Devotional and Prayer from Kanishka Raffel
'Lord, the one whom you love is sick.' John 11:3 John’s Gospel records an episode in the life of Jesus which is both deeply personal and powerfully universal. As far as scripture records, Jesus never experienced illness himself. He did however, experience hunger, thirst, the barbarous physical cruelty of flogging and crucifixion. And of course, Jesus experienced death.
Jesus is famously recorded on numerous occasions being swamped with people who were ill or suffering from some mental, physical or demonic affliction. His reputation as a healer was documented even by non-Christian ancient sources.
In John chapter 11 we are given a window on the way in which Jesus was affected by the sickness of others. He evidently had a special and close relationship with the little family of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus in Bethany. When Lazarus is sick, his sisters send word to Jesus: ‘Lord, the one whom you love is sick’. When Jesus comes to Bethany and stands outside the tomb in which the body of Lazarus has been laid for four days, John records, ‘Jesus wept’.
Christianity does not promise its followers a life free from illness. On the contrary, faith in Christ is no protective bubble from the ordinary sorrows and suffering of this fallen world which groans for its liberation from death and decay. The ancient account of the disobedience of the man and the woman in the garden at the beginning has unfolded in myriad cascading sorrows and calamities throughout history. The presence of sickness in the world is a wretched reminder of this continuing reality. But in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians proclaim that there is a new world coming - restored, healed and liberated from disease, decay and death. Jesus demonstrated the presence and power of this new world in his healing of the sick around him and in commanding the dead, including Lazarus, to rise. By his death and resurrection Jesus secured the certainty of that coming, future world as its King and Redeemer.
So, what does all this mean, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic? First, Christians approach this crisis with confidence that in life and death, Jesus is Lord. Nothing is more pressing than reconciliation with him, nothing is more wonderful than the promise of his presence with his people in this life and the next. As a result, second, we may live in times of crisis not in fear or anxiety but in prayerful trust and loving service of others. We take action on the basis of what will honour Christ and serve our neighbour, we resist temptations to selfishness or neglect of others.
It’s important to be as well informed as we can be. At St Andrew's Cathedral we are following government and health service advice, and have implemented a range of practical measures to keep people well. These are listed in the service bulletins and Cathedral emails. Those who have travelled or are unwell are self-isolating temporarily. We are encouraging everyone to be wise, take advantage of hygiene routines and minimise physical contact. We’ll keep people advised by sms and online of further developments.
*Inspired by JC Ryle's classic essay on 'Sickness'.
Pray with us:
you are the hope and healer of your people and have promised a world where there is no more sickness or crying or death. By your death and resurrection, you have set your people free from the penalty of sin and death.
We pray your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Please prosper the work of those who are seeking a vaccine for the coronavirus, please strengthen those who are treating the sick, please comfort those who are mourning the loss of loved ones or living in fear of this disease.
Please give to governing authorities wisdom in their management of this crisis, and give to all people your peace beyond understanding, generous and wise hearts and a renewed trust in your sovereign goodness and glory.
Turn the hearts of many now experiencing fear and anxiety that they may find that peace which is the fruit of the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray,
Dean St Andrew’s Cathedral