"I pray that you... may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and know this love that surpasses knowledge." - from Ephesians 3:17b-19a
Launched on Christmas Day, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has revealed images no human eye has ever seen. Named after James E. Webb, the Chief Administrator for NASA during the moon-shot program in the 1960s, the "Webb" project began in 1996 with an accumulated cost of $9.7 billion. That is an expensive camera.
It's first "snapshot" was developed and released this week. With a camera that expensive, you'd expect it to be a decent pic. Be assured, those expectations have been met.
Robert Barnes grew up as a kid with a small, three-inch telescope. He writes on Facebook, "One hundred years ago (1924), we thought there was only one galaxy—ours. We thought the entire universe was the Milky Way. But Edwin Hubble discovered there were others. He thought it might be hundreds. Now we know there are billions of galaxies, and in those, billions of stars. The image you see below is what you see when you point the James Webb at the darkest, most star-less part of the night sky, where all you can see is wonder."
Indeed. With Webb, cosmological wonder is revealed.
The image captures a place so deep in space that it was utterly unseen by even the most powerful telescopes before it. To date, if you were to look into the blackest part of the night sky, all you’d see is utter darkness. Nothingness.
What I find most remarkable is that each speck of light in the image is not merely a single star but represents an entire galaxy containing trillions of stars! And when you think stars, think suns.
Here is where the Webb telescope reveals not only the expansive wonder of the universe but preaches the expansive wonder of the gospel.
In the initial Webb image, I can't help but see the convergence of general revelation (God revealing himself as Creator through the physical universe) and special revelation (God revealing himself as Redeemer through the biblical narrative).
For example, Psalm 19:1-4 proclaims the physical universe is the result of "the work of God's hands." There is a Creator. Then, in Ephesians 3:17-19, the apostle Paul expresses his desire for us to grasp the height, width, length, and depth of his love expressed to us in Jesus. The Creator is also a Redeemer.
After all, what kind of hands created the cosmos? Hand that would be nail-scarred upon a cross.
Now, with Hubble and now Webb, what we know about the expanse of the universe is proving to be a profound illustration of the gospel. There is so much of the love, mercy, and grace of God that is still darkness to us. If only we could see as God sees. If only we could be given eyes, not into the depth of the skies but into the depth of God's heart.
If only we would see not just stars but galaxies of love, mercy, and grace.
Not one. Not hundreds. But billions upon billions, far exceeding our wildest imaginations.
Such is the height, width, length, and depth of God's immeasurable love expressed to us in Jesus.
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