Following Jesus – No turning back

Published 10:04 pm Saturday, April 20, 2024

By Michael J. Brooks

We planned a dream vacation several years ago to Las Vegas where we heard Barry Manilow and The Temptations (these are acts loved by old people). Part of the trip was my taking the short flight to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California and the short drive to spend a day at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The library acquired the retired Air Force One in 2004, and the Air Force One Pavilion is a grand site. It’s been featured several times in Republican presidential debates. I remember our tour of the plane, and a question I never got an answer to.

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In the movie by the same name, President James Marshall, played by Harrison Ford, was given the opportunity to take the “escape pod” and save himself from onboard Communist terrorists. Secret Service agents rushed to the pod when it landed only to find it empty. President Marshall chose to remain on board and do battle. The dramatic climax was kicking the lead terrorist down the ramp and shouting, “Get off my plane!”

By the way, this movie featured our first female vice president, Kathryn Bennett, played by Glenn Close.

Anyway, I asked the attendant in Simi Valley where the escape pod was. She only laughed, meaning either there wasn’t one or I lacked security clearance.

I thought of this visit recently when I explored the meaning of Jesus’ beatitude about a pure heart (Matthew 5:8). The original word, catharos, is the root of our words catheter and catharsis, meaning to take away impurities. It was used in the first century to describe an army drained of cowards so those remaining were a determined fighting force.

Of course, we think of Gideon’s army. This Old Testament judge prepared to battle his enemy, the Midianites, with 32,000 troops. The Lord told him this was too many, so he invited the cowardly to go home. Gen. Gideon lost 22,000 men. The Lord told him again this was too many, so the army was whittled down to 300 mighty men who won the battle, defeating Midian in an unconventional way.

This is the kind of army for which Christ is searching today.

Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

In other words, those who come to Christ come with a pure heart — a heart of courage and commitment. There is no escape pod when we commit to him. As the old chorus says, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Our spiritual commander-in-chief never promised an easy road, but he promised ultimate happiness to those who follow him with a lifetime of commitment.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is