- David Schrader, PhD. National Pastor
Hope in the Midst of a Pandemic
As our world continues to come to terms with the Coronavirus pandemic, the message of Good Friday and Easter are needed now more than ever.
A little over 2000 years ago, things looked very bleak the day Jesus died. His death brought an abrupt end to any hopes of an earthly kingdom. The disciples had great expectations, but now, all their hopes were dashed. As they gathered around the cross that day, they felt such shock and anguish, as they watched their friend and Saviour die a horrible death.
Over the years, the world has witnessed many horrible deaths – John F. Kennedy, Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra or Christian martyrs like John Huss, but we do not refer to "the assassination," "the guillotining," "the poisoning" or “the burning." Such phrases might be incomprehensible. And yet, these descriptions would be appropriate for every one of those deaths.
The term, "the crucifixion", was a horrible term. It meant an excruciating and painful death. The crucifixion of Jesus continues to this present day to have universal reverberations. No other death in human history has had such an impact. It spilt history in two. Every time you write a date, you’re using the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the focal point.
On Good Friday, Christians all over the world will remember the death of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And just like the Apostle Paul, many will say, “May I never boast in anything except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14)." When Jesus died on that cross, he took all the sins of the world upon him. He paid the ultimate price for our forgiveness. Our sin reached its full horror and found its most awful expression in the cross. That's why Christians know that the cross is something to boast about – it truly is good news. But the good news of God's forgiveness didn't stop there. There was a part two.
On Easter Sunday, Christians everywhere will celebrate the resurrection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, because of his resurrection, not only do Christians have the promise of their sins being forgiven, but they can enjoy eternal life with Christ. While the cross was the victory, the resurrection was the triumph. The resurrection was the public display of the victory – the triumph of the Crucified One.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ offers hope today, not only to Christians, but to everyone in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic. So, why are so many needlessly facing this pandemic with such dread and uncertainty? It's because they cannot be certain they will avoid death should they become infected with this virus. And death is scary for people, it is an unwelcome intruder, it is a horrible enemy. But it's also because people don't know Christ personally. They have never confessed their sins to him and made a conscientious decision to follow him. They don't have that inner peace that Jesus can give them.
When people choose to become followers of Jesus Christ, they are given hope. Christians know that death is not the end, it is the beginning of an eternal life with Christ. Because Christ lives, we know death has no more sting, it has no more victory over us (see 1 Cor. 15:55). As Christians, we face this pandemic by living our lives for Christ. And, should we die – because of this virus – we do not see this as a loss. This is what Paul meant when he said, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21). So, in the midst of this pandemic, Christians go on living for Christ, knowing that if they should die, they have everything to gain. The resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for everyone. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence.
Jesus' resurrection is central to Christianity. His words offer hope to everyone. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (Jn. 11:25-26)?” Friends, if you believe this about Jesus, you will have hope. Jesus simply asks us to place our faith and trust in Him.
The Apostle Peter said, "It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay 1 Peter 1:3-4)." When we are born again, we can live our lives with great expectation. Heaven awaits those who put their trust in Jesus. Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor."
In the midst of this pandemic, people are putting a lot of faith and trust in their governments and medical personnel. I guess we all want to believe that something or someone can make our lives better. But putting our trust and hope in the things of this world will disappoint us. The psalmist said it well in Psalm 20:7, "Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God." Earthly power and earthly confidence are no match for trusting in the Lord. The point he was trying to make was that our hope needs to go beyond mere mortals and this temporal realm or else we will be hopeless.
Paul spoke about that hopelessness when he said: "Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died (1 Thess. 4:13-14)." Christians were sad when their brothers and sisters died. But Paul reminded them that because they believed that Jesus died and rose again, they would have a future resurrection. He didn't say Christians wouldn't have sorrow, but rather it would not be the same kind of sorrow that others had who had no hope.
Because Jesus' tomb was empty, we can all have the promise of eternal life. No matter how devastating this pandemic is, no matter what happens to you or me, no matter what depths of tragedy or pain we face, the resurrection of Jesus Christ promises us an eternal future.
Pastor and author, Chuck Swindoll once said, "The devil, darkness, and death may swagger and boast, the pangs of life will sting for a while longer, but don’t worry; the forces of evil are breathing their last. Not to worry . . . . He’s risen!