My neighbor recently died. Almost an entire century passed from the moment he took his first breath until the moment he took his last. God gave him a long life.
I had just visited him and his wife the week before. When I stopped by, he was dressed in a crisp collared shirt and slacks preparing to head to an appointment. I offered to bring him a milkshake upon his return. He loved milkshakes, especially chocolate. He declined the offer being unsure how long he’d be gone. I told him I’d bring him one next week.
I never had the opportunity to bring him that milkshake.
My neighbor passed away in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic of something other than the coronavirus. The coronavirus didn’t take him, but death did.
The coronavirus is claiming lives right now, and the impression is if we survive this pandemic, we survive, but make no mistake, none of us will escape death. In one way or another, on this day or that, we each will pass from this reality into the next.
God was not surprised at my neighbor’s passing, not the manner in which he passed neither the moment at which he passed, and He will not be surprised at my passing whether I am one who succumbs to this virus or dies sometime later in some other way.
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16
You and I are not accidents. We were created with a purpose in accordance with God’s plan. God created the world and everything in it, including us, and He holds all creation together.
Every one of our days and each of our breaths are given by Him. The times and places of our earthly existence as well as the rise and fall of nations and their boundaries are chosen by God for the purpose of drawing all to Him, and He is never far off from His creation (Acts 17:24-27; Colossians 1:16-17).
This precise moment in history is not a surprise to the God who is sovereign over all creation.
When the year changed from 2019 to 2020, many of us were going about our days and making our plans with very little thought about God.
Our own strength, wisdom, health, politics, and scientific advancements were enough to carry the weight of our security, happiness, and hope…or so we thought.
One novel virus shut down the entire world, is destroying economies, and is taking lives.
We have been humbled.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
I do not claim to know all the reasons God has allowed this trial to strike the world, but I do know who God is. I know He is good, loving, merciful, gracious, patient, righteous, just, faithful, and holy, and I know that He is at work in all things to draw people to Him.
When we are determined to go our own way, it often takes something harder than the hardness of our hearts to stop us in our tracks, to get our attention, and to quiet us enough we can hear God’s voice.
Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. – C.S. Lewis
Whatever other reasons God may have in allowing this virus to sweep across our globe, I believe there is an aspect of this trial that is an invitation. God is using His megaphone.
Currently, the world is gripped by the fear of this virus, but what we are really gripped by is the fear of death.
What we need more than anything else right now isn’t just to be rescued from this virus but to be rescued from death itself and the fear it lords over us, and there is not a medical breakthrough or a human expert who can offer us this rescue. There is only One who has defeated death.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14-15
We have been given an incredible gift at this time…the opportunity to feel the futility of our own strength and answers.
Don’t get me wrong, there are promising medicines and treatments concerning this particular virus and reason to hope we will get better at treating it, but nothing can protect us from death and the fear of it.
This virus has simply put a spotlight on what has always been true but perhaps easily ignored: our lives are a vapor and death an enemy we can’t ultimately defeat. Every human being who recovers from or avoids the coronavirus will die at some point from something.
There is only One who can save us…the Lord Jesus Christ. For those who place their faith in Him, death is a defeated foe. Those in Christ will die, but we will not perish. Sound like an oxymoron? It isn’t. For God’s people, death is passing from life to life.
In Luke 13:1-5, a message is carried to Jesus informing Him Pilate had murdered Galileans as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple.
Apparently, as the messengers delivered the news, they implied there was something about these particular Galileans that made them more vulnerable to the suffering they experienced. Jesus addressed the faultiness of their thinking.
“Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.”
Then, He draws their attention to eighteen people who died in an accident when the tower in Siloam fell and asks if these eighteen were the worst sinners in Jerusalem. He answers his own question, “No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Suffering and death happen to both the righteous and unrighteous alike. None of us knows the hour or manner of our death. It is foolish and arrogant to think we are somehow beyond the reach of tragedy.
When it first became known the coronavirus was spreading in the United States, there were a lot of conversations around the idea that only the elderly and those with underlying health conditions were vulnerable.
Of course, it is important to identify those who will need the most protection and care in any situation carrying risks, but the conversation went beyond that to become a sense of false security for many who didn’t fall into those two categories.
We have a tendency to look for something about those who suffer and die that is different than us and in which we can anchor our security. Jesus tells us that is not how it works. There is nothing about you or me that guarantees us tomorrow.
We will each die, but we will not all perish, and the difference between those who die and those who perish, according to Jesus, is repentance.
The word perish used by Jesus in Luke 13 is the same word used in John 3:16,
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Perish is used in both places to mean something more than physical death. It signifies ultimate death, or spiritual death, and God’s judgment.
John tells us those who believe in Jesus will not perish. Jesus says those who repent of their sins and turn to God will not perish. John points to Jesus and Jesus points to repentance. Then, being fully God and fully man, Jesus becomes the very means through which we can repent and be reconciled to God.
In Luke 13, Jesus is preparing to take the sins of the world on Himself, die on the cross in sinful man’s place, and rise again defeating sin and death for all who believe in Him.
God the Son took on human flesh for this precise purpose…to make a way for people who are spiritually dead to be reborn spiritually alive (John 3:1-18), new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), with new hearts and new minds, filled with God’s Spirit (Ephesians 4:22-24), overflowing with God’s love (Ephesians 3:17-19), and who will live in God’s presence for all eternity (Revelation 21:1-7).
In His death and resurrection, Jesus bridges the gap between God and sinful humankind. His finished work on our behalf is the means through which we can repent of our sin, turn to God, and be reconciled to Him.
In Exodus 12, the death angel passed over Egypt taking the life of every firstborn son in judgment of Pharaoh’s hard heart and rebellion against God. Only those who brushed the blood of a perfect sacrificed lamb on their doorposts were safe.
There is a virus moving across our nation and around the world right now, but this virus is only one means through which death is at work. Human beings have been under the curse of death since sin entered the world through the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12).
God gave His only Son as the perfect sacrifice for sin once and for all (Hebrews 10:1-18). It is His sinless shed blood on our behalf that covers us just as the blood of the spotless lambs covered the Israelites in Egypt. It is through the blood of the perfect Lamb of God that we do not perish.
For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Hebrews 10:10
My neighbor died, but he did not perish. His faith was in Jesus Christ. He passed from life to life and is rejoicing in the presence of his Savior.
Yes, death is hard for the Christian. It is a parting, and all partings are sad. Although we grieve over the graves of those we love, and someday those who love us will grieve over our graves, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. The tomb is empty guaranteeing one day our graves will be empty as well. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)
For those in Christ, the best is yet to come.
Of all the conversations we are having right now due to this virus and the destruction it is wreaking across the globe, maybe this one right here is the most important: there is grace greater than our sin, a love stronger than the grave, and a hope that transcends the darkest night.
Our lives don’t rest on a medical breakthrough, the economy, or our health but on a person: the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
I can’t promise you tomorrow, but I can promise you this…Jesus will meet you where you are today…in your sin, your fear, your weakness…and He will save you.
Repent. Turn to God. Believe in Jesus. And you will not perish.