons from Royalty by Ravi Zacharias, in which he concludes with the funeral of Empress Zita. This story was recorded in the April 1989 issue of People magazine as follows –
The 8,000 mourners filed out of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral and fell in line behind the catafalque drawn by six black horses. Two hours later the procession ended at the Capuchin Church, where, in keeping with tradition, a member of the funeral party knocked on the door and a priest asked, “Who goes there?”
The titles were read aloud: “Queen of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia. Queen of Jerusalem. Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Cracow…”
“I do not know her,” said the father.
A second knock and “Who goes there?” brought the response, “Zita, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.” Again the reply, “I do not know her.”
When the inevitable question was put a third time, the answer was simply, “Zita, a sinning mortal.”
“Come in,” said the priest, opening wide the door not for royalty, but for a faithful member of the Church, whose life had finally reached its end.
Apostle Paul essentially stole the statement that can be said most definitely of me when he said “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus Christ Himself said that He came into this world to call sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17). Publicans and sinners drew near to hear Jesus and He not only received them, but He also communed (ate) with them (Luke 15:1-2).
Like Empress Zita, the only requirement for us to be received into the sanctifying hands of the Savior, the same hands that bears nailprints as an expression of His love for us, is to recognize that we are sinners, whom He came to save, and call to repentance.
When God asks you and me “Who goes there?”, what is our response going to be? If our response is “a sinner”, you can expect to hear Him say “Come in”.
Luke 15:1-10 (KJV)
1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
The full People magazine’s article on the Last Habsburg Empress Zita’s and her final account on earth can be read here