by James Paulin
All hail the mighty champion! So often we see a sports figure pictured embracing a prized golden or silver trophy, holding it on high, even endearing it with a kiss. Often times, the object is represented in the form of an elaborate cup. The Wimbledon cup in tennis, the Stanley cup in hockey, the Ryder cup in golf, the Americas cup in sailing are but a few examples. The investment of effort, talent, teamwork and commitment are undeniably essential to becoming the one who successfully overwhelms all opposition both from competition and inner struggles.
What are the ingredients that combine to separate the extraordinary from the mediocre, the elite from the extraordinary and a champion from the runner up? Some would argue that it is just luck but that doesn’t hold up with consistency. Work ethic, intelligence, preparation, determination, and sacrifice are required to meet ones full potential. Isaiah Thomas, maybe the best point guard ever, was asked once if he would still play in the National Basketball Finals with what turned out to be a fractured ankle. His response was adamantly yes. He said, “ I am playing. I am not dead yet.” Leadership, responsibility and courage dominated his attitude. There is always a steep price to pay to gain a cherished prize, to be the final victor, to kiss the cup.
If everyone knew the cost in terms of preparation and pain they would have to endure to even have a chance to become the one to take it all, they might agonize over their ability to persist and succeed. Putting their long term health at risk and doubts of how the odds are greatly against them would deter most of us. Spirits soar when the winner claims the prize but tears often come to the eyes of the defeated. There was a time when full knowledge of what was required to gain the most precious prize in history tortured the mind and human instincts of the only one able to complete the task.
“If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” These were the words of Jesus as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. He even sweated blood with his doubts. Of the betrayal, arrest and injustice, he knew. Of the mockery, crown of thorns and severe lashing, he knew. Of the weight of the cross he carried, the nerve searing pain of the nails and the hours writhing on the cross, he knew. Of the sorrow in his mother’s heart, the lance in his side and the bitterness of those who were against him, he knew. All his life he knew what was coming and he not only accepted it, he embraced it. His sacrifice won our victory over sin and death. God’s love was outpoured in the person of Jesus. He was the Lamb of God, the only offering necessary. It was and is God’s plan. Jesus kissed the cup.