In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, there was a British runner named Derek Hammond who was the potential favorite in the 400 meter race.

He got off to a very good start, but about 150 meters into the race, he felt a pop in his leg. His hamstring was ruptured. Hammond fell to the ground in agony. Medical personnel came to his side, but he refused help and got up, determined to finish the race.

His Olympic dream was crushed. However, what happened next became one of the most poignant moments in sports history.

His father got up out of the stands and broke through security. He came down to the tracks and put his arm around his son and said, “We’re going to finish this together.”

Hammond’s father dried his tears, then walked with Hammond arm in arm to complete the race. Just as Hammond was about to cross the finish line, the father released his son and the son finished the race.

When the son could not go on, the father carried him to the finish.

For the last several weeks we have been reflecting on what it means to walk as Jesus walked. “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:6, ESV).

To walk as He walked means that we do the things He did in the pace in which He did them. The steps of Jesus will lead us to the needy, the lonely, the hurting, and the lost. The steps of Jesus will lead us to great relationships within his kingdom, which takes intentionality and time. The steps of Jesus will lead back again and again into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.

The steps of Jesus will also lead us to a cross. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let that person deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, ESV).

Carry Your Cross

Yesterday, I reflected in my sermon on what it means to take up your cross. On the one hand, it means dying to yourself. As Paul would say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV). To be crucified with Him means to die to yourself, your agenda, your will, and always having to have it your way.

On the other hand, it also means that you’re called to carry part of Christ’s burden for the world. When Jesus walked the earth, he saw that people were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He saw brokenness, loneliness, sickness, and grief — all of which moved Him to compassion.

Therefore, when Jesus says to us “carry your cross,” He means that we are called to join Him to proclaim good news to the poor, to help bring sight to the blind, to work that everyone has a home, and to proclaim freedom to those in addiction. You don’t have to do everything, but every one of us is called to do something that will be costly and hard.

What this means is that most of us will not always seem victorious in our walk with Jesus. He surely didn’t seem victorious when He was carrying His cross to Golgotha. Most of us have to get used to limping through life and learning to depend on Him to carry us when we feel like we have nothing left to give.

The Victorious Limp

I have mentioned to you before one of the most influential books on my spiritual life called The Ragamuffin Gospel by the late Brennan Manning. He describes though the book how deep God’s love is for us and how much God’s grace abounds in the broken places of our lives, but also how hard it is to experience that love and grace.

In one chapter, Manning describes the difference between a “victorious life” and a “victorious limp”:

“Most of the descriptions of the victorious life do not match the reality of my own.  Hyperbole, bloated rhetoric, and grandiose testimonies create the impression that once Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, the Christian life becomes a picnic on a green lawn—marriage blossoms into connubial bliss, physical health flourishes, acne disappears, and sinking careers suddenly soar. The victorious life is proclaimed to mean that everybody is a winner…The biblical image of the victorious life reads more like the victorious limp…Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection and ridicule…after life has lined their faces a little, many followers of Jesus come into a coherent sense of themselves for the first time…Where sin abounded, grace has more abounded” (181-182).

That sounds like my life. Lots of ups and downs. Successes and setbacks. Wounds that seem to never heal, but somehow scar over. Failures and frustrations. Joy mixed with sorrow.

It’s good to remember this week that while Jesus’ life was also marked by difficulties and disappointments, He never sinned. He was able to offer the perfect sacrifice for our sins, a once-and-for-all covering for every failure of the past and every flop in the future. Hebrews says that even though we are flawed, God has made us “perfect” (meaning whole, healed, complete) through Jesus’ gift to us on the cross: “…by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14, NIV).

Even so, when He got to the finish line of His mission, His body and soul were astoundingly bloodied, battered, and bruised. He endured the cross in a way that speaks to every person who walked through life with a limp.

On the cross, before breathing His last breath, He cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46, NIV). He throws Himself into the arms of his Abba, Father. It’s like He’s saying, “Dad, I’m in your hands. You take care of everything.”

A Special Time to Remember His Sacrifice

This Thursday we will gather for a traditional Passover Meal that is called a Seder. There will be symbolic elements to help us remember how God delivered the Hebrews with a mighty arm out of slavery in Egypt. We will also reflect on how Jesus became the “perfect lamb of God” to lay down His life so that we can be delivered from our sins.

The Seder (which includes a full meal) is $10 per person and will begin at 6pm in Trentham Hall. We still have a few seats available, but I encourage you to go ahead and register by emailing Lorna Hollowell at [email protected].

I hope you have a meaningful Holy Week and that you are planning to join us for the Seder,  Saturday’s Eggstravaganza in World’s Fair Park (2pm-4pm), and Easter Sunday the next day (regular schedule).

Let’s thank our Heavenly Father for the way He carries us and covers us. He’ll see us through the hardest of days. He’ll walk arm in arm with us as we limp through life. He’s with you right now.

Won’t you reach out for Him today?

With love,

Pastor Brent McDougal