Only one gets the prize...
“Send her victorious, happy and glorious!” The Diamond Jubilee celebrations are only just over, and the country finds itself gearing up for another major event. Again, the National Anthem will be played, but now to urge Team GB to victory in the London Olympics. This year is a gift for schools, who are able to link their Sports Days to this global celebration of sporting excellence to encourage their pupils to athletic endeavour.
Sport and athletics can be very valuable, not only in promoting physical health, but also for encouraging teamwork, building self-esteem and developing perseverance. A number of pioneering projects in poor communities use sport to great effect, and sports teams and events have great potential to bring together people from diverse backgrounds.
But not everyone is sporty. Some people have been scarred by bad experiences at school, not being picked for the team, or coming last in the race despite trying hard. Some people would love to be good at sport, but it just doesn’t happen for them. What does the Olympics have for them? Well, one thing the Olympics offers is a chance to cheer on the national team that is representing us. Although we may not be up to competing, in a way they are doing it for us. They go through the gruelling training and the pressure of competing, paying a great personal cost, in order to win the prize on our behalf. We can cheer them on, and if they win medals, we can celebrate with them. Winning gold in the Olympics is out of the question for most of us, but they can do it for us.
The Christian faith sees Jesus representing us in a similar way; the champion athlete representing his nation and winning the prize on their behalf. And as there is only one gold medal or crown of laurels to be won in each race, only Jesus is able to win the prize. As the Apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” He goes on to say that the prize that Christians are really interested in is one of supreme value, of even greater worth than an Olympic Gold; it is “a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).
Jesus is the one who is truly victorious, happy and glorious. He wins the prize that we are incapable of winning, but he wins it on our behalf. As we cheer on our team at the Olympics this summer, urging them on to win the prizes that are far beyond our reach, we can know that, however many they win, the ultimate prize of eternal life is already won for those who cheer for Jesus.
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton