[A summary of Paul Helm’s article, Coronavirus19 – What is it For? His words in italics]
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞
When questioned about the incidents where (1) Pilate killed some Galileans and mingled their blood with their sacrifices and (2) eighteen Jews died in an accident when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, Jesus retorted, ‘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, unless you repent. You will all likewise perish’. (Luke 13: 1-3) These words are offensive to unbelievers.
The references to sin and guilt and repentance will put them off. But a contemporary Jesus – follower, who values Jesus’s words, should he not value these words? But no one, or scarcely one, of his followers today, quotes them, but shuns them. Jesus is silenced. When there are references, to sin, evil and judgment to come, there is a deafening silence. A person who respects Jesus’ words sees the purpose of the Coronavirus plague and other such evils as prompts to reflection and penitence, for Jesus calls all people are called to penitence for their evils even if, outwardly respectable, they convince themselves that they have no such need.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐮𝐚𝐥, 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞
Jesus healing of a blind boy on Sabbath caused a controversy (John 9). Earlier his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
There is a common mindset in both examples, that evils occur as God’s punishment for evil. One difference between these stories and (as we are seeing) the reactions of the contemporary liberal and secular mindset, are obvious. Who needs to repent and to come to Christ for forgiveness? We must not forget that the call to repentance was prominent at the beginning of Jesus’, and of John the Baptist’s, ministries. (Matthew 3) For ignorance of the need for repentance is in sharp contrast to that of Jesus attitude. For a modern person, plagues have a cause, of course, but their occurrence seems random. They elicit a response, hundreds of responses, of loss and of fearfulness, as we are seeing, but they are otherwise mute.They are not to affect us spiritually.
For Jesus and those who trust him, like the beggar lad of John 9, the occurrences of evils speak. More precisely, for Jesus they speak, like the tragedy of the fall of the tower of Siloam. And what they say is of importance to him. Somehow, they too, are to elicit faith…
The blind boy believed in Christ after he was healed. The Pharisees were only interested in accusing Jesus to be a Sabbath-breaker. But Jesus gave the final word: ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind’.
The Current Plague
Prompted by the current plague, we have turned to some of the words of Jesus. You’ll find that at such time some emphasise this and that bit of the Bible. Here I have gone to the very words of Christ about affliction and loss, the words of him who was ‘conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Pontius Pilate, was crucified , dead, and buried’. We have looked at two sorts of affliction, public and individual. Jesus did not react as the Puritans, who thought of the occurrence of plagues (including the London plague of 1645), as a society-wide divine punishment.
Here surely they forgot that whatever purpose plagues played in the O.T., we should hold to the fact that now the people of God are no longer ‘slaves’ but ‘sons’ (Gal. 4.3), Jesus taught that evils act as ‘reminders’ or as warnings of human mortality and weakness and need, and of the personal accountability before God of each of us. As we get older, such reminders are gradual, and increasingly persistent, occasional; at other times they are spectacular, as currently. As Paul said when he was in Athens, ‘He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead’. (Acts 17.31) We should judge that like then, as now, some people will mock, while others reacted like those mentioned by Luke, ‘some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman Damaris and others with them.’ (Acts 17.34)
Source: Paul Helm, Coronavirus19 – What is it For?
The original is better.