At 7:30 this morning, the temperature was a brisk 32 degrees. The wind was blowing out of the north driving the wind chills south. I know these facts because this morning, along with a few friends, I ran from downtown OKC to Lake Hefner and back. This 20 mile adventure spanned three and half hours. My friends and I endured it today because we are training for a marathon that is set to be run in just a few weeks.
Running a marathon is an interesting experience. I like it because it feeds my desire for goal achievement. You don’t wake up today and decide to run a marathon tomorrow. I have been training for this event for five months. Each week we add a few miles until eventually we go 26.2 on race day. It is the ultimate “frog in the pan” scenario.
On race day, there will be 20,000 fellow runners and about three times that many spectators. However, on mornings like today, I found myself alone jogging along a strip of lonesome asphalt. When you run like this, you are not racing against a competitor, you are playing a game with your mind. If I decided to cut a corner to shorten the distance today, no one would have ever known. If I had decided to just stop running altogether, no one would have called me a failure. If I had hit the snooze bar this morning instead of driving up to training, I would not have experienced a great fall-out this afternoon. Despite these things, I chose to keep running. Why? Because I want to finish the marathon. Sure, I could cut a corner or two, but if I had, I would never get to the finish line I really want to cross.
I was thinking about this today as I was running along Shartel and reflecting on the Christmas story found in the Scriptures. When Jesus came to the earth, He humbled Himself to an amazing degree. The immortal God became clothed in mortality in that stable in Bethlehem. For 30+ years Jesus lived out His life on the earth while being confronted with a unique set of temptations. Instead of running 20 miles, Jesus was “running” the marathon of life, knowing that at any moment, He could take the easy way out. In Luke 4:1-13 Jesus was tempted by Satan to place His physical needs and desire for personal comfort over God’s will for His life. In a sense, Satan was trying to erroneously offer Jesus the crown without the cross. Jesus did not bite. He did not cut that corner. When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion, He prayed asking that the “cup” of crucifixion might pass from Him (Luke 22:39-46). However, as that night turned into early morning, Jesus did not hit the snooze, but got up and walked forward in “Thy will” being done.
Jesus stayed the course because there was a finish line He wanted to cross. If Jesus had succomb to the temptation of Satan or run away from the Garden of Gethsemane, He would have missed out on accomplishing the mission for His coming. Jesus came to the earth to live a perfect life and to die on the cross for our sins. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, the punishment He endured on the cross was not a penalty for His own transgressions. In the sovereign plan of God, the sin of mankind was placed on Jesus back and His righteousness has been offered to be credited to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21). If Jesus would have cut a corner and avoided the cross, then you and I would not have an opportunity to have our sins forgiven and our eternity lived out in fellowship with God. However, Jesus endured to the finish line. At the point of His death, Jesus even cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He knew that He had run the good race, and with His death purchased salvation for the souls of those who would embrace Him in faith.
Cross(ing) the finish line at Golgotha was the ultimate accomplishment, but Jesus did not just wake up on Good Friday and decide the save the world. The plan was laid long ago, and the training began while lying in a manger. Think about that as you worship Him this Christmas season.