With all that has been happening so far this year, we have never been more aware of our own fragility and mortality, or more in awe (and hope) of our immune systems.
The way our immune system fights off viruses really is incredible. When a foreign invader attacks, various types of white blood cells jump right into action to destroy the invaders. The average white cell lives only a few hours but a select few will live for 60-70 years, checking in at their assigned lymph gland every few minutes. The lymph gland is where the body stores these white blood cells, where they wait, ready for action.
These master white blood cells safeguard the chemical defence plans that remind the body how to quickly respond to previous threats.
When a new invader attacks, a circulating lymphocyte cell will touch it, remember its shape, and rush to the nearest lymph gland where this information is conveyed to thousands of other lymphocytes that then produce billions of antibodies.
These antibodies (only 1000th the size of bacteria) cling to the invader like moss to a tree and soften them up ready for the attack of the white cell.
Vaccinations and Immunisation work on this principle. With some diseases we can inject a weakened or even a dead strain of a virus and the body will produce antibodies that will lie in wait, ready to fight off a genuine attack of that disease.
Remarkably, in remote or poor areas where no vaccine is available, in some cases they are able to use something called convalescent serum. This is where you take the serum of a patient that has recently recovered from a disease and use it to passively immunise the current sufferer. Because the first patient has already overcome the disease, the serum contains the antibodies with the attack plans for the current sufferer to fight it and win. I recently read of a missionary (a hand surgeon working with leprosy patients) who experienced the need for this practice during his life in India. His daughter contracted measles and she had not been vaccinated. They lived way up in the mountains away from any hospitals, and when it looked like she would not survive, they were able to use the serum of someone who had already contracted measles, overcome it, and had the appropriate defence plans against it. The daughter responded well to the treatment and survived.
Numerous times the Bible describes Jesus as an overcomer. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “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 the world.”
Jesus is also described as someone who has overcome sin and temptation, and even death itself.
When Christians partake in the communion wine symbolizing Jesus’ shed blood for us, we are reminding ourselves symbolically of the benefits that his life as an overcomer brings us. Because he has lived, and been through all we go through; been tempted, been in pain, been persecuted, been homeless, been poor, been lonely, been hungry, been bereaved, etc he is able to help us to get through all these things. Ultimately because he has defeated even death and risen again, we share in that same hope, even in the face of our own mortality.
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 the world. (John 16:33)
A couple of notes:
-If you found this article interesting, a lot of the info was taken and edited from the book ‘In His Image’ by Dr Paul Brand and Philip Yancey which I highly recommend.
-While the convalescent serum method is being looked into hopefully by scientists for use in vaccinations with the coronavirus, it certainly isn’t safe for anyone to try and implement themselves.