Taken from Mark Finley's 2021 Missionary Book "Hope for Troubled Times". A vaccine for COVID-19 is the hope that the world believed in to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This booklet addresses the steps taken to develop a vaccine for the pandemic and then contrasts it with the virus of sin and the true hope of a “vaccine” through the Great Physician, Jesus.
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Hope for Troubled Times
Discovered: The Ultimate Vaccine
Copyright © 2020 Middle East Publishers, Beirut, Lebanon
Hope for Troubled Times Series
3) Discovered: The Ultimate Vaccine
Authored by Mark A. Finley
Manuscript edited by GC Publishing Department
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Cover Image by Louis Reed / Unsplash
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Research laboratories and university medical centers throughout the United States and around the world are racing at breakneck speed to find an effective vaccine for the coronavirus COVID-19. These trial vaccines are designed to produce a strong immune response, including a “greater production of antibodies and longer-lasting protection against viral and bacterial infections.”
The University of Nebraska is part of a global hunt for the much-needed protection against a virus that has played havoc with the world economy, forced people into self-quarantine, and infected millions of people. As countries have attempted to control the spread of this deadly pandemic, one of the larger concerns that has surfaced is the fear that a second round of COVID-19 might strike within a short time. This concern has caused researchers to place top priority on developing a vaccine as quickly as possible.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is coordinating its work with laboratories, universities, and research institutes in a frantic attempt to discover a vaccine. They have begun their first trial studies in Seattle, Washington. About two thirds of that study’s participants have gotten the first of two needed doses. Forty healthy volunteers at the Kansas City research lab and the University of Pennsylvania have also begun clinic trials using this vaccine. One medical pharmaceutical company, Inovio, is working with Chinese researchers to also begin a similar study in that country soon. These early-stage studies are a first step to see if a vaccine appears safe enough for larger tests needed to prove whether it will protect against the virus.
One group of United States researchers are experimenting with a different type of COVID-19 vaccine. This one injects the vaccine serum into the arm much like a simple skin test. “It’s the most important trial that we’ve ever done,” Dr. John Ervin of the Center for Pharmaceutical Research told the Associated Press. Even if the research goes well, it is expected to take more than a year before any vaccine could be widely available. Dozens of potential vaccines are being designed in labs around the world, for which the testing process is expected to begin during the next several months.
“The good thing is we’ve got a bunch of candidates,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH’s infectious diseases chief, said during a podcast for the Journal of the American Medical Association. One of the leading researchers in this field made this fascinating statement: “People are beating down the door to get into this trial.”
People are so afraid of this deadly, rapidly spreading virus that they are anxious to get a vaccine that will prevent them from contracting COVID-19. Although this present pandemic has caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world, there is another virus that has infested humanity that is even more deadly. COVID-19 may destroy your body, but this fatal disease can take more than your physical life. Jesus made this remarkable statement: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The virus of sin is much more deadly than the coronavirus. COVID-19 can destroy the body, but sin can destroy our body and soul. Once infected with the virus of sin, the prognosis is death, unless a vaccine can be found. How did this pandemic begin, and what is the ultimate solution to the sin problem?
Another More Deadly Virus
God created human beings in His image, but when Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the evil one in the Garden of Eden and yielded to his temptations, the virus of sin was passed from them to their descendants. This is why the prophet Jeremiah declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Isaiah adds, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And do you remember the lament of the apostle Paul when he cried out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). We have a disease that is fatal. It’s deadly, but just like so many people with the coronavirus who were asymptomatic, we walk around spreading the virus of sin to others without even realizing it at times.
There were many people during the height of this COVID-19 epidemic who apparently had no initial symptoms. They did not have a sore throat or a fever. They did not have fatigue or a cough. They appeared normal, but were walking around infecting others. There was no vaccine, and they were sick and did not know it, but sooner or later the disease burst upon them with its full force. Their temperature rose, their breathing became labored, their bodies weak. They were fighting for their lives. The best efforts of the most outstanding medical personal were powerless to save them. There was no medical remedy for the coronavirus, but thank God there is a remedy for the virus of sin.
