Minnesotans will watch tomorrow’s Super Bowl with a feeling of “what could have been.” Our Minnesota Vikings had a great regular season and were well positioned for the playoffs. With just two wins in the post season we would playing the Super Bowl in our home stadium. Sadly, even with the help of the “Minneapolis Miracle,” it was not to be.
One of the measures of success for sports teams is how well they do in the post-season, the games that are added on to the regular season to determine the champion. As fans of the Minnesota Vikings know all too well, it’s hard to appreciate the success of the regular season when your favorite team struggles in the post season.
Athletes will tell you that the post season presents many new challenges compared to the regular season. Some teams respond well to the new challenge and others do not.
In a sense, our lives also have a post-season. We have a regular season during which we grow up, go to school, have a career, raise a family and just live our lives. Then along about the time retirement arrives, we enter the post season of our lives. And just as the post season presents a new set of challenges for sports teams, the post season of our lives presents some unique challenges.
One of the biggest challenges is no longer feeling useful. Add to feelings of uselessness the need to rely on others for help and it can be a real emotional and spiritual struggle.
Another issue is the pain associated with our bodies getting older. As someone put it, “Everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work!”
The loss of loved ones can happen any time but it is an unavoidable challenge in the post season of our lives.
And finally, there is life’s greatest challenge, the challenge of the death.
Yes, the “post season” of our lives presents a set of challenges so great that they make sports teams’ playoff challenges look small.
The life of Jesus had a definite post season. In Matthew 16:21 it says, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (ESV). It was time for Jesus to go to Jerusalem where he would suffer and die on the cross for the sins of the world and rise again from the dead three days later to show that he is the true champion over sin and death.
Jesus’ victorious post season gives his followers the strength they need to meet every one of the challenges of the post season.
Jesus gave his life for us on the cross proving that our lives are always infinitely valuable.
Our pain and suffering unite us with our suffering Savior in a most blessed and mysterious way.
“Be still my soul, though dearest friends depart,” the hymn-writer writes for those who have lost loved ones, “Your Jesus can repay from his own fullness all he takes away.”
And when it comes to death, St Paul writes: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 56-57, ESV)
“May the best team win,” they say at the start of games like the Super Bowl. Team Jesus is the best team to be on right up to the final moment of our lives because in his strength our lives will end with a blessed, eternal victory.