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March Madness

March Madness is a season filled with excitement and hope for college basketball players and fans alike. Teams give it their all to earn their next win in the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament.

Written for Christian educators, the devotional That They May Have Life reminds you of another journey to victory that we remember during springtime: Christ's walk to the cross and his ultimate resurrection. This special Lenten message is for everyone, even if you are not a sports fan or school teacher.

Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:31-34

During this time of the year, followers of college and high school basketball get caught up in tournament fever. It is often called March Madness or the Road to the Final Four. It is a time of the year when sound bites and motivational sayings are everywhere. It is exciting because every game could be a team’s last. There is a sense of unpredictability that magnifies every shot, every game, and every coaching move.

Most years March Madness goes on while Christians remember a different journey, a journey that involved one man on a solitary road that found its climax not at a trophy ceremony but on a cross on a hill. Lent is a time when we are reminded of the journey that Christ took. Much is made of the Final Four in basketball. Cheering throngs of devoted fans seek to propel their teams to victory. Undoubtedly, the scene for Christ on Palm Sunday was similar. Yet in less than a week, things took a much different turn, with a much more far-reaching conclusion than some simple basketball game’s score.

It is our goal to put ourselves with Jesus on that path to his death and subsequent victory over Satan. Yet it is different for us. We know the outcome; we know he (and, by our baptisms, we) won. For the disciples, like the modern basketball fan, part of the excitement and trepidation with the journey was that the conclusion was unknown. Even if they believed Christ would rise, the disciples didn’t really know that he would. Despite our believing and wanting our team to win, we don’t really know what will happen. We may find it relatively easy to travel this journey during Lent, because we know Christ wins in the end. But we’re listening only to our sinful selves if we think the journey is easy. Christ knew we couldn’t follow him. We couldn’t recreate his journey to Calvary. That is why he gave us the command to do the next best thing: “Love one another.” That is Christ’s message to us as we try to follow in his footsteps. He took the journey for us so that we would be able to love one another.

As you share the Lenten experience during this time of March Madness, remember that because we know the victory is ours, we can follow Christ’s command to “love one another.” No matter which Lenten series your church uses, the message is the same: “Where I am going, you cannot come.” As mere human sinners, the journey would be impossible for us. It is our failure to follow the road laid out for us that caused his death in the first place. But Christ’s love is so great that he paved the way to everlasting life for us. Lent is a time for introspection, to see how we have stumbled and fallen short of God’s expectations for us. But thanks be to God that we can look to Jesus’ cross and know that the victory is ours!

A simple phrase like “love one another” carries a whole new meaning when put into the context of Lent. As you ponder the inexplicable compassion that is God’s love, reach out to your family, your friends, your students with words and actions of love that reflect Christ’s journey for us. He took the final road for us so that we can love one another.

That-They-May-Have-Life-CoverFrom That They May Have Life: Devotions for Christian Educators, by David J. Bangert ©2008 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.