Chuck Hetzler, Ph.D., has a diverse background as a biblical scholar, worship leader, and pastor. He served as Christian Union’s first Teaching Fellow at Princeton University and later directed its ministry in New York City. Chuck earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently pastors Bethesda Grace Church in Manhattan.
What should we say when there's a great natural disaster or a widespread calamity like the coronavirus? I want to tell you what Jesus said to those who asked Him a similar question. I'm Chuck Hetzler with Christian Union Day and Night, and Pastor of Bethesda Grace Church in New York City. Many people are wondering what is going on in our world. What is God trying to say to us? Jesus was asked a similar question about a local tragedy that happened in His day.
I want to read you what he said in Luke 13:1-5. It goes like this: "There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will [all] likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Wow, when Jesus himself is asked about a natural disaster, He doesn't first give words of comfort and hope and assurance. There is a time and a place for that. Absolutely, yes. God's word is filled with those kinds of assurances to those who trust Him. That we can be sure that God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will shelter us from the storm.
Yet, Jesus's first word to those who asked Him, "What do you say about this regional disaster that took place—this massacre, that Pilate unjustly killed so many people—what do you say about it?" Jesus says—before he gives words of comfort and love, even though he's the most compassionate person that ever walked the face of the earth—He says, "Let me tell you something, this example of the mortality of life tells us the biggest lesson that every person needs to know and that is: repent, because you need to be prepared. Not just for a natural disaster that might take out the lives of a few people randomly, so to speak. You need to be ready for the global coming judgment day, where no one will be able to escape the calamity that will come from the wrath of God on those who have not repented."
It's the truth. And Jesus wants us to know how we can escape. And we need to remind ourselves and walk in repentance and faith. And we need to remind other people and tell them and urge them, "Look, I know this coronavirus is bad, but let me tell you, this is a reminder that your life will end and you will stand before God." Repent now, so you'll be ready then. And you'll be hidden in Christ from the storm of judgment that will come upon the world. Upon those who do not know Christ. So there are many things that we want to say to people during these times—these times of crisis, these times of difficulty—but let us not miss the most important word that we need to share with them. And that is a loving call to repent and give their lives to Jesus Christ.