With the roaring crowd ready to explode, there they stood . . . Tom Brady and Matt Ryan . . . about to step into the ultimate competition. With well over 100 million people watching (in the U.S. alone), they fulfilled their ‘football purpose’ in life . . . play quarterback in the Super Bowl!
As I watched them stand in the tunnel, waiting to run onto the field, looking out at all the people and the ‘hoopla,’ it reminded me of my trip to Israel. Of standing in the very spot Jesus stood when He came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration and His crucifixion . . . He stood on the Mount of Olives, looking out on Jerusalem and the spot where the temple stood. Just like Brady and Ryan, the anticipation must have been palpable. But instead of running through two lines of cheerleaders, Jesus rode a donkey down a gravel path through a huge cheering crowd. Here’s how Matthew describes the scene in chapter 21 of his book . . .
“Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’”
Imagine yourself in Brady or Ryan’s shoes; the adrenaline surge, the noise, the tension of “Will I win? Will I come through?” or “Will I cave? Will I fail?” Jesus must have had those same feelings – a frenzied crowd, shouting “Hosanna,” anticipating an amazing victory (even though it wasn’t the one Jesus came to win). His opponent was the devil . . . our sins . . . and fear (which translates: ‘lack of faith’). He knew His destiny . . . He’d been talking about it for a while. He knew He was going to give this battle everything, and when it was over, He would win by bravely giving His life up. But getting there was going to be tough.
This battle, this competition for our salvation was a very real and personal battle for Jesus. Just like the game last night, the outcome rode on His shoulders. Not only did He not shy away, He took it to ‘em by walking straight into the temple and passionately attacking the moneychangers, turning over their tables and spilling their filthy lucre. The battle wasn’t totally one-sided either. His teammates abandoned Him, leaving Him surrounded by the opposition . . . who was tearing Him to shreds. At one point, He cried out “Why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned and alone.
But then . . . in a gasping dive over the goal line . . . driven by love, guts, grit and commitment, Jesus won! “It is finished,” He said, and with that last burst of courage, He fulfilled His purpose in life . . . to die as a sacrifice for our sins. He gave His life and got the victory . . . for all of us. And then if that wasn’t enough, He was resurrected and made alive again in the Spirit, and that Spirit comes to live in everyone who finds and follows Him.
You can’t buy His jersey. He won’t be in the NFL Hall of Fame. But He’s a forever hero. More importantly, you can join in His victory by believing in Him, imitating Him, obeying Him and engaging with His love. He’s a hero you can know. And unlike most heroes, when you love Jesus, He will love you back. In person.
Scripture: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)
Mentor Tip: Never forget the humanity of Jesus. Remind your guys that He had adrenaline rushes, experienced righteous anger, was double-crossed and abandoned just like we are sometimes. But because of that human experience, He knows how we feel and since He’s here with us, we never have to be or feel alone.
Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt via AP
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