For some, the Super Bowl will slip by with barely a notice. For the uninitiated, the Super Bowl seems to be the epitome of a hyped-up overemphasis of testosterone in tights. For others, the Super Bowl is the crowning achievement of the glory of sports. In the favor of the latter group, fans are paying $200 or more to watch the game from OUTSIDE the stadium and up to $80,000 to watch the game from a suite INSIDE the stadium. More than 100,000 fans will attend this glorious spectacle. And it is glorious.
From the story of Clay Matthews’ perseverance to Donald Driver’s determination, the Super Bowl showcases the triumphant. These are the best athletes America has to offer slugging it out on a global stage to earn the right to say: We are #1. We (alone) did it. The glory of triumph is alive on Super Bowl Sunday (which is not the real Super Sunday, of course, that would be Easter).
So, I thought it would be helpful for us to think about how we might watch the Super Bowl to the glory of God. I think we do that by, first, not dismissing the glory that exists in the game. There are countless chess matches being played out between receivers and defensive backs, between quarterbacks and linebackers, between blockers and tacklers, and between all the coaches who are working with all the players at all these positions. There are mind games at work, and there are muscle games at work. Sometimes, the smartest player or shrewdest coach will win the battle. Other times, the strongest man closest to the ball will claim the crown.
At the end of the game, one team will take the trophy to the locker room. The other team will ponder what might have been. To the victor go the spoils—it is as true in football as it is in war. Happily, in football, the losers don’t bleed to death. They just go home. All the agonizing workouts, the unceasing repetition of pushing 300 lbs. or 400 lbs. up and down and up and down. The leg stretches and the running—sprints, distance, endurance—all the agony of off-season, pre-season, mid-season, and post-season training—all come down to a 60 minute survival-of-the-fittest slugfest on Sunday night. One team will overcome the sacks, the fumbles, and the injuries. The other team will not. There will be 1 winner and 1 loser with no one in between. For one team, the glory will erupt as the last second ticks off the official game clock. Glory, indeed!
Watch the Super Bowl for the glory that is in it.
But even more, watch the Super Bowl for the glory that is beyond it. The sacrifice of these players and the agony of their endurance will only fit them for victory against another team of roughly equal men. Yes, it is mortal combat, but it is merely mortals in combat. Though the Super Bowl will display the greatest glory of sports, including the storied histories of 2 fabled franchises, this game’s limits are obvious when compared to Christ.
Christ—the king of all glory—has triumphed over the grave, over death itself. Forget taking a block from a lineman, Christ did real battle with sin, with Satan, with every evil in the world—and he won the fight. Christ stretched out his arms while Satan hurled false accusations; he stretched out his arms while Pilate and the Jews enacted execution; he stretched out his arms while the Father poured out his wrath against sin; he stretched out his arms and swallowed death. And death was not enough to stop him. Being the resurrection and the life, Jesus Christ arose victorious over sin and over death so that any who would flee to his outstretched arms would find for themselves eternal life in his name.
There is true glory well beyond that of the Super Bowl. Think of it as you watch the game. Apparently, some of the players have run to the outstretched arms of Jesus to find forgiveness for their sins. They see both the glory of the game and the greater Glory of life in Christ. The story linked here speaks about Aaron Rodgers and the glory he sees in Christ (and the way his teammates respond). And, on the other side of the ball, there is true glory in view for some of the Pittsburgh Steelers, too (see here).
So, enjoy the game to its fullest measure of glory with the players who know the difference between the perishable nature of the Lombardi trophy and the imperishable crown of life.