The earthquake with its accompanying tsunami and consequent nuclear meltdown has evoked much sadness as once again we look on helplessly.
Coming in the wake of the loss of life in the Queensland floods and cyclone and the Christchurch earthquake, we are caused to reflect on the events themselves as we feel for, pray for and do what we can to help those whose world has been turned upside down.
And if we are wise we will also factor into our thinking the words of Jesus, that “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of the birth pangs” (Matthew 24:7-8).
Far from encouraging speculation about the time of His return, Jesus speaks like this to comfort and prepare us for life in an uncertain world and for the certainty of our own judgement. Like a loving and skilled physician, Jesus continually refuses to deal superficially with us. We are a world of rebels whose sin brings about its own awful consequences. This is obvious in wars and in our general apathy toward thanking and obeying God.
When we see dislocations in life, whether “man made” as in Libya, or “natural” as in earthquakes, we are wise to consider where we stand with God. One conclusion we cannot come to if we heed Jesus’ teaching is that the people involved in Libya, Christchurch and Japan are worse sinners than anyone else. His words in Luke 13 preclude this false judgement.
The second conclusion we need to face is that we are sinners who must one day face judgement. This is why Jesus teaches us to take stock when we see these catastrophic events taking place. They become gracious reminders that unlike in an earthquake, tsunami or civil war, there is a firm place to stand on the day of judgement.
As in a bushfire, the safest place to stand is the already burnt ground, so too for us to stand with Jesus, upon Whom our judgement was borne on the cross. When a physician is confronted with the medical tests that point to a serious illness, (s)he is filled with sadness. So too with Jesus. And like a loving physician He prescribes a medicine, a balm for our terminal condition. Though freely available, it must be taken by each one of us. When taken, it means a new attitude toward God and a new hope in life.
We are not, despite the proud assertions, “captains of our fate and masters of our destiny”. Thankfully we never were and never will be (since we so often get it awfully wrong). But there is One who is. His bodily resurrection sets Him apart. His loving bearing of our judgement on the cross assures us, despite the obvious questions raised by earthquakes and the like, that He is loving and can be relied upon, in life, at death and the judgement.
When Christ returns in glory He will usher in the new Heavens and new earth, where no sin or its consequences will be known. No death, no earthquakes, no tears (Rev 21). That is where Jesus clearly wants us to be and is why these events ought to cause us to take stock, by turning to Him and trusting Him.
His words are full of realism and comfort
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome this world. John 16:33