In August of this year, it was announced that the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States had passed the accepted death toll of the Civil War: approximately 655,000 total. It took a little over a month for the death toll to increase past that of the 1918 outbreak of Spanish flu: 675,000.
This officially makes our current and ongoing pandemic the single largest mass-casualty event in the history of the United States. It is a staggering loss of life, and one which, as it continues to increase, cannot help but touch each remaining life in some way as we experience the loss of loved ones and struggle as a society to deal with such a historic event.
In the midst of such death, we have the hope offered by vaccines. Offered to all, free of charge, it seems almost incredible that there are still some so resistant to accepting a simple gift which could serve to protect both themselves and those they love from a disease proven to be both debilitating and deadly. Yet such is human nature.
When we think of healing from disease, there was never a better healer than Jesus. There was literally no disease or physical condition that He could not cure. He could cure blindness, deafness, the lame, the palsied and any other affliction. Nor did He show great partiality in His healing, tending to both rich and poor alike, regardless of station. About the only thing that Jesus seemingly required in order to heal the afflicted was that He be asked.
Very early in the ministry of Jesus, people recognized the opportunity provided by the presence of Jesus, and were willing to make the effort to go to Him and ask to be healed. We read, “So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24; ESV)” Later, as He began His ministry in Capernaum: “That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick (Matthew 8:16; ESV).”
Even when Jesus traveled into nearby Gentile territories, His fame preceded Him. “When the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. (Matthew 14:34-36)”
Yet there was one place where Jesus did not do a lot of healing: His hometown of Nazareth. Everywhere else Jesus went around Galilee, men were eager to bring their sick to Him, but when He came to Nazareth, the people there grew offended at Him, and in their offense they refused to come to Him for teaching, and for healing. And thus we are told in the Gospels, “He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6; ESV)” It is astonishing to think that the men of Nazareth had the chance to be healed of any affliction they might have, but because their hearts were too hard to simply come to Jesus and ask to be healed, they chose to remain sick.
Many, reading this, would announce that, had they been alive in the days of Jesus, they most certainly would have gone to Him, but one suspects that human nature being what it is, many today would find reason not to go. This becomes especially obvious when we observe so many failing to take advantage of that which Jesus continues to offer.
Sin is a worse condition than any other, being fatal in its condemnation and inescapable through human endeavors. Yet Jesus offers us healing and salvation from our sins. His blood, given on the Cross, offers the forgiveness of sins. His eternal life, lived in heaven, offers us hope of the resurrection. His Spirit, guiding us through the Word, offers us righteousness, wisdom and direction.
Having this hope before us, what do men do with it? They find reason after reason to reject His grace, refuse to heed His words, and turn away from the salvation He proffers; preferring instead to remain on the road they are already on, too proud and stubborn to change. Why though should we reject the solution to our problems when it is sitting right before us. The smart thing to do is to humbly accept the cure for our situation, letting Christ cleanse us and save us, as we follow Him into eternal life.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.