I was sharing with someone the other day that it is amazing to see how something so small as a microscopic virus can wreak such havoc upon us.
With that in mind, our current state of affairs is a reminder of 2 key things:
1. Just how fragile, and fleeting, our lives really are:
In Genesis 3, we read of man’s fall as he rebelled against God, plunging himself and all of creation into a state of sin, misery, and death. The entire cosmos has now been subjected to futility since the fall, and it groans as it awaits the return of Christ and the creation of new heavens and new earth. (Rom 8:18-25)
Because of sin and the curse, our lives are fragile and are indeed but a vapor (James 4:14). Regardless of how long we live, death will come to us all one day (Heb 9:27). The Coronavirus is just a symptom of that greater “disease”—a stark reminder that we do indeed live in a creation that has been marred by sin and death.
With that in mind, I started to think about the fact that down through the ages there have been many plagues and pandemics that devastated the human race and brought about the death of multiplied millions (see this link for examples: https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/) .
In pre-modern times, we could consider the Plague of Justinian in 542 AD, which is said to have killed over half of Europe’s population. Moving on in history, there was the Black Death that occurred between the years of 1346 – 1353 which killed at least 75 million people, with some estimating it as high as 200 million dead.
Imagine being alive during those times without our modern conveniences (to include toilet paper!) nor modern medicine, and the tremendous fear that would have surely gripped many hearts and minds, and then the overwhelming grief as folks helplessly watched loved ones and others in their community die.
While the death tolls were staggering, there were many who nevertheless survived. But, here’s the thing: all of the people who survived those pandemics eventually succumbed to the final “virus” of death. No one who was alive then is alive today. Their appointment with death may have been later, but make no mistake, the appointment was kept.
One may escape the death that is brought about by a pandemic, but, as someone once said, we will all eventually die of our last disease. We all stand under the dark plague of death, and no one ever escapes. And the timeless questions that this reality confronts us with: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Is there a God and how can I be right with Him?—should, at the very least, unsettle us.
My life, your life, and the life of every person on the planet right now will at some point come to and end. Even if you live to be 100, we…will…die. It will be over. Then what? And, what was it all for, anyway?
Sounds pretty hopeless, futile, and depressing, doesn’t it? Good! It’s supposed to! The reality that we find ourselves in as a result of sin is indeed hopeless apart from what the Triune God in Christ has done to bring us hope not only beyond the grave, but, also in our daily lives.
This takes me to my second observation:
2. Just how good the good news of the gospel is:
Pandemics, plagues, disease and death are not the final word! God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the dark plague of spiritual and physical death that has infected us. On the cross, Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
By His death on the cross for us and His bodily resurrection from the dead, Jesus has overcome the plague of death in all of its forms—spiritual and physical. And now He offers this healing to the world. Jesus Himself is the vaccination. Jesus is the medicine that we must take to be healed from the plague of death.
How do we get that vaccination? The answer from Scripture is that we must turn from our sin—our way of thinking and living—and place all of our trust in Jesus Christ alone for our right standing before God. When we by God’s Spirit and grace alone do that, Jesus tells us that we have “passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
What this means is that death no longer has power over us. Spiritually, we have been raised as new creatures in Christ. We now have, as Jesus said, “life, and that more abundantly.” (John 10:10) What this means is that eternal life is not merely about quantity of life, but a quality of life. Eternal life is not just about a future in heaven, but life right now. In Christ then we have life and that more abundantly.
This means that in Christ we have been filled with the Holy Spirit and have “every spiritual blessing.” (Eph 1:3) In Christ we have a true love, the height, width and depth of which is beyond measure! In Christ we have a true, deep abiding joy, contentment, and a peace that surpasses understanding that is not dependent upon circumstances, and that can’t be stolen from us. In Christ we are free, and free indeed to go forth and love God and love our neighbor in both deed and word and declare to them the good news that a cure for our dreadful and terminal condition has been found, and it is an absolutely free gift in Christ!
And this abundant life in Christ is experienced in a plague filled world. Christ our great shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, restores our soul, and leads us in paths of righteousness not by removing us from suffering or keeping us from illness, but in the midst of it. In Christ we can now walk through the valley of the shadow of death without having to fear, because the Lord is with us.
Yes, we will all experience physical death, but for the believer in Christ, the sting of it has been removed. Because Christ bore our plague, we have the sure confidence that regardless of the circumstances, the goodness and mercy of the Lord shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23) And now we have the great privilege to go and share this amazing vaccine that is Christ and Him crucified with a world that is desperately in need of it.
May we be encouraged in Christ as we keep our gaze fixed upon Him, whether in good times or bad, and may we share His love with the world around us as we serve them and hold out to them the Word of life that they may find healing for their souls. Amen.