The Divine Physician’s Prescription
There is One who can deliver us from sin’s clutches. When the apostle Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” he does not leave us with a lingering question. He answers his own question by triumphantly declaring, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24, 25). There is a Physician who has the remedy for the virus of sin. Jesus plunged into this cesspool of sin to meet the emergency. The Divine Physician entered the arena of human affairs with the antibodies to deliver us from sin’s virus. He came to this snake pit of a fallen world with all its deadly venom, met the temptations of Satan head-on, and was victorious. He satisfied the demands of the law that we have broken. He died the death that was ours so we could live the life that was His. The cross reveals to the entire universe the depths Christ would go to save us.
Concerning Christ, the Scriptures state, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). The cross of Calvary reveals a love beyond human comprehension. Looking at the crucified Son of God, we can say with the apostle Paul, He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Christ’s grace is unmerited, undeserved, and unearned. Jesus died the agonizing, painful death that lost sinners will die. He experienced the fullness of the Father’s wrath or judgment against sin. He was rejected so that we could be accepted. He died the death that was ours so that we could live the life that was His. He wore the crown of thorns so that we could wear a crown of glory. He was nailed upright in torturous pain upon a cross so that we could reign on a throne with the redeemed of all ages. He wore the robe of shame so that we could wear royal robes forever.
Marvel of all marvels, wonder of all wonders, in our shame and guilt Jesus did not reject us, He reached out in love to accept us. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In the ancient sanctuary of the Old Testament, the dying lamb represented the broken, bruised, battered, bloody body of our Savior. Rightly understood, these sacrifices point forward to an old rugged cross. They speak of the nails and the crown of thorns. They speak of the farce of a trial, the agony of the tree, the ridicule of the Roman soldiers, and the taunts of the crowd. They speak of the cost of sin, the condemnation of the law, and the marvel of grace.
The cross speaks of a love so marvelous, so amazing, so divine, that it would rather take the condemnation, guilt, and penalty of sin upon itself than have even one of His children eternally lost. There is an insightful statement in The Desire of Ages, a book that reveals the depths of Christ’s sacrifice. “Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Savior could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish that the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as [the sinner’s] substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 753).
This is the story of grace. This is the story of a Savior’s love beyond measure. This is the story of a Jesus who loves us so much that He would rather experience hell itself then have one of us lost. This is the story of a boundless, unfathomable, incomprehensible, undying, unending, infinite love that longs for us to be with Him eternally. It is the story of the divine Son of God who was willing to assume the guilt, condemnation, and consequences of our sin, and to be separated from His Father forever, if that is what it took to save us. Christ’s death on the cross delivers us from sin’s condemnation, guilt, shame, and ultimate penalty. The shed blood of Christ is the only effective vaccine for the virus of sin. But the story does not end at the cross.
Jesus Is Alive
If Jesus died and never rose again, He would be merely a martyr dying for a good cause. If He never conquered the tomb, what hope would we have of eternal life? It takes both the dying Christ and the living Christ to redeem us. The resurrected Christ delivers from sin’s grip. Sin’s dominion in our lives has been broken. It no longer holds us in its clutches. There is a power stronger than the influence of our heredity, our environment, or our past mistakes; it is the power of the living Christ, risen from the dead, changing our lives. If Christ’s tomb were not empty, our lives could not be full. If His body were still in the tomb, there would be no assurance that our bodies could ever leave the tomb. If He were not resurrected, we would have little hope of resurrection.
Here is the incredibly good news: The evidence of the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ is strong. In Matthew’s Gospel we read, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’
“ ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard” (Matthew 27:62-68, NIV).
Remember that Matthew was a tax collector, so we can expect him to be very detailed. Notice Pilate’s words: “Make the tomb as secure as you know how.” Here are four crucial points in this passage.
1) The scribes and Pharisees were concerned about Christ’s resurrection.
2) Pilate ordered a Roman guard to watch the tomb.
3) A large stone was rolled over the entrance.
4) A Roman seal secured the tomb.
A Roman guard of hardened, battle-tested soldiers was stationed to guard the tomb. This contingent of Roman soldiers was honor-bound to protect the sepulcher. Roman military protocol demanded faithfulness to an assigned task. Any deviation from absolute loyalty and a failure to accomplish the assigned mission was punishable by death. Then we have the issue of the Roman seal. The soldiers affixed the Roman seal on the tomb, which was meant to prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. The seal stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. Anyone trying to remove the stone from the tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law. The Romans ruled Jerusalem with an iron fist and did not tolerate any challenge to Rome’s authority.
