12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:12-15 – ESV)

Jesus rides to the rescue. Admittedly, riding on a donkey’s colt would not look very macho in an American western movie, but the crowds on hand, completely ignoring social distancing, wanted to see the savior, king, prophet, messiah, or whatever he was. Whatever he was, Jesus had made quite an impression on many people. They were hoping that he would change their fortunes, change their lives, save them. Earlier that day Jesus had left Bethany, the town where he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Now, he was here again, in Jerusalem! The crowds were giving him the “red carpet treatment” with palm branches paving his way. Could it get any better? The crowds obviously could not see the forest for the trees, or even the trees for the palm branches.

Judas, on the other hand, was keeping things in perspective. He could see that the situation was getting out of hand. The crowds, the mayhem, the real threat of the breakdown of social, religious, and political order. Something must be done. Someone must save Jesus (and his followers) from himself. The authorities were planning to kill Jesus, and now Lazarus too. Maybe there would be a reward for Judas if he helped quell the Jesus epidemic.

In the USA and around the world today, many people are overwhelmed with the ever present news about the coronavirus or COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 or … To beat the virus from causing the breakdown of social, religious, and political order, the politicians have mandated the lock down of social, religious, and economic order. After all, it is an election year, and the coronavirus would be great ammunition to use against the other guy or girl or … Which political candidate can dismantle things the fastest and still claim victory? The important thing is to keep things in their proper perspective, not to miss the forest for the trees, all done for the sake of public safety, of course.

The Worldometer website apparently offers “real time statistics” on many aspects of global life. As this website’s statistics are continually updated, information for the “snap shop” below was taken on Saturday, 04 April 2020 at 9:45 am PST. How does the total number coronavirus deaths stack up against other causes of death since the beginning of 2020?

Coronavirus Total Deaths = 61,714†

Other Deaths in 2020 to Date††

Mothers during birth = 79,901
Seasonal Flu = 125,693
Malaria = 253,562
Road Traffic Accidents = 348,953
HIV/AIDS = 434,561
Alcohol = 646,542
Smoking = 1,292,269
Cancer Deaths = 2,123,072
Abortions = 10,987,848

The number of mothers dying in childbirth narrowly exceeds deaths due to the coronavirus, but unfortunately, that type of news just does not sell well. (Perhaps, the nearly 11 million abortions [178 times the number of coronavirus deaths] were performed so far this year, in part, in the hope of lowering the maternal childbirth death rate.) The seasonal flu at twice the SARS-CoV-2 mortality rate is just too mundane to discuss. Moving on, nearly six times as many people died in road accidents to date in 2020 than have died of COVID-19. Yet, no one is pulling cars off the roads. In the first few months of 2020, ten times more people died globally from alcohol than the coronavirus, but locally San Diego County has only shut down the bars because of the coronavirus. Cancer has killed 34 times more often than the coronavirus, and …? Well, let us keep things in perspective. All these everyday deaths are apparently acceptable.

Keeping things in perspective, when Jesus made his final journey to Jerusalem he was focused. He was more focused than Judas or the Jews. He was not on the forest or the trees or the branches. He was focused on just one tree. That tree, however, was not yet standing. That tree would have no leaves or fronds. That tree would have just two “branches,” hastily affixed in order to fix the problem of Jesus, the wandering savior, king, prophet, messiah; the disease infecting the people.

To keep things in perspective, no human effort, no matter how great or small, can solve the problem of our human sin and mortality. Focused on the salvation of the world (John 3:16), the one true God gave his one and only Son to die on that one tree. “It is finished” Jesus said when breathing his last breath. Jesus did not run and did not hide. He died for you and for me. He died for us, for all those whose lives are so easily disregarded and hastily discarded by our sinful world seeking to save itself by futile means.

When God raised Jesus from the dead, he broke the power of sin and death. Through his resurrection, Christ’s cross replaces and supersedes the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Those baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and thereby incorporated into his body, come to life anew eternally through this one tree. They are now the living fruit of this new tree of life. As fruit of this tree, each baptized believer is also a living witness to this good news. May God the Father, who raised God the Son from the dead, breathe new life into you this day to share the gift of life with someone cast aside by a world frantically and faithlessly fighting its own shadow of death. Amen.

† https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/