The first Russian cosmonaut, Urie Gagarin, famously said when he got to space, “My atheism has been confirmed. I went up in space and looked around, and I didn’t see any God.”

Shortly after this, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay responding to Gagarin’s statement. Lewis pointed out that if there is a God who created everything, he would not relate to us the way a person who lives upstairs relates to a person who lives downstairs. This seemed to be Gagarin’s assumption: God lives somewhere “up there,” and if we climb high enough we’ll find him.

If God is Creator, Lewis said, then he would relate to us more like Shakespeare relates to Hamlet: Hamlet’s never going to find out anything about Shakespeare by going backstage. The only way Hamlet knows Shakespeare is if Shakespeare writes information about himself into the play.

The gospel goes one better: God inserted himself into the play. He wrote himself into creation, and, amazingly, he did so not only as the Judge but as the suffering Redeemer.

In the theme verses of Romans, Romans 1:16–17, Paul says that in the gospel, God reveals his righteousness, and we see that it’s not a standard God judges us by but a gift that he gives to us.

The gospel shows us that even though all of us alike have turned away from God and our hearts have grown selfish, wicked, and corrupt, God kept coming after us.

The gospel, you see, shows us something about God that creation could never show us: Our God is a faithful, pursuing Father who wouldn’t let us go even after we rejected him. When it came time to pour out his judgment, he poured it out first on himself, and he will release us from our punishment if we will accept that and trust it.

Searching the stars would never have shown us this.

We can know the power of God from creation. We can know the justice of God from our consciences. But we can only know the love of God from the cross.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (CSB).

Do you want to know who God is? The cross shows you that yes, God is powerful. Yes, he’s holy. Yes, you’re unrighteous. But he came after you anyway.

You can say with the saints throughout history,

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?

Died he for me, who caused his pain, for me, who him to death pursued.

Amazing love! How can it be,

That thou, my God, should die for me?