During August, loads of us will be eagerly watching our favourite athletes “going for gold” at the Beijing Olympics. We’ll be watching breathtaking feats of strength, speed, skill and endurance, which for many athletes will be the climax of a lifetime’s preparation.
And all for that moment of glory on the podium. We love athletic feats. And we love champions. And we love remembering great champions of the past. But the greatest champion of them all has long been forgotten by most people. And even if his name has not been forgotten, then his greatest feat of strength has been forgotten.
All his life, Jesus had been preparing himself for one great moment. The night before he died, he said “The time has come.” And speaking to God, his Father, he said “Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you … I have brought you glory by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17 v 1).
What was this ‘work’, this great feat that God gave Jesus to do, that would bring both him and his Son universal and everlasting glory? It was him achieving something massive for us by his death. In Hebrews 2 v 9 we hear that “Jesus is now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death.” How bizarre! What was he up to?
1. Jesus was weight-lifting
The Bible tells us that on the cross Jesus took upon himself a burden so heavy that no other person could possibly take it – only he, the Son of God was powerful enough. This burden is the weight of our sin – the sins, evil, guilt of the whole world, lifted off us and borne by him:
“Surely, he took up our infirmities and sorrows…” (Isaiah 53 v 4).
“He bore our sins in his body on the tree…” (1 Peter 2 v 24).
Jesus lifted the burden of our sin and guilt off us, so that we could be free from their crushing weight.
2. Jesus overpowered the fiercest opposition
“Since we have flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in our humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2 v 14).
When Jesus had accomplished this task – one that was so demanding, it cost him his life – he cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19 v 30), and died. Notice, not “I am finished” (defeated), but “It is finished!” (job done). For that reason God raised his Son from death, not to stand on a podium to receive a gold medal, but up to the highest place at his own right hand side – to be crowned with glory.
Approximately 5 million spectators will be at the Beijing Olympics applauding the 2008 Olympic Champions. But, at the end of time, “a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” will be standing before the throne of God and in front of the one who died for us, applauding, singing, crying out in loud voices the praise due to him for what he achieved by his death on the cross.
If you want to be part of that, it won’t cost you anything. You won’t have to buy a ticket. Jesus will give you a place there with him if you just come and ask him, thank him for what he’s done for you, believe in him, and make him the champion and hero of your life.
Vicar of St George’s