Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised address yesterday to support the British people during the coronavirus pandemic, assuring them that “we will overcome it.” This is only the fourth time she has addressed her nation outside of the Christmas holidays.
She thanked the UK’s frontline healthcare workers and caregivers, saying their work “is appreciated” and “brings us closer to a return for more normal times.” She hoped “everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.”
Drawing a comparison to the first time she addressed the nation at the age of sixteen when children were being evacuated during World War II, she stated: “People will feel a painful sense of separation from loved ones” but that self-isolation “is the right thing to do.”
She assured her people, “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”
Burying coronavirus victims in city parks
By contrast, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Fox News Sunday, “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.” However, he added: “As hard as this week is going to be, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if everyone does their part for the next thirty days.”
Coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said late Saturday that infections could peak in New York, Detroit, and New Orleans in the next six to seven days. New York City officials are considering “temporary burials” of coronavirus victims in parks due to the city’s limited morgue capacity.
As David French notes, “We are losing Americans at the rate of more than a 9/11 every three days. That death toll accompanies an emerging economic downturn that’s leaving few Americans unscathed” (his italics).
Now there’s the disconcerting news that coronavirus can jump from people to animals. Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, has tested positive for COVID-19. According to the zoo, she, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions have developed a dry cough, but all are expected to recover.
And, in a reminder that the pandemic is not our only challenge, a “significant storm system” has begun impacting California with heavy rains and flash flooding.
Why Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree
These are indeed frightening days. But as Queen Elizabeth noted, when this crisis is over, we want to be able to take pride in how we “responded to this challenge.” Holy Monday can help.
On this day, as we noted in this morning’s Daily Article, Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree (Mark 11:12–14). It seems unfair that Jesus cursed the tree when “it was not the season for figs” (v. 13). However, it’s important to understand this event as Jesus meant it. Leaves are found on Palestinian figs during the spring, summer, and fall; ripe figs appear from June to November. As this was Passover season in April, the tree had not yet produced its fruit.
Such a fruitless fig tree was a clear symbol of the fruitless nation of Israel: “When I would gather them, declares the Lord, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them” (Jeremiah 8:13; cf. Micah 7:1).
And so Jesus used this opportunity to teach the disciples about the crucial nature of their mission. In a nation that would corrupt the temple of God and reject the Son of God, their evangelistic and missionary work was vital to the spiritual preservation of their fallen countrymen.
How to bear “much fruit” today
Here’s the point for us: a fruit tree is measured not by its appearance but by its fruit.
The book of James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (James 2:14). A money-changer can work in the temple under the authority of the High Priest himself but blaspheme God by his corruption.
Conversely, Jesus promises us, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If we will stay intimately connected to our Lord, no matter how frightening things become in this “Pearl Harbor moment,” the power of God will be at work in us and through us. And we will find that our faith in him is more powerful than our fears.
This is why, paradoxically, we must walk with Jesus before we work for him. Oswald Chambers noted: “The battle is not against sin or difficulties or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in work that we are not ready to face Jesus Christ at every turn. That is the one great need, not facing our belief, or our creed, or the question whether we are of any use, but to face Him.”
His assertion echoes Paul’s testimony: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Commenting on this text, Chambers added: “When Paul received his sight he received spiritually an insight into the Person of Jesus Christ, and the whole of his subsequent life and preaching was nothing but Jesus Christ.”
Chambers then defined the “abiding characteristic of a spiritual man”: “The one concentrated passion of the life is Jesus Christ.”
Will you be a “spiritual” person today?