It’s been 50 years since human beings first landed on the moon and less than six months since the Rev. Billy Graham passed away. But the anniversary of the famed NASA voyage is breathing new life into one of the beloved evangelist’s sermon illustrations.
Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, who passed away in February, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday, shared a pearl of wisdom Wednesday he learned from his father.
His dad, Franklin Graham said, once pontificated, “Suppose the NASA control center in Houston had received word from [Apollo 11] that the astronauts were off course, and had replied, ‘Oh, that’s all right, a number of roads lead to the moon. Just keep on the way you are going.’”
Quoting his father, the 67-year-old evangelist continued, “You [and] I know they would have kept going — but they would never have come back. People today don’t like the word ‘narrow,’ but Jesus clearly said there are two roads to the future for all of us: the way to hell … is broad, but the way to heaven is narrow. Which road are you on?”
Billy Graham was referring to the words of Jesus found in Matthew 7:13-14.
Jesus told his disciples: “You can enter God’s Kingdom only though the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
In addition to began an incredibly historic accomplishment, the Apollo 11 moon landing was a signficant religious event.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, when he stepped onto the moon, became the first person not only to take communion on the lunar surface, but to read from the Gospel of John.
Speaking from his radio on the moon on July 20, 1969, Aldrin said: “This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
The radio signal then went silent. The famed astronaut, who at the time was attending Webster Presbyterian Church, opened the bread and wine he brought with him into orbit, read John 15:5, and took communion.
In the New Testament passage, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Aldrin later explained in a 1970 article for Guideposts that the radio signal cut out because, “at the last minute,” NASA decided it would be best to make the religious moment private. He originally intended to read the Bible verse for everyone back on earth to hear.
“NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas,” Aldrin recalled. “I agreed reluctantly.”