A few short months into 2020, we find ourselves living in a very different world than most of us have ever known. COVID-19 is called a pandemic, but Passover has come.
A story that ripped my heart out to write…
Call it “prophetic fiction” I suppose, but twenty years before the coronavirus, in the year 2000, I wrote about a far more deadly pandemic involving a virus nicknamed “Sleeper.” Sleeper had been bioengineered by a wealthy, charismatic ecoterrorist to be a “final solution” for all of humanity: highly contagious and extremely virulent, i.e. fast spreading and deadly. His plan was to release it in aerosolized form on unsuspecting crowds of international travelers in major airports across the planet to create a rapid, unstoppable purge of its human stain. Indeed, no one was prepared. With frightening speed, Sleeper killed hundreds of millions, worse than any single outbreak event in human history. No one was immune. The 1918 Spanish Flu was child’s play in comparison. The earth, literally, lay under a death sentence.
Except for Josh. Eight-year old, Joshua Chisom.
That’s the setup. Now pause for a moment. Before I continue, be with me in my time machine of memory and creation. I’m inviting you into my process. I had just turned 31, and was hiding out for a weekend in a friend’s cabin to hammer out the final fifty pages on this story. My working title: The Most Important Little Boy in the World. It was my second novel, and my publisher needed the finished manuscript in two weeks to meet their target release date the following year. I had a physical deadline, but my internal clock was on a deadline of dread. The hardest parts of the story lay just ahead, and I knew the toll it would take on my soul.
“The kind of fiction this world desperately needs….a GRIPPING READ stuffed with emotion. This one you will remember for years.”— TED DEKKER, New York Times bestselling author
I remember the warm atmosphere, the faint woodsy aromas of pine and cedar, the urgency of my task. But more than anything, two decades later, I still remember that dread…and the tears. I was plunging headlong into the final pages of a story that was at once beautifully familiar, eternal, tragic and glorious. I had a contract, and couldn’t get out of it. I had to face where this was going, and I hated it. It was nothing more or less than the gospel, hidden like a jewel inside a frightening tale of a global pandemic. But for the first time in my life, it was way more personal than that. This was a thoroughly human story, not an ancient, divine document. I was a young father, and the story hit home, way too close for comfort.
The pride and pain of a father and his son
To say it resonated would understate the punch by a factor of fifty. The plot was more like an iron poker pulled from the coals of a winter fire, branding my soul and emotions with the impossible scenario I had given to a man named Tim Chisom, a young husband and father (like myself at the time). Tim was a firefighter in the rural, fictional town of Folin, Oklahoma. Tim had been thrown headlong, and with no life support, into a global drama that required him to contemplate the unthinkable: the willing sacrifice of his own son, who was the only person known on planet earth to have a naturally-occurring antidote in his blood. But Tim was me. He was my proxy. Which meant for me to finish the book, I had to live it, too.
On one level, the story is a mashup of Robin Cook, Michael Crichton and Patricia Cornwell. It’s a fantastic read and a pulse-pounding thriller. Of course, back in 2000, I had no idea that in 20 years nations, governments and industries would grind to a halt, nor that the social fabric of the planet would fray to the breaking point under a little microscopic bug called COVID-19. I had no idea that the fear would be so real, nor the threat of conspiracy so vast. In those last few days in that cabin, all I knew was that I was a young father with two small boys, and my wife was pregnant again with twins. I knew that Tim Chisom had a desperate, impossible choice to make. And I knew that I was Tim, and I could not make that choice. But I had to write it, anyway.
