It is passion week, which normally is a week marked by church pageantry and festivities to commemorate the final week of Christ’s earthly ministry leading up to the crucifixion. However, here in the year 2020, or potentially what will one day be known as the year of the Coronavirus, things have been anything but normal. Seeing as how the nation (along with much of the world) is presently experiencing government-mandated lock-downs, as a means of mitigating the spread of this life-threatening sickness, many things are not as they once were. Along with the stay-at-home mandates, there inevitably comes a rise in depression, which sadly leads to an increase in suicide rates. A recent article in Scientific American entitled COVID-19 Is Likely to Lead to an Increase in Suicides, demonstrates this very fact. The article states, “Historically, disease pandemics have been associated with grave psychological consequences,” psychological issues which develop from an overwhelming sense of fear, grief, and anxiety. As the church prepares to celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus, these difficult days will likely cause us to consider more carefully the implications of the cross. For the message of the gospel (which means “good news”) is one that brings hope to the hopeless and peace to those enslaved to fear. The reason for which Jesus would go to the cross was to restore that which was lost, to heal that which was broken, to save that which was damned. There is no greater message in all the world than the message of the cross. But for the world to be able to receive the gospel, they must first be exposed to the judgment of God which inevitably awaits all of humanity that does not by faith believe in the risen Savior. As a result of the sins of Adam and Eve, the entire human race has fallen and is inherently sinful. Every person will individually be held accountable and responsible for their own sinfulness. This is bad news for the human race, as the Bible declares that “the wages of sin is death.” When one who is gripped by fear and anxiety considers death as a means of escaping the worries of this world, they reveal their ignorance of the events which transpire once one has passed from this life. For those who die outside of Christ, there is no hope, there is no rescue, there is no relief, there is no comfort, and there is no escape. The wrath of God is poured out on unrepentant sinners in the flames of the lake of eternal fire.
John 3:36 states:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Revelation 20:15 clearly states:
“And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
2 Thessalonians 1:9 states:
“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
In other words, the torments of this life pale in comparison to that which awaits the unrepentant sinner in hell. Every human being deserves hell, we are all by nature wicked and deserving of God’s righteous wrath. However, God is a merciful God, and He sent His Son to die on the cross in our place. The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:1-10:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The message of the cross is necessary for all of mankind to hear and heed. It is the most precious truth and the most important declaration anyone could ever receive. It is vital to genuine life and it is how the fallen world is restored unto God. Furthermore, it is the Church’s responsibility to carry the message of the cross and proclaim it to the world. It ought not to be sugarcoated nor should anything be added to it. It is not a message produced by the wisdom of man, but it is simple and bears the power of almighty God. For this reason, the apostle Paul declared to the church in Corinth:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” -2 Corinthians 2:1-5
If you or someone you know is gripped with fear, please do not consider suicide an option. Taking your life will only serve to thrust you into the condemnation that awaits those whose names are not found in the Lamb’s book of life. The only way to receive true and lasting peace is in the salvation made possible through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus. His blood was shed to rescue sinners from the wrath of God to come. For when we by faith repent of our sins and believe on the name of Christ Jesus, we are forgiven and clothed in the perfect peace of Christ.
1 John 1:9 declares:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
This passion week, while the church is unable to gather in person, I hope and pray that it gives us the time we need to reflect on own our lives, on how faithful we have been to live for Christ and to proclaim the message of the cross. May we not act as though we are ignorant of the judgment that awaits unbelievers. Many are in need of being led to the cross. May we be a people that love others and see them, though living in sin, as those crying out “lead me to the cross” and faithfully carry out that plea. In all things may God be praised!
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.