The play was designed for John Fuqua to cross over the middle to make the catch for the first down and get the Steelers into good scoring position. Time was running out, so it would need to be quick to get the next play off. The play took longer than planned, as quarterback Terry Bradshaw had to avoid a strong Raider rush. Amazingly, he got clear and threw the pass. As the ball came towards Fuqua, Jack Tatum, a safety for the Raiders, jumped on the play and knocked the ball away from Fuqua. The TV announcer at the time called it an incomplete pass. He didn’t notice that Franco Harris, Steeler running back, had caught the deflection before it hit the ground. When he noticed, Harris was well on his way to scoring the winning touchdown in a play that NFL Films has said was the greatest play of all time.
I don’t think one member of the Steelers watch Harris score that touchdown and say sadly, “that wasn’t how we drew the play up.” I think even the intended receiver, John Fuqua, was probably ecstatic with the way things worked out. The most disappointed man on the field must have been Jack Tatum who made a great defensive play only to see an even greater offensive play. I’m sure that those who sought to put Paul into prison wanted to stop his preaching of the gospel. It seemed like a great defensive play at the time, so to speak. The problem for those attacking Paul is that not only did the palace guard, chained to Paul and thus a captive audience, learn about Jesus, others were emboldened to preach the gospel because of his chains. Some with noble reasons, others for financial considerations. “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,” (Philippians 1:18)
At one time in the United States the only religious arguments we had dealt with denominations. We didn’t argue about whether or not God should be involved in the public discussion, we argued about the churches involved. Ok, many Americans were worried about whether or not the Roman Catholic Church was going to control things here in America. Fortunately, that part of the argument is no longer a major issue. We are too busy trying to let America understand that believing in God should not disqualify us from speaking on issues of importance. We understand what William Penn said when he said that “Men who are not governed by God will be governed by tyranny.” While many lament the fact that others are opposing the idea of God in the public discussion, let’s rejoice. We have an amazing opportunity to re-establish the importance of God. When the world no longer assumes the presence of God, we have the opportunity to proclaim and teach about the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
So many people have no understanding of who God is these days. Bible stories that we knew and loved growing up are completely new to people who are young adults these days. The Church is irrelevant in the eyes of many. People don’t even go to church anymore for their children. They want children to make up their own minds about God. That, of course, without ever exposing them to any information about God other than they might see in the media which will most likely be negative. We can lament, or we can accept the challenge in front of us. Our call in the face of opposition is not to fall back into our churches and decry a failing society. Our job is not to live as hermits while the world falls apart. Our job, our joy, is to preach the gospel of grace, the gospel of a God who loved people so much that He sent His only Son to earth, which is why we celebrate Christmas, to die on the cross to forgive our sin and restore fellowship with Him. The challenge, the opportunity, lies before us. We must accept it and share Jesus.
Lord God, the challenge is great, but You are greater. Give me strength to share Your love in my world.