March madness. For Purdue fans and Indiana fans, it’s not March madness. It’s March sadness. That’s true for the fans of 67 of the 68 teams in the NCAA basketball tournament. Only 1 team wins it all. The rest go down in defeat.
One thing that spoiled Bob Knight and turned him into a tyrant was that he was so successful so young. Knight was just 36-years-old when his team won it all. Success led to excess, which led to pride, which – the Bible says – always goes before a fall. Knight fell from grace and became a disgrace because his fire and brimstone eclipsed his “success.” He abused his players, who are supposed to be a coach’s top priority. March madness: Sometimes in “winning” you really do lose your soul.
During another spring, another rising, thirty-something prodigy, leading a team of young men, also won it all. But in a decidedly different way. The term “march madness” could easily describe Jesus. Jesus set his face to Jerusalem not to win it all, but to lose everything – including his life. Jesus’ path was to the cross. It was a march. A death march. And everyone around Jesus thought it was madness.
From this side of Easter, we can see that Jesus’ march to the cross was not one of madness, but love. With Easter faith, we know Jesus was not a crazed “loser” who ultimately died, but a compassionate Victor who arose. We recognize that Jesus was not a crucified fool with a Good Friday end, but a resurrected Savior with an Easter beginning. And we realize that Jesus went down in defeat to die so that we could rise in victory to live.
We also can know that whatever crucifixions we face or whatever circumstances we suffer that we do not suffer alone. If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then we have a God who suffers.
We don’t have a god who sits aloof on a throne. We have a God who suffers agony on a cross. We don’t have a god who is a Bob Knight tyrant known for fire and brimstone. We have a God who is a suffering servant known not for his anger, but his love. We don’t have a unblemished, golden god whose reign is established by domination over others. We have a broken, bloodied God whose reign is shared in compassion for others.
All of us know what it’s like to lose, suffer, and die. We know those human experiences. And by his human experiences, Jesus knows us. Jesus knows what it’s like to lose, suffer, and die. He’s been there, and he’s here. With us. With you. When you lose, suffer, and die, you’re not alone. Jesus is in that darkness, too. And because he conquered that darkness, you shall conquer it, too – for in Christ, all shall be made alive (1st Corinthians 15:22).
This world loves winners. We love winners. But Christ loves us. Not because we’re perfect, but because we’re his. He loves us because we’re his family. Christ is our brother and because Christ is on our side, his victory is our victory.
Who is the greatest of all time? Is it Bill Russell, Dr. J, or Magic Johnson? Is it Kobe, Shaq, or LeBron? Is it Larry Bird or Sue Bird? Or is it Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie, or Sheryl Swoopes?
Imagine yourself in a pickup game. As bad as you may be, you’re gonna win if Michael Jordan or Tamika Catchings is on your side. If the greatest of all time is on your side, your destiny is to stand with your champion in victory.
If that’s true when it comes to basketball, it’s truer when it comes to life. All of us have the same opponent: Death. But if the One who defeated Death is on your side, then death shall not defeat you. By the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega; the Greatest of all Time, the victory shall be yours – because you are his.
So, if your bracket is busted, fear not. You’re not going home in defeat. You’re going home in victory. So, hang in there. Continue to follow Christ in his “mad” march of love. Give yourself away in love. Practice faithfulness, forgiveness, and kindness. Do that and you will be victorious. By grace, thanks to Christ, when the buzzer sounds, you shall be crowned.