The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell have invited us to pause and pray each evening from tomorrow (February 1st 2021) to ‘reflect on the enormity of … the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid-19. We are in terrible time just as in the 1st Century, Jesus also did terrible things that shocked those around Him. He did those things to authenticate His ministry which could be helpful as missional insight to shape our post-pandemic mission and spirituality. Covid-19 has accelerated the church and the world into a new missional future. The question is how will people and church change and grow in the wake of the pandemic? As the church looks to rebound from Covid-19, the ideas and resources we need to grow and stop the decline will look different than before.
Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic and for such a terrible time like this ought to increase our faith in Him. Jesus’ new doctrine was different from the former scribes, ‘for he taught as one that had authority, and not as the scribes’ (Mk 1:22). To the amazement of the people, Jesus, at the coastal town of Capernaum taught extensively on the Sabbath in a Jewish religious meeting house called synagogue. The uniqueness of Jesus’ doctrine was based on the Scripture unlike the shallow reasoning and teachings of the scribes based on the commandments of men hence, Jesus said “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mk 7:7-9).
The effect of the vain worship is seen in the life of ‘a man with an unclean spirit’ in the synagogue. Vain worship keeps worshippers in bondage and spiritual illiteracy. Vain worship promote religion without redemption or healing for the sick. Vain worship lacks spiritual competence and comprehension of the scripture hence the man was kept under the mercy of ‘an unclean spirit.’ Scott Childs rightly described the synagogue services of Jesus’ day ‘very similar to many of the shallow church services of our day. They prayed, read the Bible and made a few nice comments, but gave no real challenge.’ Jesus clearly was a different sort of preacher and leader from the scribes and Pharisees of His day. Jesus’ exhibited His competence by taken responsibility to “make” them fishers of men (v17). Jesus’ comprehension of the scripture was unequal. Jesus’ teaching was ‘with originality, His illustrations were abundant and simple, and His applications were clear and pointed.’ Jesus not only had authority, He command every situation and even the demons recognised Him as ‘the Holy One of God.’ This is a lesson for people today that still question who Jesus really is. The demons as the fallen angels who works with Satan ‘have the power to take over a person’s life at times and do super-human feats.’ The demon in form of an unclean spirit in the man at synagogue in recognition of Jesus said, “Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God” (v.24). The unclean spirit actually points us to Jesus’ new doctrine, His job description. Jesus is a destroyer of unclean spirit. Jesus is a destroyer of every satanic agents and that one day they will be cast into the lake of fire. If the unclean spirit recognised Jesus and His authority, who is Jesus to you?
Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic summons us to submit to His command just as the unclean spirit did. Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic is to humble us, to reprimand our pride, spiritual ignorance and illiteracy. Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic calls to us to “hold our peace,” enough of our pride, enough of our vain worship, it is time to lay aside the teachings, misinformation and commandments of men. Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic calls for a new me and a new you hence, every illegal occupants including the spiritual and physical pandemic taking residency in our lives, churches, and nations must “come out…” (v. 26).
Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic points us to the unlimited authority in Jesus just as the people in the synagogue ‘were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? for with authority commanded he even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ Jesus’ new doctrine was new to the people in the synagogue because they were used to vain worship and misinformation of the scribes, ‘teaching for doctrine the commandments of men and laying aside the commandment of God. Jesus’ new doctrine was new to the scribes and their synagogue members and this today calls for our personal, leadership, and corporate renewal to overcome the pandemic of always preaching and ‘learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (2Tim 3:7). Jesus’ new doctrine in post-pandemic calls for revival of corporate prayer asking God to increase our faith and for the healing of our homes and nations.
As we respond to the call for prayer by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, let us remember anyone “who is feeling scared, or lost, or isolated to cast their fears on God.” According to the Archbishops, “One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day. Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on 1 February (2021)we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other.”