Super Glory (Don’t Miss It)

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.

Football Players Lack Power

Like many men in America, I am interested in the outcome of this weekend’s NFL playoffs.  Which teams will win the battles of strategic prowess and player power?  At the end of this weekend, there will be only 4 victors remaining in the quest for the Lombardi Trophy.  Eventually, there will be but 1 winner left.

As glorious as the battles of the gridiron will be, they simply do not compare with the battles of the Bible.  I’m not thinking of David’s slingshot splitting the giant’s skull or Joshua’s marching crumbling the fortress of Jericho.  I am thinking of the truly glorious victory Christ won in the battle over the curse of death.  All NFL teams and players, along with all the armies on the planet, cannot muster the strength to do battle with death.  Christ alone drank death’s poison. He swallowed it to its last drop of destruction.  Then, He stood up and walked away.  There will be football players—big and strong men of power—who are unable to walk off the field on their own power as a result of doing battle with other men.  Not one of these men—and not all of these men put together—can approach the power of Christ.  These men cannot overcome death.  It takes the power of Christ to conquer death.

And the power of Christ belongs to the followers of Christ who themselves have been set free from the fear of death which once held them captive (Hebrews 2:14-15). So, we see in Stephen—the first martyr after Christ—a display of real power, real victory.  Stephen took the stones of hatred flung by religious zealots who were fueled by a murderous fire, and he swallowed their fury, replying to their venomous assault with a prayer of blessing, “Father, forgive them….”  Of course, this is how Christ Himself responded to His murderers.  And, Stephen is simply dying in obedience to the Living Lord, who commanded His followers, “Bless those who persecute you.  Bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14; Luke 6:28; Matthew 5:44).

True power is on display in Christ and His persecuted followers because they are able to take every poison, every powerful weapon in the arsenals of their enemies and still stand in victory after the assault is over.  No football player or team is able to do that.  Christians alone are able.  Everyday a Christian stands firm in the face of death somewhere in the world.  As Christians, we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.  Even death cannot defeat us.  Not even Tom Brady can pass through death without Jesus Christ.  So enjoy the games this weekend, but remember who has the real power and the real victory.