It’s Easter Sunday.
You don’t believe in Jesus but you know it’s Easter Sunday. For you Easter Sunday maybe means a day off training or for many, it’s just another day of competition.
What difference does it make to you, as a sportsperson, that Easter Sunday is something that Christians celebrate?
This short blog is not going to try and outline all the arguments for why the resurrection is plausible of which there are many (and to which billions around the world hold). I’d encourage you to read more on that here or here.
For the sportsperson reading this though, I want to argue that the resurrection helps us make total sense of our experience as sportspeople and offers us a new way to live in the performance-saturated culture we live in.
Author Glen Scrivener says:
“Resurrection explains why the pattern of all great stories – and the pattern of a meaningful life – is triumph through sacrifice.”
Ultimately for Jesus, that triumph is over the greatest enemy we all face, death. As He died on the cross, He sacrificed His life for ours, so we might have eternal life with Him.
As Scrivener says, Jesus’ true story is at the heart of all the stories we love. It helps explain our experience now on Earth. For all the success we might have, there is sacrifice.
Today is the final day of the Masters golf tournament. In 2019 Tiger Woods miraculously returned from serious personal issues and significant injury to win this most storied of tournaments. It was triumph through sacrifice.
Rev. Pete Nicholas explained at the time:
“At a deep and very profound level these sporting comebacks resonate with us because they connect with our longing for the great comeback, Jesus Christ, the one who came back from the dead and who will one day bring back with him all those who trust in him.”
We love these stories because of the deep instincts we all have that joy is more fundamental to life than sadness, that victory is more what we were made for than loss. The Bible says these longings, these instincts are there for all of us: in the stories we love, in the sports we take part in, because we were made in the image of the God who Himself wrote this story.
We love these stories of comeback, but a sporting story is fundamentally different to our more serious human one. Ultimately, when it comes to our eternal life, it is not OUR triumph through sacrifice that wins through, but Jesus’.
For Woods, and others in sport, we can trace their hard work (mixed with their incredible gifts, given by God) to their success. However, as we saw on Good Friday, when Jesus died, the curtain of the temple, separating us from God, was torn from top to bottom. From the top, showing us it was God who has made it possible to be in a relationship with Him.
In our world which values hard work and performance so much we can find it demoralising and dissatisfying when our effort doesn’t pay off. For every Tiger Woods story, there are thousands of others where the hard work doesn't give us the results we would like.
The cross shows us that it is not through our own effort, our own triumph, that we can have ‘success’. It shows us it is all God’s work and that is freeing for sportspeople like us seeped in a performance-driven culture.
The resurrection then shows us that Jesus’ effort on the cross, His sacrifice, was complete, was successful.
One author in the Bible wrote:
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.”
The resurrection shows us that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as He took our sins upon Him on the cross, that is, all our rebellion against the one who made us and shows us how to live.
Then, at the empty tomb, when Mary stood and considered what might have happened, the angel said:
“Do not be afraid, he is not here, he is risen.”
Sportspeople are often filled with fear.
What are you most afraid of now when you think about your sport?
The resurrection tells us we have no need to fear because it says there is a God who is infinitely more powerful than anything else in this world. It says He has done all we need to have life for eternity – we no longer need to strive. It shows He is more powerful than death and decay and more powerful than our coach or manager.
So, the resurrection is worth looking into as a sportsperson. Because if it is true and credible then it is wonderful good news to those living in the performance-driven world of sport.
Why don’t you look into it today?
Jonny is the Resources and Communications Team Leader at Christians in Sport. He plays cricket at Cumnor Cricket Club and is one of the leaders of Town Church Bicester.
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