CHAPTER 1

Altar

The cross is the altar to which Christ calls everyone on Planet Earth. A few days before His death, Jesus announced: "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (Jn 12:31-32). "Lifted up" did not mean ascending in glory to heaven. "He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die" (verse 33). He would draw everyone to Himself at the cross.

The cross is the altar. Christ draws us there. Why do we come?

What draws us to the Hope diamond in the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.? The gem is so rich in splendor that its full glory cannot be seen from any one angle. The display case turns every few seconds to unleash dazzling, constantly changing rainbow light from various combinations of perfect facets. Words cannot capture the experience. Why do we come?

A diamond is irresistible. But there is another kind of attraction.

"Lord, let me at least have someone know I'm alive and maybe come rescue me." This was the prayer of United States Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady in June of 1995 as he huddled in the hills of Bosnia, where his F-16 had been shot down. Hunted by the enemy, he clung to hope for six agonizing days. Burying his face in the dirt as searchers passed a few feet from him, subsisting on leaves, grass, and ants, and catching rain water in Ziploc plastic bags, O'Grady refused to give up. He was hungry and cold, but he knew that a superpower would be working to save him.

O'Grady's prayer was answered. He finally succeeded in getting a radio message to a fellow F-16 pilot flying over Bosnia, who notified his superiors that he had made contact with O'Grady. Headquarters immediately dispatched an armada of about forty planes, all for one man.

When the Marines were landing, they saw a man running toward their helicopter. It was O'Grady. He didn't wait until they got out and came looking for him. He reached the side door of the chopper when it had been open for only three seconds! Why did O'Grady come? He was drawn to the helicopter by an overwhelming desire to live and be free. When he boarded the aircraft, his pent-up emotions came out in heaving sobs of relief. Still shivering, he kept repeating: "Thank you, thank you, thank you." (Reported by Kevin Fedarko and Mark Thompson, "All for One," Time [June 19, 1995], pp. 21-26).
Jesus said He would draw all people to Himself. Is His cross like the Hope diamond? Or like a helicopter that gives hope? Or maybe both and much more.

 

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