Some days do feel like a glorious sprint to the finish line, but I’m learning life is more often like an ultramarathon.
Ultras are gaining popularity these days as more and more people look to push themselves to the next level. There are two types of ultramarathons: those that cover a specific distance (anywhere from 31–100+ miles), and those that last for are determined amount of time. My body aches and creaks just thinking about running these extensive distances and hours; they require not just physical stamina, but incredible mental toughness as well.
Then I think about how Jesus was the ultimate ultrarunner. In His last week of earthly ministry, Jesus ran the ultra-race of a lifetime. Jesus told His disciples to prepare for the Passover feast. During that meal, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as a radical expression of his deep love for them. He held up the bread and wine and explained that His body and blood would be offered up for each one of them.
After the Passover meal, Jesus took his disciples to the Mount of Olives for His final message to them. He promised to send them the Holy Spirit to counsel, guide, and coach them. Jesus then journeyed on to Gethsemane, where He agonized in prayer. The course grew challenging here. As He finished praying, His disciple Judas came and betrayed Him with a kiss; He was arrested and taken to Annas, where he was sentenced to death for claiming to be the Son of God.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, tried to convince the Jewish leaders and people of Jesus’ innocence, but a mob gathered. In a poor attempt to appease the crowd, Pilate had Jesus stripped, mocked, and severely beaten. The mob was not satisfied and called for Jesus’ crucifixion. This was not even the hardest leg of Jesus’ final race.
Crucifixion was reserved for the worst and lowest criminals. The soldiers stripped Jesus and put a scarlet robe on Him. They twisted together a crown of thorns—a great contrast to the laurel crowns awarded to Olympians—and pressed it into His head. They spit on Him and struck Him. Then He had to climb a great hill He had created, where His hands and feet were nailed to a cross.
The cross was hoisted up in the darkness and Jesus hung there, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone offered Him a sponge of sour wine, but He wouldn’t drink it. He was beyond dehydration. This was worse than hitting the wall. He exhaled His last breath. This was the end.
Or so some thought.
The earth quaked with sorrow. His body was brought to a tomb that was closely guarded and covered with a heavy stone. Jesus was separated from His Father for three days. Can you imagine the loneliness and betrayal He endured on that journey?
On the third day, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and went to the tomb. He rolled back the stone and revealed to the women who waited that Jesus was not there. Light refracted in all directions. He was resurrected, claiming victory over death. Shortly afterward, Jesus himself appeared to the women. They fell at His feet and worshiped Him—their King, their Savior, the greatest ultrarunner of all time. They were witnesses to His race wounds and His healing. Then He sent those women to tell the others. And they ran.
Running reminds us of Jesus’ journey. Running is hard—physically, emotionally, and mentally. But we know that doing hard things means we are following in Jesus’ footsteps.
Paul says this about following Him in the hard things: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7–10, ESV).
When we run this life race, we will encounter trials, but we carry in our hearts the knowledge that Jesus himself ran this arduous race to the finish. In our weakness, He imparts strength to us so we, too, might taste the glory of the finish line.
Do you believe Jesus ran the ultimate race when He died and rose again? Have you ever asked Him to be your personal Savior? Have you ever confessed your sin and brokenness to Him? Take time to pray today and to invite Him into your heart.
The original version of this devotional was published in Walk Run Soar, my devotional book published in September 2020. More details here. Snag a copy for yourself or a friend.
*Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
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