Bible Thought: Going Back to Basics
Before the social distancing policies came into place last week, I was trying to finish my morning Bible reading on the Tube. Sadly in this secular society, contrary to the call of Jesus in Mark 8:38 to not be “ashamed of me or my words”, I always feel a little embarrassed to get the Bible out and be reading it in public. Well, not yesterday, not in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. The new confidence I felt was pretty overwhelming. In fact, I do wonder if on the spot I could have offered to pray for all the elderly relatives of the passengers on the Tube and I think they would have agreed. And one or two, I’d imagine, would have dropped with me to their knees.
How this pandemic has taken us back to basics! There are so many ways of interpreting what’s going on but surely one is that our idols have been taken from us, so that we have to focus on our souls. So many good things that had become God things have been removed: the Six Nations rugby and the Premiership, meeting in cafes and restaurants for meals, the health and the gyms that we take for granted, economic prosperity.
All these gifts: sport, health, prosperity, family have been treated as givens. Well, no longer. And our prayer is that like the Prodigal Son in the midst of a famine our friends, loved ones, colleagues and relations will “come to their senses” (Luke 15:17), and will say to themselves, “How could I have been so blind and ungrateful?”
But here is the issue, and it brings us to that all-important verse, Mark 8:31. In the midst of this crisis we have to keep praying that we and others will keep making the move from seeing ourselves as victims to realising that we are primarily rebels. That is why Jesus had to come and die, because we have constantly treated his gifts as givens. So he says to his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and that he must be killed.” The word ‘must’ literally means ‘it is necessary that’, so Jesus knows that it is ‘necessary’ that he goes to the Cross. He must die to bring rebels back into relationship with the God they have unrelentingly defied.
Jesus says either you will have to pay the penalty for sin, or I will. Sin always entails a penalty, guilt can’t be dealt with unless someone pays, so the only way for God to pardon us and not judge us, is to go to the Cross and absorb our sin into himself. The question is will we come to our senses and allow this pandemic to reveal our idolatry to us?
Senior Minister (Evangelism)