| July 15, 2019

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. I John 1: 4

Fifty years ago, the world collectively paused to recognize that it was forever changed. Man had landed on the moon. On July 20, 1969, at 3:17 PM EST, Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon. Six hours later, Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface; Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later.

Altogether, there have been 12 men who walked on the moon, in seven different missions over a period of three-and-one-half years, from July 1969 to December 1972. Twelve men –
moonwalkers – who shared an experience unique to them; no other persons who have ever lived have experienced anything remotely like it.

The Apostle John was also one of twelve men who had an experience that seems unique just to them: the 12 apostles of Jesus, who over a period of about three-and-one-half years shared an intimate relationship with the Son of God. They talked with Him, listened to Him, traveled with Him, preached with Him and prayed with Him. Like those who have gone moonwalking, they had an otherworldly experience – no one else who ever lived has ever experienced anything
remotely like it.

But when the Apostle John wrote his first epistle, he opened with words that conveyed exactly the opposite thought:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

John noted the uniqueness of their physical experience (we heard, we saw, we handled), but explained that the fellowship they had, the fellowship with the Father and with Jesus Christ, the fellowship of eternal life, is something all Christians can all share in, just as though you and I had heard and seen and touched Jesus as John did.

It is as if, rather than listen to the story of the astronauts, you instead walked on the moon with them. It is not just seeing pictures, it is not just touching a moon rock in a museum, it is not just knowing the phrase “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It is instead that by believing, you find yourself on the ship during take-off. You are wearing the suit. You are a moonwalker. You are planting the flag in the famous picture, and the one reflected in the visor.

Being a Christian is not an intellectual curiosity. It is not something historic to just read in a book, memorize, and set aside. It is relational – having fellowship with Jesus: loving what he loves, hating what he hates, obeying his commands and finding we love Him more as we do. And there is one more thing. The men who walked on the moon often described what they did as one step in a much longer journey of exploration. Some of them wondered why manned space exploration stopped just at the moon and have asked when we were going further.

John also wrote about going further. He wrote First John when he was an old man, most likely the last man left who had actually known Jesus of Nazareth. He wrote to us who have not seen Jesus, to assure us that these things were true. He wrote to bring us who have not heard, seen, and touched Jesus into the same fellowship as those who had. But he also wrote to point all of us forward: “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

That was a very specific choice of words by John. He writes often about joy, and it is almost always associated with being face-to-face (II John 12 being an example). In his Gospel, he related when Jesus said “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me… you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:19–20).

So, in a word, our experience with Jesus Christ is not done yet. There is more ahead. Here, our exploration into this fellowship continues, there is more to learn, more to experience, more to wonder at. Here we walk by faith, along the paths that Jesus and His apostles laid out for us. There, our joy will be made complete in the sight of Him with whom we walk.

Charles Duke was the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 16. He became the youngest man to ever walk on the moon, in April, 1972. In 1978, he became a Christian, and lives committed to Jesus Christ. In his words: “I say my walk on the Moon lasted for three days and it was a great adventure. But my walk with God lasts forever.”

In 2018, Charles Duke joined the Back to Space organization as an Astronaut Consultant with the goal of inspiring us to push exploration further. May we also do so in Jesus Christ.

Category: Faith

About the Author ()

Email | Kyle Sobus resides in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Courtney, and their biological and foster children. He serves as an elder at Forge Road Bible Chapel and works at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield as a Clinical Innovations Manager.