Sanjay Patel, Elder
Light of Easter Sunday: Responding to Covid-19
The editor for our blog has been asking me for months if I could write a blog entry. I keep telling him yes, I will, but that time never came. Well, now that I am home more, like all of us, I’ve finally been able to really think about what I can write.
Today in our Easter message from Mark 16:1-8, Pastor Peter addressed the question, what is our ultimate authority or who is our ultimate authority during times of fear and anxiety. Our response during times of fear will reveal who we really are and who we trust the most. Sadly, often we start to look at ourselves to fix our situation, we think we are in control. We think we can buy spices, mirth and fancy perfumes to cover our stench so that externally we smell beautiful. But, that naval-gazing attitude will always lead us down the road to destruction. Just like the women in Mark 16:8 we will flee in fear. The angel in the tomb was leading them towards another path, “He is risen!” “He is not in the tomb,” “just as Jesus told you.” We are not to trust in our own wisdom, we trust in Jesus! That is the point. Follow Him and not what you think is right or wrong.
I bring up our Easter sermon because all of us to a certain degree are struggling with trust in God, having been affected by Covid-19 and the coronavirus pandemic. We are all self-isolating in our homes, some having lost our loved one to the virus, some having already lost their jobs, many businesses closed or at the verge of closing. We are all concerned about the possibility of being infected by the virus and in turn infecting our loved ones who may be more vulnerable to dying by the virus. We are all affected, and we are all worried and we all feel vulnerable at this point in our lives.
The purpose of this entry is to not to ask and answer deep philosophical questions of the existence of evil or pain and how a good God can allow such bad things to occur in this world. I want to simply talk about our response to such ordeals in our lives. I think the question should not be, “Is God with us during the pandemic or does He care for us?” I think the proper question we should ask is, what is our response towards God and his people during this pandemic or for that matter, any other time when we feel vulnerable, anxious or worried about life in general.
I want to think further about our response, by specifically addressing this question in light of John 11:1-46. Here, Jesus talks about how we need to trust in God’s plan and try not to simply understand circumstances in terms of our own wisdom.
In John 11 we have the story of Lazarus’s death and resurrection. I am not going to discuss the entire story, but mainly focus our attention on verses 5 -10. Lazarus is sick, about to die, his sisters Martha and Mary, send word to Jesus who is not in Judea, to come quickly and see Lazarus. Martha and Mary knew if Jesus came to see their brother, he would be healed. They knew Jesus loved them and would run to save Lazarus. In verse 5, we read, “Now Jesus Loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
However, in verse 6, we see that when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Jesus did not run and go immediately to save Lazarus. This calls into question whether Jesus really loved them. If He did, how can He wait like this? Does Jesus not care for the needs of his friends? Is he not concerned about their anxiety and fear?
Then in verse 7, we read, “Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”” Okay, so Jesus delays for two days, meanwhile Lazarus dies, and now Jesus suddenly decides to go to Judea and cause fear and anxiety in the hearts of his disciples? What is Jesus doing? In verse 8, “the disciples said to Jesus, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” I am sure the disciples were probably thinking Lazarus is already dead. Jesus, you didn’t go two days ago, why go now? If we go now you are going to kill all of us.
The disciples quickly dissected the situation, separated the parts they don’t need, gathered the pertinent information and perfectly analyzed the entire situation. Jesus we can’t go, because the Jews will kill us all. We need to stay back and hunker down where we are and let Martha and Mary bury Lazarus.
Thank God, that Jesus is patient and kind beyond our understanding. In verses 9 and 10, Jesus gives us a clear guideline of how we need to respond in every fearful and anxious situation. Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” I never really saw what Jesus was talking about till I heard a podcast in which John Lennox, a Christian math professor at Cambridge, briefly talked about this passage.
In every situation in our lives, we can make a decision based on our subjective (personal) understanding of the circumstance or we can make our decision based on the objective truth of God’s word. Let me explain through John 11:9-10. Jesus tells his disciples if you walk during the day, under the light of the Sun, you will see what is ahead of you and not stumble. You are dependent on an outside source to give you light, namely the Sun as the source of light, so that you can see clearly. However, if you choose to understand situations in your life by your own wisdom, it is like walking at night and you are guaranteed to stumble.
However, we can go a little deeper here with Jesus’s statement. In John 1:9, we read, “there was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” And then, in John 8:12, Jesus claims, “I am the Light of the world, he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the Light of life.” I hope the picture is getting a bit clearer. The Son of God, Jesus is the light that we must use to understand every circumstance in our lives, so that we will not stumble.
But Jesus is not only the Light of the world, He is also the Word of God. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. It is His glory and His Word that must guide us in time of need and trouble. As the Psalmist said in 119, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” So, if the Son is our true objective (outside of ourselves) source of guidance in our decisions, we cannot and will not stumble. What a profound source of strength and confidence in our daily decision making.
The disciples were not trusting Jesus’s plan. He knew exactly what He was doing. He needed to show Martha and Mary, and us, a greater plan of the resurrection. Jesus wanted to address the fear and anxiety in the hearts of his disciples by helping them to understand and to trust not their own understanding but to trust in Him. Jesus knew if they looked inwardly for solutions, they would run in fear and not be witnesses of His kingdom. But He wanted them to be bold and have confidence that their lives have been united to His. For He is the light of the world, He is the Word of God, He is the living water, He is the bread of life, He is the door, He is the true vine, He is the good shepherd, and finally He is the Resurrection and life. And all those who believe in this Jesus will have life eternal.
Brothers and sisters at Theophilus, we may be locked down in our homes, some of us may even get infected with the virus in the future, we may even lose more loved ones. But never forget the hope of the Resurrection. Let Jesus shine and be your guide during these difficult times.