I preached this message on 1 December 2019, the first Sunday in Advent, but did not have a chance at that time to publish it. I thought today would be a good day to post it, given that so many people in South Africa and globally are staying away from church to promote physical distancing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In the recording, I apply the message to Aids and violence against women and against children. But in this blog, I apply it to the Coronavirus.
This message draws on Matthew 24:36-44, where Jesus speaks about That Day when he will return – one day still in the future (as of writing this blog!). Jesus’ teaching in his passage tells us two main things:
First, God does not want us to know when he will return again.
Indeed, he explains that NO-ONE knows. Not even the angels. Not even the Son of Man! If God wanted us to know, God would have told us. Or at very least, God would have told the Son. This means for us:
- We need to stop worrying about when he is going to come back and should stop believing people who think they’ve worked out the date.
- We need to believe and accept that Jesus WILL return. One day, perhaps not in our lifetime, or perhaps tonight, he will return.
Second, Jesus’ return will be unexpected.
Whenever it is that he returns, we will be caught off guard. Jesus uses the story of Noah and the flood as an example – in those days, life was just going on as usual. There were no signs to warn anyone of the flood, until the day the flood started – then it came unexpectedly. This means for us:
- “Therefore, keep watch” – stay awake, be alert – so that when Jesus comes, we will awake to see him.
- And keep watch not for the signs, but rather for Jesus himself. It is for Jesus we need to keep a lookout.
During this time of the Coronavirus – as we watch the death toll rise by the hundreds day by day, and as we experience countries closing borders, hear of people stopping work, see the empty streets – we may think that these are the signs of the end times.
But no! Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 clearly indicates that because we might think these are the signs, he will not be coming back now. If we are expecting him to return, he is not returning.
There are many things we may learn from Coronavirus, but it is not about the End Times. Rather, it is about the present times. What may we learn?
- We may learn how reversable the negative impact of humanity on the environment might be.
- We may learn how important human relationships are, while we have to keep away from each other.
- We may recognise the vulnerability of certain groups of people, such as those in precarious employment, older persons and single parents.
- We may learn that we are not really in control of the planet and that nature can, if it wants, profoundly disrupt human society.
These are not lessons for the End Times. Rather, they are lessons for the present time and for life after the Coronavirus. Just imagine how stupid we’d have to be to exit the Coronavirus crisis and revert to our former ways of living. How dumb would be? I don’t believe God has sent this virus to punish or teach us. But I do believe God desires us to learn something important from this virus.
The summary of this message:
Live your life in such a way that, when you are surprised by Christ’s return, you will be ready for him!
Whoever has ears, let them listen!