When the 21-year-old spacecraft, Columbia, disintegrated on its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, a new pantheon of heroes was born—men and women who knew the risks they were taking yet chose to take that chance. With that understanding of the dangers involved, each astronaut was asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding his wishes for a memorial service—who should do it, what he or she wanted said, what kind of a memorial he or she would like—should they not come back.
Several of the astronauts were believers, including Rick Husband, who was a devout Christian and active in his church, Grace Community Church, in suburban Houston. When Steve Riggle, Rick Husband’s pastor, was given the small card which contained his wishes for a memorial service, at the bottom of the card was a handwritten note which read, “Tell them about Jesus. He’s real to me!” That was it. “Tell them about Jesus,” he requested, explaining, “He’s real to me!”
To the best of his ability, Pastor Steve Riggle did just that! He not only remembered Rick Husband as a hero, great father, and dedicated pilot, but as a man who knew and loved Jesus Christ and sought to make Him known. Essentially Rick Husband’s desire was the same as that of the Apostle Paul, who wrote in the shadow of a Roman dungeon, probably under house arrest, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. Philippians 3:10
Question: Is Jesus Christ real to you? Or is He simply a historical personage, a religious figure who lived and died a long time ago, One who seems to better fit on a dusty crucifix in a Catholic church or the wall of a convent or hospital than in real life today? The fact is that the image of Jesus Christ which many have is vastly different from the real-life one, the one that Rick Husband had. Why? Rick’s understanding of Jesus Christ grew from a relationship with Him as a living person, not from a historical bit of knowledge of one who is a benchmark of history in the Roman era.
So the question then arises, “OK, how does a person have this kind of relationship?” Actually Jesus Himself answered that question. He said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Notice that it is a living person who knocks at the heart’s door, a living person who speaks to those who inhabit this house called a home, and a living person who invades our lives in such a way that we have companionship, warmth, and a relationship. The point is, only a living Christ can do this.
This living One couldn’t be confined to a cold tomb following His death on Good Friday long ago. Three days later, He rose from the dead. He walked with the disciples for 40 days. He talked with them of life, of the future, and of His desire for them to make Christ known to all the world–which was Rick Husband’s desire as well. Only a living person could do that.
A closing thought: Jesus Christ never knocks down the door of your heart or invades your space and life. He enters only at your invitation, which means you invite Him to come into your life, a decision that Astronaut Rick Husband made. The good news is that when Christ comes into your life, He forgives you, enables you to live above the carnal pull of your old sinful nature, and empowers you to live a life of purpose and joy. Frankly, I’d rather have the fellowship of a living Christ than a dead one.
Resource reading: John 21:1-14
Featured image: The crew of the ill-fated Space Orbiter Columbia, STS-107, from left to right: Brown, Husband, Clark, Chawla, Anderson, McCool, Ramon