Coronavirus. COVID-19. Whatever you call it, it’s hard to think of anything else in these days besides the coronavirus pandemic. It affects every aspect of our lives. Every part of the globe is threatened. There is no escape. Yet as a Christian, I am called to live in a bigger picture. The Apostle Paul reminds me that my life is not ruled by the powers and pandemics of the world. He calls me to stand on the ground that is found in Christ. So, as I try to focus more on God than on my fears or my newsfeed, I am reminded that according to the Church calendar, I still live in the season of Lent. Lent is the season of somber preparation. A time of fasting which ends with the joyful resurrection of Easter. And Holy Week will soon be here. That got me thinking about Jesus and his Passion, and more specifically, about the events leading up to his crucifixion.
Images of the crucifixion portray a bloodied and battered Jesus hanging on the cross. On his head is a crown of thorns. And then it hit me. Crown. Corona. The word corona means crown. A corona is a crown shaped structure. This particular virus is called the Corona Virus because of its shape. The spikes on the surface of the virus give its name, corona, or crown. The crown of thorns was part of Jesus’ suffering. The guards in charge of his execution decided to abuse and humiliate him even before they moved on to crucify him. After Pilate pronounced his death sentence, even as his followers were still in shock and horrified disbelief, they took thorns and wove a crown and placed it on his head to mock his authority and torture him. (Matthew 27:29). Hail, King of the Jews, they scoffed as blood trickled down his head from the spikes of his crown. They went on to force him, his body lacerated and bleeding, to carry the weight of his cross through the streets. Driving the nails through his hands and feet, they hoisted him on the cross. Hanging beaten and bloody, he had to push himself upright to catch his breath placing excruciating pressure on his pierced feet. Corona virus attacks the lungs, so that its victims cannot breathe without the aid of a ventilator. Jesus endured the horror of suffocating to death. As Christians, we know Jesus took our sins upon himself and suffered and died for us. We are saved because of his intense suffering. Isaiah prophesied about the Suffering Servant. (Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah 53). Jesus knew that his suffering would accomplish our salvation. That knowledge, however, didn’t eliminate or even reduce the suffering. The truth is that hidden within the suffering was the accomplishment of God’s divine plan. That somehow, suffering was the way that redemption would be obtained.
Suffering does not appeal to me! It terrifies me! I want to be protected from suffering, not delivered through suffering!
Suffering does not appeal to me! It terrifies me! I want to be protected from suffering, not delivered through suffering! Our culture is devoted to the amelioration of suffering – which is a good thing! I am so grateful for medical advances, for comfort, for food and shelter. And yet…it is on the cross of suffering, wearing the ‘corona of thorns’, that Jesus won the victory over death. In this time of fear and uncertainty, wondering who will suffer and die, Jesus invites me to walk in His victory. He invites me to pick up my cross and follow him. (Luke 9:23) The cross of Christ is a gruesome window into the heart of the loving God. What will the corona virus reveal about my heart? Will I love into the suffering? Will I be willing to endure – or will I run and hide? Even now, only a few weeks into a pandemic that could last months, I can’t bear the thought of my youngest daughter, who graduated nursing school less than a year ago, contracting the virus as she works mandated overtime in her Intensive-Care-turned-Corona-Virus-Ward. The concern for my granddaughter who will be born at the peak of the pandemic. Or the homeless teenager living in his car after being exposed to the virus at his job. And there are others whose sufferings are even worse, so much worse.
At this point in time, I don’t yet know the extent of how the corona virus will affect me, my friends and community, or the world. The crown of thorns was only the beginning of Christ’s Passion. I stand at the foot of the cross, knowing the victory is coming, but still pierced with the pain of not knowing when or how. Yet, at the end of the day, there is one truth that comforts and strengthens me. My ‘corona of thorns’ Christ reveals the heart of my suffering and loving God. The God who suffers with us. The One who suffered for us. The One who does not leave us to suffer alone, but who turned a crown of thorns into the crown of life. A crown of life that will not fade away, but lead to everlasting joy.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. –James 1:12 (NIV)
Alice is a Spiritual Director who lives in southern Maryland. After serving as a Vineyard pastor for nineteen years she now leads Healing Care groups, a Rooted cohort and offers Spiritual Direction for three church communities. She has Certificates in Formational Prayer and in Spiritual Direction from Healing Care Ministries. Alice has also been an Associate working with HCM’s Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction program since 2017. Born in Canada she received her M.A. in International Affairs before moving to the Washington D.C. area where she resides with her husband and her son’s giant dog.