Every year I ask myself the same question. Why do I find the lure of a shocking victory by an underdog so compelling? I am most definitely not unique in this fascination with the underdog. And lest I be accused of being a sports fanatic with a one track mind, I will point out that the underdog appeal shows up in other arenas. Have you ever seen the video of the appearance of Susan Boyle on the British show Britain’s Got Talent? Who is not touched when this dowdy, plump, older woman shows up in that competition looking for all the world like a joke, then proceeds to blow away everyone with her powerful singing? Hollywood’s history bears witness to the appeal of the underdog. Consider the list of movies about underdogs who pulled off the unthinkable upset:Cinderella Man (wonderful movie about boxer James Braddock), Rudy, Invincible (the story of NFL walk on Vince Papale), Hoosiers, Miracle (1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team) and The Rookie. Of course you would have to throw in to that list a movie or two about Rocky Balboa, wouldn’t you?
So why is that? My opinion, for what little it is worth, is that it is about hope. Part of the appeal of the old Peanuts cartoons was that their central character was Charlie Brown, the lovable loser. Most of us identify with Charlie Brown. We feel that against the forces of life we are undermanned. We are giving it our very best, but somehow it feels like the odds are against us most of the time. The unexpected victory of the underdog gives us hope that the race isn’t always to the swiftest, the battle is not always won by the strongest. When David beats Goliath we once again think that maybe there’s hope for us.
That brings me to the greatest, most important story of all time. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate underdog story. What chance was there that an anonymous baby born to an insignificant teenager in ancient Israel would be the Son of God who would change the world? Who expected that a man who died on a cross would live again? The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the event we remember and celebrate this Easter season, was the greatest upset victory the world ever has or ever will see. And of course that upset victory brings hope to all of us, the unlovable losers of the human race. What chance was there that an all-powerful, holy God would take notice of us and love us? What hope was there for us as we, knowing our own failings and guilt, faced death and eternity? There was none! But God, in his grace and mercy, has pulled off the upset. We, the unexpected underdogs, have become his children through what Jesus Christ has done for us and know that we will defeat our implacable foe, death itself, as a result. What a story! Is there anything more compelling or joyful? What makes this story the most powerful of all is that it is not just a good story. It is true, and that changes everything.