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COVID-19 and Preaching Jesus’ Resurrection

COVID-19 and Preaching Jesus’ Resurrection
Image: Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

I’m writing this a day after the United States recorded over 213,000 cases of COVID-19. Nobody can tell us how this disease will progress or diminish. But the major media outlets are blaring the following headlines:

-Without Urgent Action, Coronavirus Could Overwhelm U.S., Estimates Say

-Global Corona Virus Cases Top One Million As Economic Toll Mounts

-‘Chilling’ Plans: Who Gets Care as Washington State Hospitals Fill Up?

-U.S. Jobless Claims Soared to a Stunning 6.6 Million Last Week

A mere six weeks ago, the global economy was bursting with growth. Stocks were soaring. Our globally connected world felt invulnerable. Most of us were already making plans for our summer vacations. Death, “the last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26)? Hardly. We’re all doing fine on planet earth.

But despite our scientific and technological prowess we can’t conquer the profound fragility and vulnerability of life on this fallen planet. As we’re all discovering with profound humility, our global economy and supply chains are deeply fragile. Our relationships are fragile. Our political process is fragile. The rapid spread of the virus overwhelmed some of Europe’s most advanced medical systems. The director of a hospital in Spain, traumatized by the images of the emergency care unit where he works, confessed that “we have sinned from too much confidence.” Our bodies and even life itself are deeply vulnerable not only to death but to what the writer of Hebrews called the “fear of death” that makes us “subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15).

Aren’t you glad that this Easter Sunday you get to preach (even if it’s a live stream sermon) what John Stott called “the up to minute relevance of Jesus’ resurrection”? Stott contended, “The Resurrection somehow resonates with our human condition. It speaks to our needs as I reckon no other event of antiquity does, or even could.” In other words, we don’t have to make the resurrection relevant; it already is relevant. We just need to proclaim it and apply it with joy and confidence. Of course, it isn’t just an idea, a concept, or a doctrine—although it is truly a breathtaking and revolutionary doctrine! It is the power of Jesus to usher broken, fragile humanity into his “newness of life” (Rom. 6:3).

As the missionary-scholar Leslie Newbigin succinctly wrote (commenting on Jesus’ raising of Lazarus in John 11):

Resurrection is no longer a mere doctrine: it has a living face and a name. Jesus is himself the presence of the life which is God’s gift beyond death. To be bound to Jesus by faith is to share already now the life which is beyond death. (Leslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come, Eerdmans, p. 142)

Wow! The Resurrection has a living face and a name. Preachers, by God’s grace let’s reveal that living face and declare that death-conquering name!

Matt Woodley is the pastor of compassion ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.

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