Can any logical mind think that the disciples would challenge the authority of Rome after the Roman government put Jesus to death? Where were the disciples at this time? They were cowering in fear in the upper room. Peter had just denied his Lord three times. At the cross the disciples forsook Jesus and fled. It is illogical to think that these faithless disciples would have the courage to break the Roman seal. Then there is the matter of the moving of the stone. In John 20:1 the Scripture records: “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” Ancient tombs at this time were about four feet wide and five feet high. Archaeologists have discovered a number of these tombs around Jerusalem. Typically, one of these gravestones weighed about two tons. It would sit in a groove in front of the entrance to the tomb and be rolled into place by a lever to secure the tomb. Often the groove was not level, so the round stone was gently rolled down a very slight incline into place. Once the tomb was secure, it was extremely difficult to move the stone, because you would have to roll it back up the incline.
Josh McDowell makes a good point when he asserts that “so many security precautions were taken with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment, sealing, and guarding of Christ’s tomb that it becomes very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead.”
Where were the disciples when Mary first approached the tomb? They were hiding in an upper room, afraid that they may be hunted and killed next. One of the greatest evidences of the resurrection of Christ is the transformation in the lives of the disciples when they powerfully proclaimed His resurrection. Where did they go first? They went back to Jerusalem, the very place they had fled from. Eventually every one of these disciples, except John, died a martyr’s death. James was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. It is preposterous to think this group of disciples would die for a lie they themselves had manufactured.
Historian Paul Maier observes that “if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement.”
There are multiple witnesses of Christ’s resurrection that testify that He is alive. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. He appeared to the women who had come to anoint His body when they were on their way from the tomb. He appeared to two disciples on the Emmaus Road. He appeared to 11 of the 12 disciples in the upper room on Sunday night and again to Thomas and the disciples. He appeared to 500 believers gathered together on the hillsides of Galilee before His ascension into heaven. They reported that He appeared to them during a period of 40 days. Paul the apostle recounted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers at one time, the majority of whom were still alive and who could confirm what Paul wrote.
The Resurrection’s Life-changing Truths
The Bible often clothes profound lessons in simple terms. Matthew’s Gospel simply states, “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb” (Matthew 28:1).
We pause for a moment to reflect on the significance of this passage. Think about the disciples’ thoughts that Sabbath. They were disappointed, discouraged, and downhearted. Their hopes had danced away like a shadow. Peter and John had left their prosperous fishing business to follow him. They had risked their future and their fortune on this itinerant Jewish preacher from Nazareth. But what now? What was their future? Jesus was dead.
Matthew had risked his entire career to follow Jesus. He had a secure position as a tax collector. He couldn’t go back to his previous employment now, with all the ridicule he had experienced. His career as a tax collector was over. What did his future look like during the hours of Friday night and Sabbath?
And think about Mary, this woman from Magdala. She was a woman of ill repute who had found forgiveness, mercy, and grace in Christ. For the first time in her life she had discovered One who loved her with a pure, unselfish, divine love. He had cast the demons out of her life that had tormented her for so long. In Him she had found a new hope. In Him she had discovered a reason for living. In Him she had new purpose. In Him she had a future today, tomorrow, and forever.
But now He was dead. The last time she had seen His body, it was broken, bruised, and bloody. She had turned away in anguish and deep sorrow at His crucifixion. She could not bear seeing the thick red blood spurting from His hands or His blood-tinged face. She could not bear looking at the sorrow in His eyes or His pain-racked body. She could not bear the horror of it all.
Let’s join Mary and her companions as they are on their way to the tomb to embalm the body of Christ. It is sunrise. The darkness is fading away. The past few days have been days of deep sorrow and disappointment. Their hopes have been dashed like a bottle thrown against the wall and broken into a thousand pieces. The disciples were sequestered in the upper room, fearing to leave, uncertain of their future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people were bound to their homes in a sort of self-quarantine, absolutely petrified to leave.
Consider Mary as she approached the tomb. The death of Christ had dashed their hopes and shattered their dreams. What thoughts must have been going through her mind? She must have wondered how to make sense out of the events of the past few days. She must have been confused, perplexed, and stunned by what had happened during the past 48 hours, but nevertheless she stepped out in faith to embalm His body.
