The same is true of all we are enduring today. Some may hold that what we experience in this time of pandemic and stay at home orders is a product of random chance. But it’s not. Our gracious God is still in charge, and He still works all things for the good of those who love Him and those who are yet to love Him. God works all things according to plan.
In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther helps us put things in perspective—the things we just heard in the Passion reading, the things we will celebrate this week, and things going on in the world. And Luther does this in one brilliant gem of a paragraph as he explains the Second Article of the Creed (Large Catechism, II:28-30). Let’s walk through it.
First, Luther writes: “For when we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil [Genesis 3].” God did not create the sin, death and evil. God did not invent viruses or unleash brokenness. All of that came by way of us disobedient humans spurred on by the devil. No, God created all things good—His world, His light, His sky and sea, His dry land, His sun, moon and stars, His fish and birds, His animals and His dearly loved humans. “All kinds of good,” as Luther said. So all of the sickness, the brokenness, the doubts, the fears, the mistrust and even death itself—that’s all on us. And yet God still works all kinds of good. He even does so by means of this broken, fallen world full of suffering. He even uses diseases and pandemics to bring us back to Him in repentance.
Next, Luther writes, “So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved.” Don’t picture God’s wrath and displeasure as something erupting from a short-fused tyrant. Instead, picture it as a loving parent’s response when a deadly disease takes control of their child. “I hate it! It angers me what this disease is doing to my child!” That’s God’s wrath. Yes, burning and justly so. But also coming forth out of love for His fallen creatures.
Now ponder what happened to Jesus on the way to Calvary and while hanging on that cross. That should have been you, me and every human being. That’s what we all deserve for our disobedience, mistrust, and rebellion against our loving Creator. It puts the proper perspective on all we suffer in this broken world. Whether it’s natural disasters, terrorist attacks or deadly plagues, we cannot say that we do not deserve it. We do. When such things happen, we remember Jesus’ words: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3).
And yet, despite what we truly deserve, our Father shows and gives His deep, eternal mercy through His Son. Next, Luther writes: “There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9].” Remember St. Paul’s wonderful words: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In God’s mercy you do not get what you truly deserve—punishment for your mistrust and lack of love. In His grace you richly receive what you really don’t deserve—the righteousness, forgiveness and life of God.
Luther explains more: “So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1–2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace.” Because of Jesus’ bitter pains, torment and death, there is now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus. You are now free from the law of sin and death.
In Christ, you are now free from all fear—all fear of God’s wrath and punishment, all fear of whatever you may suffer in this broken world. In Christ, you are now free to live in repentance—repentance for your own sins and shortcomings, repentance when you suffer things you cannot control. In Christ, you are now free to rejoice—rejoice “though now for a little while…you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Pet. 1:6), rejoice that in your Suffering Savior you have the hope of the glory of God. Since the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!
Finally, Luther writes of the glorious goal of God’s eternal plan: “He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3–4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.” Because Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, because He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, we have peace with God. With His wounds you are healed. Now you belong to Him. Now you live under Him in His kingdom. Now you may serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
When your own sins of thought, word and deed plague you, know that your Lord Jesus is your refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. When this current pandemic frightens you and leads you to worry, take refuge under the shelter of God’s protective wings (Ps. 61:3-4). Your almighty God is in control of all things and all things proceed according to His plan. He has obviously allowed this pandemic to befall us. Never forget: He is still in charge when we clearly are not. Our sin and our current pandemic may be overwhelming for us; but for Him they are not. Your Lord who suffered and died for you to bring you all kinds of good will not allow even a pandemic to separate you from His love or His life from you.
Now He who bore for mortals’ sakeAmen.
The cross and all its pains
And chose a servant’s form to take,
The King of glory reigns.
Hosanna to the Savior’s name
Till heaven’s rafters ring,
And all the ransomed host proclaim
“Behold, behold your King!” (LSB 444:4)