Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 2:24, Acts 2:4

 Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree…

                                                                  —1 Peter 2:24

    Last Saturday’s men’s Olympic hockey game between Russia and Team USA rekindled the patriotic passion for of millions of American sports fans.   An incredibly exciting shootout ended in a 3-2 win for Team USA as fans across the states screamed with delight when T.J. Oshie, who converted four goals in the shootout, fired home the game winner in the 8th round. Al Michaels, who called the 1980 upset of powerful USSR by a team composed of college players, dubbed him “Oshie in Sochi.”

With respect to the 1980 game, I recalled a classic scene from the movie Miracle. In a pre-Olympic exhibition game in Norway, after Coach Herb Brooks saw his players giving a lackluster effort and checking out the girls in the stands, he snapped, “You guys don’t wanna work during the game? No problem. We’ll work now. Goal line. That one!” When the assistant coach blew the whistle, the team sprinted over and over from goal line to blue line and back, goal line to red line and back, goal line to the other blue line and back, and finally, from goal line to goal line. “Again.” Whistle. “Again.” Whistle. “Again.”

“Herb, this is madness. Somebody’s gonna get hurt!”

“Blow the whistle.”

“Again!” Whistle.

After one hour, the arena lights were turned off by the maintenance crew, and the team sprinted in darkness for another hour. Finally, Mike Eruzione, who became team captain, got it. He told Herb that he played not for Boston University but for the USA. This weary group of prima donnas put aside their selfish interests and bitter college rivalries and became Team USA on the Norwegian ice.

Click here to see the scene.

Jesus Christ ran our wind sprints on the cross as he bore the heavy consequences of our transgressions. He paid the penalty for our sins. We didn’t deserve his sacrifice, yet Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). But God loves us so much that he allowed his Son to hang for six hours on a cross in excruciating pain with railroad-type spikes driven through his hands and feet. In his holiness, God couldn’t look upon the sin that Jesus represented, so God made the sky black. In those three hours of darkness, Jesus labored time and time again to take his next breath as he raked his torn and bleeding back on the rough wooden cross. Again. Again. Again. Why? Because Jesus loves each of us so much. Jesus died on the cross, arose from the grave, and appeared to his disciples, who still hadn’t gotten it after three years of coaching. But when an average group of individuals received the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised, they became the greatest twelve-man team the world has ever known. God gives each of us a choice to join his team by receiving his free gift of grace, which is God’s unmerited favor. We cannot earn God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) no matter how many good deeds we perform.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for the trials and life lessons that we learn from sports competition. May we use your wisdom, guidance, and instruction to make better teams wherever we work or study. In the name of Jesus, amen.