by David Sisler

It is one of the most exciting plays in football. The quarterback drops back into the pocket and throws a deep pass to his wide receiver. The receiver plants his foot, executes a perfect cut to the end zone and makes a diving catch for the ball. Touchdown!

Often unnoticed by the fans, even by the television crews, but always noticed by the rest of the team is the sacrificial block thrown by an offensive lineman. If that lineman, who is almost never on the cover of a magazine, almost never asked to do a commercial endorsement, missed his block, there would have been no touchdown.

The first batter up in the bottom of the ninth inning lined a double down the right field line. The second batter laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. He was out, but the runner advanced to third. With no outs, the defensive team had to play in for a play at the plate. The next batter lined a fly ball over the heads of the drawn-in outfield and the runner raced home with the winning run.

It may have been forgotten by the fans and in the box scores, but the team remembered. If the second batter of the inning had been unsuccessful in his sacrifice, the team might not have scored.

When we talk about sports we understand what a sacrifice is. When we talk about life, do we also understand sacrifice?

Jesus was speaking one day to a crowd in Capernaum. It was the third year of His ministry. He had just fed 5,000 people and so He had a ready audience. While their minds were still on food, He talked about the manna, the bread with which Israel was fed in the wilderness.

Then He said, "Everyone who ate that bread died. I am the bread of life. What manna could not do, I can do. What regular bread could not do, I can do. But unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have no part in me."

Some of the crowd may have thought He was advocating cannibalism. I do not think that was the majority opinion. I think most of His audience caught a significance deeper than the words appeared from the surface. I think they instinctively understood, "Jesus is talking about sacrifice."

The crowd may not have fully comprehended that sacrifice. We know for a fact that the disciples did not understand when Jesus talked about His own death and resurrection. But there was something about those words that sunk deep inside of them.

Discerning more than they bargained for, the crowd simply started to slip away. The Bible says, "From that day, many of His disciples, those who had been marginal followers, but followers none-the-less, deserted Him. They never again followed Him."

While He was feeding them and healing them, Jesus was the most attractive person. When He began to demand that they accept His death and that they die out to themselves, He was suddenly very unattractive. Very quickly, they stopped following.

Jesus turned to the few who remained, the 12 He had chosen, and said, "What about you? Will you also go away?"

Simon Peter responded, "Lord, if we do leave, where will we go? You are the only one who has the words of eternal life?"

I wonder if those who walked away from Jesus that day, ever regretted their decision. I wonder if they ever understood that only by sacrifice could they ever truly live.

If Jesus lived a life of sacrifice and died a death of sacrifice, you cannot follow Him without making your own personal sacrifice. If you are looking for the popular way, you will probably not follow Jesus. Jesus demands sacrifice, and that is never the popular way. If you are going to stand with Jesus, you will probably stand alone.

When we talk about sports we understand what a sacrifice is. When we talk about life, do we also understand sacrifice?


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1/15/94

Copyright 1994 by David Sisler

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