Things have become really tough for billions of people across the globe, because of something that started thousands of miles away and over which we have no say or control. Despite all of our science-based efforts, it now looks like the nightmare of the past few months is just the beginning, as the virus continues its spread and second waves are already being triggered. Our collective lack of control over this situation only amplifies our feelings of despair and hopelessness. Like the 122 million people that have lost their jobs in India in the past few months and who can no longer feed themselves or their families; the migrant workers trapped in far-away countries not knowing when or if they will be able to return home; the single people that have been trapped alone in quarantine for months without experiencing the touch of a loved one; the elderly and vulnerable who fear for their lives every time they leave their front door to buy groceries or the children who were unable to say goodbye to their parents before they died. The list is depressingly long and it quickly gets overwhelming and has taken so many to breaking point already – whether we are in a crisis ourselves or whether we are alongside someone going through a crisis.
I’ve been seeking the Lord through this time to gain understanding and make sense of it all and I was led to these words of Jesus, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?  “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:42-44) To put this in context, Jesus was speaking to the Jewish religious leaders of the time, who had already knowingly stopped following God and now were on the cusp of acting on their faithlessness by sentencing their potential Saviour to His death on a cross. Jesus’s response was not only a prophecy about their future, but also a challenge to their present state of heart and mind, to make it unequivocally clear that they had a choice to make – now – before it was too late.
But what does this mean to us and why is it relevant at a time when a global pandemic is raging? In the midst of a crisis that has forced us to stop our usual patterns of behaviour, we should also recognise it as an opportunity to take stock of our lives – which we might not do under “normal” circumstances. Seeing many lives lost to a pandemic and the whole world being tipped on its head should bring into focus our own fragility and prompt us to ask the big questions. I believe the one that Jesus raised is the most important one: will we break or will we be broken? This needs some explaining: There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear of a heart-breaking story of someone close to me that is going through incredible struggles and testing – sometimes brought on by the pandemic but other times just amplifying a problem that was already there long beforehand. The last thing I want to do is trivialise this pain, because it is very real and I sometimes wish there was another way, but the point is that either this pain can crush us, or it can be like a stone that we choose to fall upon and then God can use our circumstances for redemptive purposes – no matter how awful they may seem.
This may seem hard, perhaps even unreasonable to you, but it helps to understand what is going on behind the scenes: God has already sent his Son into a world that was broken – irreparably so – long before Corona virus arrived. The weight of sin, which we (man and woman-kind) brought into this world, has been choking us for thousands and thousands of years and it was already an unbearable weight – the Corona virus pandemic has only highlighted the problem. It would be easy for us to apportion blame to try and avoid the real issue – the Chinese, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, the capitalists, the socialists or even the devil himself. Take your pick. But they are not the problem: I am. We are. You are (and yes, They are too, if that makes you feel better!). Despite the fact that we were 100% the cause of the problem, He still took it 100% upon Himself to fix it (because we clearly couldn’t and still can’t). He didn’t fix it by sending us a “get well soon” telegram (or email or TikTok video), nor did he send a messenger or even an emissary to deal with it on His behalf. He sent His only Son to sort out this unholy mess. And He didn’t send Him as a conquering king to wipe us all out (as He rightly and justly could have, given we created this mess – and it would certainly have been easier and less painful for Him personally than the alternative we shall soon learn about), but instead He sent Christ as a humble servant, who despite this magnanimous display of grace and mercy was accused by us (yes, you and me, let us not pretend we are better than those who crucified Jesus!) of being a bastard child, a drunkard, a sinner, a charlatan, even the devil himself (yes, those things were said about him throughout the gospels and continue to be said to this day). I can barely bring myself to repeat these terrible false accusations because they must have hurt Him more than the 39 lashes He endured, perhaps even as much as when we drove the nails through His hands and feet and pierced His side with a spear. I don’t write these things to try and invoke some sympathy for the Saviour or to extract some feelings of guilt from you. These are just cold, hard facts and we need to come to grips with our role and responsibility in them.
When we realise what we have done, then perhaps we will realise why breaking is better than being broken. God is giving us a clear choice: confess your sins and fall on the stone so that you may be broken by Him – and consequently saved. Or choose to reject Him, and then that same stone which represents salvation to some, will become a stone of crushing destruction to all who choose this other path. If you want to know how to fall on the stone and be broken, the key is found in this scripture in the book of Zechariah, written prophetically hundreds of years before Christ came to earth: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.  In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” (Zechariah 12:10-11) In other words, as God pours out on us the Spirit of grace and supplication, then we will see Christ for who He is and we will mourn because of the horror of our sins and because of what had to be done to Him to atone for them. While this is a painful experience, it is like the laceration of an infected wound – it is a pain that brings relief. Falling upon Christ the Rock and being broken is the path that leads to our salvation.
This stands in contrast to the alternative, which takes place right at the end of history as we also read prophetically in the book of Revelation, where John has a vision of the future at the end of the age: “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,  and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8). This scripture draws such strong parallels with that in Zechariah. Both are prophetic and point to events at a time hundreds or thousands of years in the future. The scripture in Zechariah was fulfilled with Christ’s death; that in Revelation is yet to come. In Zechariah, the people mourned because of a conviction of their sins, a new vision of their Rock of Salvation, which led them to repentance. There will also be mourning at the end of the age, as described in Revelation, but it is a completely different kind of mourning: it is one of dread, based on a realisation of a life lived without Christ and then suddenly it is too late as He has returned as the Rock of Judgement who will crush the nations. Then, all peoples will see Christ for who He is – the Lord and Judge of the whole earth – but they will mourn because they will realise that they rejected Him their whole lives and now they will received their deserved judgement.
Now is not the time to seek apportioning blame for the Corona virus and all the world’s ills on others. It’s time to ask the question: will we break or will we be broken? The gospel is good news to those who hear it, as it offers a clear way out of the mess of our sins – if we are prepared to fall onto the Rock and break. But there will come a day of reckoning when it will bring dreaded news, when the Rock comes to crush in judgement those who rejected the offer of salvation when it was made.