Empty Seats

I had just finished preaching four times to several hundred teenagers at a harvest rally in Norfolk, Virginia. The youth pastor drove me to the airport where I was to catch a plane to Baltimore, Maryland. I was scheduled on US Airways, Flight 4476, to Philadelphia and then on to Baltimore. The airport in Norfolk was easy to find. When I arrived, there were no lines at the ticket counter, whatsoever. I proceeded to the kiosk where I checked in without a problem, and then I headed for Gate A-11. The terminal was amazingly desolate. I breezed through security in about fifteen seconds! Gate A-11 was at the end of the terminal, and when I arrived, the flight was scheduled to leave in about forty minutes at 7:50 pm, but there was not a soul in sight! After checking my emails and phone messages, I made my way back down the terminal to see if I could find someone—anyone.

At about Gate A-6, I spotted a US Airways agent and asked her about my flight. She quickly checked the computer and said, “Oh, yes, that flight is on time, and you are checked-in and ready to go.” I made my way back to the gate and was pleased to see that another passenger had arrived—a college-aged young lady, who smiled and said: “It doesn’t look like many people are going to Philadelphia.” I jokingly remarked, “Well, I just checked, and they said that you were flying the plane and I’m serving the peanuts.”

An agent appeared about ten minutes before our flight was to leave and called us to the gate—both of us! We were the only two passengers on a plane that easily could seat over one hundred people. We walked through the gate and outside where three baggage handlers were waiting for us. Because neither of us had checked-in any luggage, I handed my carry-on to one of the three men and humorously said: “Here put this in the back. You guys need to earn your pay.”

We climbed the stairs to the plane and were met by a very friendly stewardess and our pilot and co-pilot. The young girl sat in the first seat on the right side and as I was walking by, she said, “I didn’t take your seat did I?” I laughed and chose a seat in the exit row.

We all enjoyed that flight as we told the stewardess to take the night off. The young lady had obviously traveled quite often, and she and I were able to recite from memory all of the instructions on how to fasten your seat belt, the oxygen mask techniques, etc. We were informed that our pilot and co-pilot together had over forty years of flying experience, and our flight attendant had been doing her job for over ten years. It was amazing to realize that these three people had been trained and were being paid to fly just the two of us to our destination.

During that one hour night flight, my heart was saddened as I thought about what we were experiencing. Many people were involved in making that flight possible. The pilots, the flight attendant, the air traffic controllers, the baggage handlers, the ticket agents, the crews that had fueled the plane and did the maintenance—hundreds of hours of preparation all for just two people!

My mind thought about Heaven and all of the preparation that has gone into making that destination possible. God sending His Son, the finished work of Calvary, the resurrection, the inspiration and preservation of God’s message of salvation in the Bible, the institution of the local church to proclaim the message, the human preachers and soulwinners to faithfully proclaim the message. In addition, the Lord Jesus ascended back into Heaven saying, “I go to prepare a place for you.” For nearly 2,000 years that destination has been in preparation! But I wondered how many people have a ticket and are checked-in to that destination? Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).—Dr. John Goetsch

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