I knew something else: this human story was much more than a merely human story. It was also divine. It was the eternal story of a Father who so loved the world—a world under a death sentence—that he gave his only…
“A MASTER OF METAPHOR and imagery, Briggs takes us into a world of BIOLOGICAL TERROR and weaves a HEART-RENDING TALE of redemption and sacrifice.”— THOMAS WILLIAMS, The Crown of Eden and The Devil’s Mouth
So I wrote. And wept. I wrote more, until I couldn’t write another word, then rested, regrouped, prayed. Sobbed. Then wrote again. I knew deep in my bones that I was writing for a reason. I knew the greatest love story ever told was somehow unfolding from the inside out of this improbable tale of a father and his son and a world that needed salvation, but had no savior. Yes, the setting was today, but the tale was timeless. And now, much more so than twenty years ago, I realize it is timely. I don’t honestly think I wrote it for then. I wrote it for now.
We are in a modern Passover moment
We are in a modern Passover moment. By that I mean that the Jewish/Christian calendar feels as if it has been embedded with unusual “now” urgency in 2020. We should perk our ears. Are recent events alerting us that these calendar dates are not just a matter of past importance and present ritual, but somehow supplying prophetic intelligence of the times to activate our understanding and faith? I believe the potency of the gospel is about to be unleashed like never before — Pentecost is coming! — with far more power and vividness than the coronavirus has negatively inflicted upon humanity. Unbelievers need to see the Lamb who was slain as the Son who was given. Several unusual dynamics are converging: the medical community speaks of “flattening the curve,” but hundreds of thousands across the earth also fasted 40 day from from March 1 – April 9. Interestingly, the conclusion of that fast landed on the day Passover began on the Jewish calendar. As a result, several prayer movements, including Evangelicals, Charismatics and Catholics, totaling untold millions, participated in various “global communion” events through the power of videoconferencing. On Passover. Think about that. Has there ever been anything like it?
Amidst all the craziness, by virtue of the disciplines of prayer, fasting and our common commitment to the witness of Christ, an extraordinary unity has seized the Body of Christ. From Passover to Good Friday, we then head into the Easter weekend, and on Sunday, we celebrate: “He is risen! Risen indeed!” The son who was given, who died and was raised again 2000 years ago, lies no more in the grave, and for that very reason, the earth lies no more under the curse of sin and death.
Here’s the short of it: Although my book has been out-of-print for twenty years, it only occurred to me three weeks ago that my story, then, is actually our story, now. Since the publishing rights have reverted back to me, I decided to rush a beautiful new cover, and have re-released my novel both in paperback and ebook for Kindle. I challenge you: turn off Netflix and immerse yourself in a thrilling read that will also imprint your soul! But more to the point still, make this moment count for someone who needs Christ. I believe the confluence of a global Passover-Pandemic-Communion-Easter leading to Pentecost is providing the church an unusual opportunity for believers to tell THE story — our story, HIS story — whether by boldly witnessing, secretly witnessing…or simply giving them a great story to read. Simple as that.
You may not be an evangelist, but you don’t have to be. The Most Important Little Boy in the World is the story you want them to know, but don’t know how to tell them. I want the gospel to spread every way, everywhere, to everyone. (Personally, I’m praying for the spiritual eyes of my atheist father-in-law to open in an Emmaus Road encounter with the resurrected Christ).
Kindle Sale = $.99. Less than a buck a book.
You can gift an unsaved reader an amazing medical thriller CHEAP!…and they’ll never see the gospel coming until it’s already gripped their heart. After the door has happened, you can talk to them more. It’s not a marketing ploy, it’s a “stealth plan” (Full disclosure: at $.99 cents, I make a whopping $.35 a book).
So ask yourself: How many people do you know that don’t know Jesus? Two, five? Ten? Family members, friends? Co-workers stuck at home who are sick of Netflix, a bit scared, and asking real questions about their future? Think about it. You could plant a seed and witness to 10 people for $10 just by gifting them each a Kindle copy. Amazon makes it easy. Just click the button below, put in their name, and Amazon will send them the gifted copy you just bought for them. Tell them: “Hey, turn off Hulu and activate your brain!” or “You won’t believe this guy wrote a book about this pandemic thing twenty years ago!” Whatever you need to do, just do it.
Make it fun, make it a gift. Make it a connection point. Who knows? Your dollar may make a difference in eternity.