“Come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5)
There I was down on one knee at midfield on top of the Dolphins logo. We had seemingly just won the game in overtime on a safety of all things. The team needed the win. As their chaplain, I wanted nothing more than for them to have some joy after four long weeks. So as soon as the players ran towards the endzone to celebrate, I ran to midfield to pray with the players from both teams as I do after every game, win or lose. Except that the play was under review by the referees. Some players and coaches started retreating a bit to the sidelines thinking the refs may declare that the game was not yet over. With confident faith, I held my position on one knee in the middle of the field of play looking up at the video screens knowing that the correct call was made, but also knowing that what is correct is not always what comes out of the referee’s mouth. I just wanted my team to win. So I held my ground. Some may call it arrogance, but I prefer to call it confidence and little bit a faith that the victory would be upheld. Many of the players and coaches were looking towards the referee making the signal for safety which is two hands joined as they would be in prayer except you place them over your head. As I knelt there, I couldn’t help but smile as I watched all these players making this sign of prayer, even if it meant something else. I don’t know how long the referee reviewed that play, but it was long enough that the confidence I had began to turn to humility and I slowly got up almost resigned to the fact they were going to rule against us. So I took some steps towards the bench when the referee came out to the field and signaled that the correct call was made and we had won the game. In video replays, you can see the players rejoicing and off in the distance, a man dressed in black doing a fist pump and dashing to midfield to make his second attempt at a postgame prayer. Sometimes the Christian needs to be confident.
That is how Christ carried himself. That is what gave him the authority to tell a sinner like Zaccheus that he would stay at his house that evening. There was something about Jesus that drew this tax collector to the Lord. There was something about his persona, his voice, his confidence, in who he was that prompted this sinner to open his house and his heart to Christ. And once you open your heart to Jesus, things get turned upside down. Zaccheus receives the Lord into his home and immediately tell Jesus that he would give half his wealth to the poor and repay whomever he extorted 4 times what he stole from them. That’s conversion! And part of that conversion was having the confidence to be able to stand up in front of your critics, and there were many in Jericho that day, and tell everyone how much your heart has changed and the actions you’re going to take to demonstrate the love of Christ that now exists in a forgiven sinner’s heart. Jesus comes to seek the lost souls, prop them up, give them the confidence of the children of God so that they can change the world around them like Zaccheus did that day. Lost souls are capable of incredible acts of faith and charity when they turn their hearts to Christ. Today, Jesus is calling you by name asking to abide in your heart so that you may be a confident Christian.
Because we have been forgiven and because we are children of God, we need to walk with our heads held high and with the confidence of knowing that we have been redeemed and that Christ is always at our side. People will pick up on this Christian confidence, and they will gravitate towards us as we point them in the direction of our Master, Jesus Christ. After I said the prayer at midfield, players from both teams graciously thanked me and when I arrived at the victorious locker room, others were thanking me for contributing to the win. I always tell people that I don’t pray for wins. I’m just there as a witness of the Church and of Jesus Christ standing confidently on that sideline because we already won: 2000 years ago on the cross. Which is why I was able to walk off the field last week with my head held high after the crushing defeat in New England because of what a player prayed at midfield: “Lord, nothing that happened on this field today is greater than what You did for us at Calvary.” So much depth and truth in that prayer. Walk confidently my friends, for Christ has redeemed you.