The women did not have all their questions answered. They were confused about many of the events that had taken place that weekend and certainly had no idea how they would move the huge stone that sealed the tomb. The Roman guards certainly would never break the Roman seal on the tomb and open it for them. They had no idea how the problem would be solved, but this they knew: they had a duty to do, and they would leave the rest with God. You do not have to have all the answers to do what God places in your heart to do.
Faith does not mean you see; it means you trust. Faith is not knowing; it is believing. Faith is not having all the answers; it is having confidence that God still loves me and is working things out for my best when I do not understand. Remember the first verse in Matthew 28? “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn.” Here is an eternal truth. After the darkness the sun always rises. Night turns into day. In your hour of deepest darkness, Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, will rise in your life. You do not need to understand. Only believe. Believe He cares. Believe He loves you. Believe He has the best in mind for you. Believe that in the light of the resurrected Christ, the Sun will rise again for you. He is the light of the world and will chase the darkness away.
There is a strange twist in the Resurrection story. We find it in John 20:11-17. “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping.” Two angels ask, “Why are you weeping?” She responds, “because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where [to find Him].” While she was saying this, she turns and sees Jesus, but doesn’t recognize Him. There are many people who feel that they do not know where or how to find Jesus. The interesting thing is this: Mary was looking for Jesus, and He was standing right beside her. Her experience reminds us of God’s promise in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and the promise in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Through her tears she did not see Him, but He was there. Where is Christ when it seems you cannot find Him? Where is Jesus when your spiritual life has dried up and you wonder where He has gone? He is right there by your side to strengthen you, to encourage you, and to give you hope. It does seem a little strange, though, that Jesus did not first appear to Peter, James, John, or Matthew. Why did Jesus appear to Mary? Mary had the greatest need. Jesus is with us always, but in times of our greatest need He is preciously near. Here is the first life-changing lesson of the Resurrection story: Rejoice! Christ is risen! Morning has come. Darkness is gone. Hope has dawned.
There is a second eternal truth we cannot miss. The tomb is empty. Death has lost. Life has won. Satan could not keep Jesus in the ground. Christ’s resurrection points us to the day that Jesus will come, and our dead loved ones will be resurrected too. You may have recently lost a loved one. Like Mary, your eyes are filled with tears, your heart is broken, your grief is deep, but resurrection morning speaks hope. It speaks courage. It speaks of new life. Jesus has the antidote for the virus of sin. He died for us. He lives for us. He is coming again for us.
Every time Jesus confronted death in the New Testament, death lost, and Jesus won. Jesus faced death head-on at Jairus’, the ruler of the synagogue’s, home. When he spoke the words “Little girl, I say to you, arise,” death fled away (Mark 5:41). Death loses its stranglehold in the presence of the living Christ. Again at the tomb of Lazarus, in the presence of the resurrected Christ, death lost, and Jesus won. The grave could not hold Jesus’ friend when the Master declared, “Lazarus, come forth.” Death was defeated, and Lazarus came out of the tomb alive (John 11:43). And at the tomb of Christ that Resurrection morning, death was defeated.
At the tomb of Christ that Resurrection morning, the last enemy was overcome. At the tomb of Christ that Resurrection morning, Satan’s greatest weapon was demolished. Death was defeated. Now our hearts can beat with hope. The words of the apostle Paul come echoing down the corridors of time: “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. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52). Jesus’ resurrection is the eternal guarantee that those who have believed in Him and have been changed by His grace will one day be resurrected when He returns to take us home.
At the tomb of Christ that Resurrection morning, our eternal destiny was sealed, for without the Resurrection, the eternal life Christ promised could not be realized. This is the very reason the New Testament writers place such repeated emphasis on the Resurrection. They mention it more than 300 times. On that Resurrection morning 2,000 years ago Christ triumphed over Satan. Life triumphed over death. Faith triumphed over fear. Hope triumphed over despair. Joy triumphed over sorrow. It is time to rejoice. Christ has risen. Death has lost its hold on us, and one day soon Jesus is coming to take us home.
The world’s medical top priority was a race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Many are placing their trust in this solution to return the world back to “normal”.
Yet, there is something far more deadly than the Coronavirus: The virus of sin. Often the effects of this sin virus are not evident, just like COVID-19, until it is too late. Read about the true remedy and the Divine Physician who is longing to heal us from our deadly sins.
3. Discovered: The Ultimate Vaccine
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