55 years ago, Minnesota Viking Defensive End Jim Marshall was involved in one of the most famous plays in NFL history. Though no NFL defender has ever played more seasons, and though Marshall recovered an NFL record 30 fumbles in his career, he will always be remembered for a particularly grievous mistake he made in a 1964 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
At a critical point in this game, the Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters” defense forced a fumble from a 49er ball carrier that was scooped up by Marshall. In the excitement and confusion of the moment, Marshall got turned around and ran 66 yards THE WRONG WAY into his own end zone. Thinking he just scored a touchdown, he threw the ball out of bounds in celebration, resulting in a safety. Though he worked hard (recovered a fumble and quickly ran 66 yards), and though he sincerely thought he had scored, he was mistaken. Instead of “winning” he was “losing” – that moment at least.
I was thinking about Marshall’s moment today as I reflected upon John 1:1-14. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus is referred to as both “Life” and “Light.” These are two things that virtually all of humanity wants and needs. In fact, they are intimately connected. You cannot have life without light. When God created the world at the beginning of all things, He FIRST created light, as it was necessary for everything else to survive (Genesis 1:3). Though all of us want and need life and light, we sometimes run the wrong way to find them.
In the confusion of life, it is all too easy for us to get turned around and headed in the wrong direction. Sometimes we think that Jesus (or at least the version of Christianity we are familiar with) wants death and darkness for us . . . to remove the fun out of life by telling us what we cannot do. In the temptation of everyday life, we scoop up an “opportunity” and run in the opposite direction of Jesus, headed towards drugs, pornography, an affair, gossip, the accumulation of material possessions, etc. thinking that if we run hard enough in that direction, we will “win” the satisfaction of enjoyment. The problem is, these temptations do not produce the celebrations we desire. When we reach that “end zone,” like Marshall’s “wrong way run,” we find shame and not satisfaction.
When John tells us that Jesus is both Life and Light, he is like a coach reminding us which goal line we were created to move towards. Jesus does ask us to follow Him as He heads in a particular direction . . . but that direction is always life and not death; light and not darkness. This is not to say that there will not be challenges as we follow Christ . . . but it is to say that those challenges are momentary, while the “win” is eternal. When we do not follow Christ, it is just the opposite . . . the ecstatic feelings are fleeting, but the “loss” lasts.
This Sunday at Wildwood, we will continue our series “Christmas Light” by looking at John 1:1-14. In this message we will see what is meant by Jesus being Life and Light. I know you want Life and Light for yourself and for those you know. Come this Sunday, and invite your friends, as we explore this theme together in God’s Word. Additionally, the children will be singing this Sunday in our worship services at the end of the services (this is an annual Wildwood tradition!). We can’t wait to worship with you this holiday season. See you Sunday at 9:45 or 11:00.