Last night I took a walk. I kept my distance from others, doing my part to flatten the curve.
I decided to forego my current audiobook in favor of music. I chose my favorite composition, Hanel’s Messiah. (I enjoy this recording. Here are a few other recommendations.)
I was struck again by the first word of it: “Comfort.” What a needed message in these days of conflict, disagreement, uncertainty, misinformation, and danger.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
(Isaiah 40: 1-3)
The Lord is coming. That is our comfort. And what shall happen when he arrives? Handel answers that in the next movement.
Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.
(Isaiah 40: 4)
As I reflected on those words, I realized that that is what we need in the days of COVID-19. All the talk is about “flattening the curve”—the “community isolation measures that keep the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers.” (source)
Flattening the curve does not mean eliminating the curve. It only means stretching it out, which serves a good and useful purpose as far as epidemic responses go. But, in the end, a flattened curve remains a curve. There is still sickness, and there are still deaths. Our ultimate need is for the curve to be flatlined—dead.
But there’s good news: The Messiah did not come to flatten the curve. He came to flatline it.
Jesus didn’t come to make the valleys less valley-like (but still valleys). He didn’t arrive to make the mountains less mountainous (but still mountains). The Son of God did not take on human flesh to make the crooked places less crooked (but still a little crooked). The Messiah does not make the rough places smoother (but a little bit rough).
He came to raise the humble from the dust. He came to cast down the proud. He came to purify the unclean. He came to destroy disease, death, and the devil through his death. He came to raise the dead—both spiritually and physically—through his resurrection.
Our world will debate whether our efforts flattened the curve. But the gospel speaks a better word: in his death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father, we see that Jesus Christ has flatlined death itself. At his return, we shall all see (and sing!) the end of the Messiah:
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(I Corinthians 15: 51-57)
If God be for us, who can be against us?
(Romans 8: 31)
Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
(Romans 8: 33-34)
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
(Revelation 5: 12-14)