REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 70: The pandemic through resurrection lenses.
A friend wrote that his wife’s cataract surgery: has brought new life to old eyes. Wonderful! This was good news indeed. Even better news: the bodily third day resurrection of Jesus Christ. The empty cross and the empty tomb are the lens which redefine real reality. Sin really matters; so much so that within the Godhead the demands of holy justice and Divine love were settled at the Cross. The empty tomb is God’s resounding affirmative answer to Jesus’s triumphant it is finished [John 19:28] and the validation of all of his promises – promises that will give us ‘big picture’, 20/20 vision and a worldview framework that helps us make sense of the small details that often do not make sense to us, and conspire to throw us off course. A clear grasp of the big picture will help us handle, even thrive in, the confusing and hard times. The big picture is clarified in these short quotations:
- He came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. [Anon]
- The cross is the crystallized love of God. [Toyohiko Kagawa]
- For the cross was a demonstration or public revelation as well as an achievement. It not only accomplished the propitiation of God and the redemption of sinners; it also vindicated the justice of God. [John Stott]
- We are living in a world in which, for all its sin and sadness, Christ has left one gaping tomb in earth’s wide graveyard…an event of apparently small importance whose consequences are incalculable. [A M Hunter]
- Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection. [Watchman Nee]
- Christ himself deliberately staked his whole claim to the credit of men upon his resurrection. When asked for a single sign he pointed to this sign as his single and sufficient credential. [B.B. Warfield]
- If the resurrection of Jesus is true then it is the supreme fact of history; and to fail to adjust one’s life to its implications means irreparable loss. [J N D Anderson]
How does this help us, not only cope with, but mature in pandemics and personal trials alike? We are assured that sin and death, though firmly entrenched in our world, need not have the last word. The triumph of the cross was the obedience of the second Adam and his dealing with sin’s penalty. His triumph over death on resurrection morning assures us that God is not only in control, but can be trusted in every circumstance, and ultimately, at his return in glory, the new heavens and new earth will totally replace this old order of things [Rom 8:18-25, 2 Pet 3:8-18]. In the meantime he can be counted upon to sustain and transform us [Rom 8:26-39, 2 Cor 4:16-18, Col 3:1-17].
Pandemics [along with persecution, pain, problems, pressures and pleasures] will continue until Christ’s return. Each, especially for those of us in West weakened by pleasures, will be used by Satan to trick us into thinking that God has given us a raw deal and no longer loves us or can be trusted. The resurrection of Jesus focuses our thoughts and hearts on Jesus [Col 3:1-4]. We look back confidently to the cross as the main demonstration of his love. We look back to our conversion as the Holy Spirit’s great miracle in us, since he convicted us of our sin and convinced us of Christ’s marvellous atonement for our sins. We look back to Christ’s resurrection as it affirms his uniqueness and faithfulness, for forgiveness and access to our Father’s throne of grace. All this means we can look to the future with confidence [John 6:35-40, Romans 8:37-39], thankfulness and joyful prayerfulness [1 Thess 5:16-18] since trials, far from being obstacles, are signs of his Fatherly love and discipline [Heb 12:1-13]. As such they are best seen as stepping stones to character building maturity, service and experience of his love [Rom 5:1-5, 2 Cor 1:3-7, 12:7-10, Jam 1:2-8, 1 Pet 1:3-7]. Each of these reflects our Lord’s teaching encapsulated in John 15:18-21 and 16:33.This 20/20 vision reminds us that the pandemic has changed nothing of substance for the believer [nor for the unbeliever, save the heightened reminder that they/we are not in control]. As a result we never doubt in the dark what we have learnt in the light.
But of course there is far more. Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee that at death we enter immediately into Heaven and at his return we come with him on that great day to share his vindication, to receive our imperishable new bodies fit for the transformed new heaven and earth and continue to live in fellowship with our Father [Jn 14:1-6] in the home of righteousness [2 Pet 3:13]. There will be no penalty for sin, with its power and presence removed forever [Rev 21-22]. Such promises keep us from groaning, aimlessness and hopelessness, captivating us instead by God’s gracious love, ennobling call and winsome promises [Jn 12:23-26, 2 Tim 4:6-8, Phil 3:12, 3:17-4:1, 1 Pet 2:9-10].
Peter Brain 6th April, 2021