George Bowers Sr.: March Madness or April gladness?
This weekend college basketball fans are abuzz with the Final Four of March Madness (even though it’s April). The team that can win two more games will be the 2015 NCAA Champions and receive all the bragging rights that pertain thereto. Tons of money have been bet and lost on which teams even got this far through many upsets and no-brainers, easy victories and hard-fought nail biters.
Even if we’re not fans of any of the remaining teams, most of us enjoy cheering for underdogs. If we turn to a game midway through, we have a tendency to root for whoever is behind just to see if they can turn things around and emerge victorious. After the game is over, however, there is no hope. If your team lost, it lost. There is no “second chance.”
Never has anyone been more behind, more of an underdog, and more bet against than the Lord Jesus. After one of his best friends betrayed him, he was tossed around like a hot potato in an illegal trial that resulted in an innocent verdict accompanied by the death penalty.
Following further abuse, he was subjected to the most painful form of execution ever devised. His death on the cross was very obvious and very public as he hung there in full view of all who cared to look. When the soldiers returned to hasten his death, they discovered he had already expired, evidenced by the blood and water that flowed from his pierced side. His blood had already separated into its components, confirming for them and all the ages to come that Jesus was in fact, cold, hard, graveyard dead.
No one bets on a dead man. We don’t anticipate that Payne Stewart will win any more golf tournaments or that Dale Earnhardt Sr. will clinch another NASCAR victory. No one is foolish enough to bet that Babe Ruth will hit another home run. Death seals the door of opportunity and puts any hope of comeback to rest. Permanently. Death is the buzzer that slams shut the door of life and signifies life’s game is over.
Even Jesus’ friends didn’t bet on him that black Saturday. He had told them he would rise again, but they were blinded by the same faithlessness that death brings on us all. Where there’s life there’s hope, but where there’s death, all hope has vanished. So this weekend was an especially hard one for those early disciples who had pinned their entire eternities on Jesus, only to have him crucified before their stunned eyes. Such a total defeat will shatter your world pretty quickly and push you over the edge of despair.
But before Sunday’s sunrise, Jesus proved the odds makers wrong. He did something no one else had ever done. Ever since Abel died just outside Eden, everyone had stayed dead. But Jesus rose up fully alive to live forevermore. Talk about turning the game around! Suddenly the rules that had been in place since the fall were shattered. Suddenly life vanquished death and all things instantly became possible. If a person can return from death, anything else in the universe can happen as well.
If Jesus had never performed any other miracle, this one would be enough to prove his deity. It would be enough to demonstrate his power over mankind’s worst and most pernicious enemy of death. It would be enough to spark hope in the hearts of every human facing the certainty of his or her own grave and give validity to Jesus’ claim, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And it is enough to bring eternal hope to even the lowest underdog.
If you’ve never trusted Jesus for your own resurrection, do so today. And as we finish out this year’s edition of March Madness, may it and all the rest of life be overwhelmed by the April gladness of Jesus’ resurrection.
Eternal blessings, George.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.