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Now, on to today’s thoughts.
Roughly 1,987 years ago on Sunday, a man named Jesus from a town called Nazareth entered the city of Jerusalem with the crowd crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:13 (ESV). Today, we remember the occasion as Palm Sunday.
We are about to enter Holy Week, the holiest of days for Christians. A week from Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of the risen Lord. A week from today, I will take a break from covering the spread of the virus to focus on Good Friday and Easter. This is a week that should draw our attention. Even atheist scholars acknowledge the events Christians call Good Friday and Easter amount to one of the, if not the, most important events in human history.
But this week will be different from prior Holy Weeks. This year, most of us will not go into churches, but onto the internet to worship online. We will not take communion together, but apart. The world is upended. In our living memories, we have not experienced anything like this. But the world has.
In Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is closed. The church is believed to be built around both the tomb in which Jesus’s body was placed and Golgotha, where he was crucified. The church has not closed its doors indefinitely since 1349 when the Black Plague struck Jerusalem. 671 years later, history repeats itself.
The world may seem undone, upended, disconcerting, and worrying, but consider one point. We do not know precisely the year in which Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem. The historic record notes that he did and that he was crucified. Christians believe he rose again from the dead. But there is something more that gets lost in the message.
Jesus could not have entered Jerusalem a week before or a week after or a year before or five years after the day he entered Jerusalem as a king. His entry and its timing was part of a master plan put in place before time began. In the same way, this virus could not spread without God allowing it and it could not spread when it did except as part of a master plan we do not understand and cannot see. But all of it happens before a throne on which sits the Creator of all things who sees all things and knows all things.
The unbeliever will see this all as random act — a butterfly flapping its wings half a world a way that caused a storm above your house. The Christian knows God created the butterfly and placed it there half a world a way that it might flap its wings.
The unbeliever will see that as us all just puppets. There are, however, no strings attached to you or me. But there is an all-knowing, fully sovereign God, who has a plan for all of us and sets us to it and blesses us with our own volition to see our lives forward on a path he sets that we may not recognize for purposes we may not understand or ever really appreciate. The unfolding of the world is a surprise to us, but not to him. All things are part of a plan that glorifies him and reveals his majesty to us. As R. C. Sproul said, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” Every one of us has free volition, but every one of us also has a purpose. God himself chose each of us in some way to be part of his plan.
In the Book of Amos, God declared that “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me.” (Amos 4:10). Your theology needs to account for this, not randomness. Your theology needs to account for God being so fully in control that he can unleash pestilence himself or stand aside when others unleash it and do so in ways to turn us back to him or otherwise to glorify him. That God is the same God who, through his providence, sent the second person of the trinity to his death in Jerusalem this week 1,987 years ago. We don’t get to escape the fallen world any more than Jesus did.
Some will look and say that makes God malevolent. But those who live by faith must trust that, as J. C. Ryle wrote, “There is no such thing as ‘chance’, ‘luck’, or ‘accident’ in the Christian journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God: and all things are ‘working together’ for the believer’s good.” God is on his throne. He has plan for you, for me, and for human history. We may not know what role this pandemic plays in that plan. We may not know what role we play in that plan. But we can be assured all of this will glorify him and will work for the good of those called according to his purposes. He sits on his throne still sovereignly in control of all things. So do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. God’s got this and he’s got you too.