On this day in 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Gagarin, a Soviet Air Force fighter pilot, was 27 years old when he orbited the earth in the Vostok 1 craft. The voyage lasted 108 minutes as Gagarin circled the Earth in a little more than one orbit.
Upon re-entry, because the Volstok had no engines to slow itself down, Gagarin ejected from the spacecraft about four miles up and safely parachuted to Earth. While in space, he allegedly said, “I looked and looked but I did not see God.” This quote has been widely debunked, although a Soviet propaganda poster at the time featured a cosmonaut with the bold caption, “Бога Нет!” (“There is no God!”)
Over the centuries, many have mocked the existence of God. Voltaire, for instance. The famous French writer of the Enlightenment once wrote that Christianity was “the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world.” Of the Bible he predicted in 1776, “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker.”
Needless to say, Voltaire’s prophecy on the Bible did not come true. In fact, a brief 58 years after Voltaire’s death, Rev. William Acworth of the British and Foreign Bible Society saw with his own eyes Voltaire’s former residence in Geneva, Switzerland being used as a “repository for Bibles and Religious tracts.”
Interestingly, some who have set out to disprove the claims of the New Testament encountered a shock: their research led them to put their faith in Jesus. Frank Morison was one such person. A British writer, Morison set out to discredit the resurrection accounts in a short paper entitled “Jesus – The Last Phase.” Instead, he published a book in 1930 entitled Who Moved the Stone?, outlining his reasons for believing that Christ had been raised from the dead. Morison’s book is still popular to this day, having been reprinted ten times.
“There is no God?” Billions whose lives have been drastically changed by an encounter with the Risen Christ would disagree. According to Ephesians 1:19-20, the power that called Jesus from the tomb is the same power that fills believers today. Resurrection power imparts life to dry spirits, gives hope in dark times, and empowers the faithful to spread the fragrance of Christ in a world reeking with sin and corruption. Because of Easter, we don’t have to fear death, and we no longer have to fear life, too.
“Faith cannot long keep death in view,” wrote Irish preacher Charles Mackintosh. “Resurrection is that which fills the vision of faith; and in the power thereof, it can rise up from the dead.”
There is a God – his name is Jesus! Let us thank him for Easter, that Day of mystery and wonder when a tomb was found empty – and the hearts of his disciples would soon be filled.