The Twenty Twelve Olympic opening ceremony takes place tonight in London. Over 10,000 participants from over 200 countries are involved. All – with no exceptions – are totally dedicated to do their utmost to win Gold for themselves, their team, their country.
Such dedication is worthy of the highest possible praise. It’s Commitment with a capital C. Commitment built upon the tangible and intangible strengths, skills and aptitudes of each participant. These are truly Olympic-level athletes.
The quotation in bold above is from the biography of Jesus Christ written around AD 60 by Matthew, a contemporary of and a key follower of Jesus. His book – a global best seller – has less than 40 pages. A concise biography indeed. The family tree, birth and childhood of Jesus take up only three pages.
But those three pages contain five direct quotations from the national archives of Israel – quotations which were several hundred years old at the time and which Jesus fulfilled in his very early years. One of these is in bold above: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” But for Jesus to have Nazareth as one’s home town was a big, big minus.
Why? Two reasons. First, Nazareth was in Galilee. The true-blue Jews were from Judea (capital Jerusalem) 50 miles south. Galilee had totally lost the plot in the eighth century BC. It had been totally defeated, de-populated of Israelites, and then re-populated with folk from all parts of what was then the Assyrian Empire. Folk there in AD 0 were despised by God’s people.
Second reason: Nazareth was possibly the worst of the towns in Galilee. Folk doubted whether there was any “good thing” there at all. Jesus was called a Nazarene – he started out as an Olympic-level loser.
A second quotation used by Matthew to show how Jesus fulfilled prophecies recorded centuries earlier in the Israel ancient national archives is this from 730 BC – “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
Again, in this connection, Jesus was an Olympic-level loser. Going back to the early history of Israel, the whole nation, descended from a single family, had been slaves in Egypt. In the end Egyptian Law required the midwives to strangle all Israelite male babies at birth – the slaves were a threat. Jesus was taken there by Joseph to avoid the murderous intentions of King Herod the Great. Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he might become the “King of the Jews”. Jesus was an Olympic-level loser yet again.
The third ancient quotation which Matthew uses dates from around 550 BC. “A voice is heard in Ramah [a town in Judea north of Jerusalem], weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel [Israel’s wife was named Rachel] weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
When Herod the Great couldn’t find Jesus to kill him, he instead killed every young child in Bethlehem and in that entire region. Imagine the grief. Imagine the blame that would fall (wrongly) on Jesus, the Olympic-level loser.
Why? Why? Why? In every part of his life – from birth onwards – his motive was to be the supreme loser – so as to win Gold for others. He would carry upon himself in every way the opprobrium of sin, its consequences and its guilt - in all its awfulness.
A loser so others would win? What others? Other men and women who (like Herod) start out in life’s race by wanting to have nothing to do with anyone who might compromise their own desires and their own autonomy.
But recognise where that leads and the damage that it brings.
He too had the highest possible dedication towards others – for them to win Gold through his death in their place, his Olympic-level death on a cross.