A Microscopic Killer Gone Viral
*Editor’s Note: The following is the introduction to a timely book by Dr. Scott Sager called Jesus in Isolation: Lazarus, Viruses, and Us. As you read the following excerpt from the book, be encouraged that seasons of isolation are nothing new and that Jesus meets us in our times of isolation and grief. We also encourage you to check out the book.
[Jesus] came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else. —C. S. Lewis
Isolation. It’s God’s gift most of us never wanted. And quite frankly, we’re tired of it now.
During the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic our entire civilization has been in isolation; we see its effects daily in nursing homes, in ER wards, in the unemployment lines, on bank statements, and, most sadly, in newspaper obituaries.
Ours is what C. S. Lewis called a “grief observed”—but uniquely this grief is being experienced in isolation, all alone. The social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, and hygiene protocols have not stopped the decimation brought upon communities, small businesses, and churches. People are still getting infected by the virus, and while some show no symptoms at all, others soon find themselves in a hospital ER on oxygen and a ventilator. Many never come off.
The world watches on in a collective grief—but watches suspended in personal isolation.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease first identified in Wuhan, a city of over twelve million people. From Wuhan, the virus mutated and has spread globally, resulting in an ongoing pandemic the world has not seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. The viral pandemic is accountable for more deaths than will ever be known, as well as the cratering of economies around the world. As the entire world deals with “loss” of every kind, a universal and collective grief is observed. COVID-19 has left no one untouched—and has left no one not feeling isolated.
Attempts are now underway to ascertain the exact cause of this viral contagion that has decimated the planet from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Many theories involve a wild horseshoe bat as the unaffected carrier of the virus; the evil contagion lived inside the bat without affect. But the virus somehow spread from the bat to “patient zero,” who originated the spread among humans. The transmission could have occurred in the wild, or through a failure to observe biosafety protocols during research. Many think the spread began to multiply through contact at a wet market in Wuhan.
Although we may never know the origin of the viral contagion COVID-19, we do know from whence it originated. The first violation of safety standards occurred not in a lab in Wuhan, but in a garden somewhere in modern Iraq, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
From there a serpent, later called Satan, infected Adam as “patient zero” with the deadly disease called “sin.” The consequences of that act brought forth a viral set of contagions of various strains that infected the entire human race with a spiritual virus resulting in sure and certain death. No one could stand up to the disease, and there was no known cure. Through Adam and Eve, we have all received sin’s viral contagion, and death is the grim result apart from a vaccine.
But there was no “Operation Warp-Speed” for this virus; nothing mankind could do served as a vaccine to stem the continued spread. The curve continued to spike and the global infection rate neared 100 percent. But then Jesus entered the world as the God-man, as God the Father’s response to the human condition. He did not come dressed in a hazmat suit with an n-95 mask and protective shield, but wrapped in rags and lying in a manger.
C.S. Lewis explains it best in saying that Jesus “came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection.’ Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
The apostle Paul earlier explained it this way,
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor 4:10–11).
The book Jesus in Isolation is the story of how Jesus takes away the bad infection and replaces it with himself as the good infection. It happens in isolation, but to bring the good infection to the entire human race. Through the story of Jesus and Lazarus, we find our own isolation is far more than merely a nuisance; we find it is part of the cure. Through his own isolation, Jesus takes upon himself the sickness of us all; he absorbs it as his own.
This is your invitation to join Jesus where sickness, death, grief, and isolation take center stage. Perhaps no other story in the life of Jesus speaks to our COVID-19 world like John 11 does in this day. In a world search for saviors and heroes, Jesus is the true hero of Lazarus’ story—and every other story as well. . . .
In Jesus, our grief has been more than observed—it has been absorbed into himself.
Unimaginable moments of grief lie ahead for every believer—it is an unavoidable part of Christian living. That said, we need to live in that space well, as the world observes our isolation and our grief. But we live in that space also knowing that in Jesus, our grief has been more than observed—it has been absorbed into himself. Jesus “has borne our sorrows and carried our grief,” and only through him do we discover a sense of healing and hope.
(From “Introduction” to Scott Sager, Jesus in Isolation: Lazarus, Viruses, and Us (Wipf and Stock, 2021).