Be Not Afraid, or Thoughts on the Coronavirus

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

We live in troubling times. In fact, it often seems like our world is on the brink of collapse, and that civilization as we know it is on the precipice of the point-of-no-return. Our current crisis, the coronavirus, has the entire world on edge. According to Fox News, an astounding 793 people died in 24 hours in Italy. In the midst of these times, it is easy to view the matter much as Captain Nemo saw things when his beloved Nautilus was trapped in the Antarctic Ice: there is nowhere to go but down. In fact, the easiest course of action is to allow the panic and dread to overcome us and drag us down into the ocean of despair. Thankfully, our Captain is no mere man, but the Lord Jesus Christ; and He has left us with words of comfort and hope that are beyond any circumstance of this world.

After telling His apostles that He would be leaving to prepare a place for them, imagine the distress that must have seeped up into their hearts. They had left everything to follow Him, they had endured mocking and scorn, they were eagerly and joyfully awaiting the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. And now the One they had given their lives for was leaving them. Yet, the Lord Jesus comforted them with these words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

What is this peace that Jesus left with us? It is none other than peace with God. You see, the fundamental need of humanity is not safety from worldly circumstances, but safety from God and safety with God. All of us are born enemies of God; our natural state is in Adam, and in Adam all die. But thanks be to God, who while we were yet His enemies sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, so that being justified by faith in Christ, we may have peace with God (see Romans 5)! Because we have this peace, because God is now our Father as well as our Lord, we are able say with Paul, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Now, take note of the method in which the Lord Jesus gives us His peace. He puts it to us as a negative statement: “not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” The world gives only temporarily. Everything that world has to offer will pass away and turn to dust. Even the noble things of this world are temporal. But the peace of Christ is everlasting; since the sacrifice of Christ was a perfect offering, the peace He accomplished by it is perfect, meaning that it will not end. After World War One, the Allied powers brokered peace with the Central Powers, most notably Germany. This was the war to end all wars, the final great war, and afterwards there would be lasting peace; so said the dreamers. Only twenty years later, the Nazi party rose to power in Germany and began conquering Europe, leading to World War Two. But the peace of Christ has no end. The enmity between God and the people for whom Christ died has been done away with, so that there will never again be strife between God and His elect. But the world also gives selfishly. When the world gives, it demands something in return. I can’t help but think of the movie The Godfather. At the beginning of the movie, an undertaker comes to Don Corleone (“on this, the day of my daughter’s wedding”) and asks for a favor. The Don grants the favor, but tells the undertaker that one day he will come to cash in this favor. That is how the world gives. But that is not how Christ gives. You see, Christ grants peace because He loves His people. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

And so, because of the love of Christ and the peace that we have with God, our hearts are not troubled, neither are they afraid. There is nothing that can end this peace or this love, not even a deadly global pandemic. The same One who gave Himself for us is the One who ordaineth all things whatsoever cometh to pass, as the confession puts it. So, Christian, do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid. There is nothing in this world that can put your mind at ease; instead, look to Jesus and find peace in the midst of trouble. As the great St. Augustine said, “our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Confessions 1.1.1, found here).

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