Despite the fact that it is Holy Week, all the news still seems to be about the coronavirus called COVID-19. Everything else has faded from view. No NCAA tournament, the US election all but forgotten, fights over healthcare, climate change, or the impeachment all seem like distant memories. As Christians, we have to intentionally remind ourselves that this is Holy Week. It is times like this that people throw the problem of evil in our faces. How can God be both all-powerful and all loving? How could a loving God allow something like COVID-19 encircle the world? He must either be not all powerful, or not all loving; he cannot be both.
Scripture has long testified to the twin truths that God is both all loving and all powerful. Psalm 62:11 says, “Once God has spoken, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love” (emphasis added). In the Hebrew it is oz and hesed—both power and love belong to him. But the psalm goes on to remember the other free agent in the world when it concludes, “for you will render to a man according to his work” (Ps. 62:11–12). Our actions are brought into the picture. The problem of evil is not just about God’s character, it’s about our own: the use of our power and the extension of our own goodness through the image of God and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through us.
God’s answer to the problem of evil is not to give us some amazing theological resolution or an intricate philosophical formula. God responds to evil by entering into the world, not in a show of power, but in a show of weakness and vulnerability. That’s the other mystery of God’s power and love. Sometimes his greatest power is manifested in weakness, and sometimes his love allows hard lessons to come our way that we might turn our hearts more fully to him and give up our false idols. In the incarnation, we remember that Jesus became a man and entered into this broken, sinful world. Jesus addresses the root of the problem: us. We are in rebellion against God and the whole world is reeling with groans. Jesus alone has taken on all this sin and pain, evil, and shame. If you want to understand the heart of God in the face of a world trapped by sin, then look into the face of the crucified Jesus. The cross is God’s answer to human pain for Jesus is the only truly innocent sufferer.
He doesn’t give us an answer; he bears it. Holy Week is one long caravan of sin: betrayal, cowardice, indifference, mockery, cruelty, and death, whether seen in Judas or the disciples or the soldiers, or Pilate . . . sin upon sin. Then, there is Easter. Easter Sunday reminds us that Jesus is victorious over all! Easter is God’s final victory over a lost and broken world. It is the risen Lord and the community of those who are called by his name who herald the victory of God over a broken world because we, too, have put our own fingers into the nail scarred hands of the risen one.