In the 2012 playoffs, the Yankees went down in flames, and they did it in a way that no one expected: the Bronx Bombers couldn’t hit! Long known for using their high-priced “murderer’s row” offense to make up for shaky starting pitching, the 2012 Yankees lost close, low-scoring games because they couldn’t score any runs. Alex Rodriguez took most of the blame because of his overwhelming contract.
Yankees fans, used to cheering the long ball, got frustrated. For one game, a fan took the time to paint a giant sign saying “A-Rod: Redeem Thyself” and bring it to Yankee Stadium. How do you think Rodriguez felt, looking up into the stands and seeing that sign? I know how I would feel! I’d want to jump over the wall, clamber up to that fan’s row, and scream in his face, “Look, I’m TRYING to get hits! Don’t you think I’d be playing better if it was up to me? Don’t you think I’d redeem myself if I could?”
Self-redemption is every human being’s fondest hope, but it’s also our impossible dream. In sports, people always talk about the disaster that can come from trying to make up for failures on the next play. Coaches always chide athletes to have a short memory; if you go into the next play, the next match, or the next game trying to make up for the mistakes of the previous one, you’ll usually only compound them. The assertion is simple: we can’t redeem ourselves.
Humans refuse to believe that we are beyond helping ourselves. In fact, we often protest that God only helps those who do! We dearly wish that we could atone for our own mistakes and say “Thanks but no thanks” to the offered atoning death of Another. We’re uncomfortable owing someone so much.
We only acknowledge our need for a Savior when the idol of self-salvation is unceremoniously ripped from our grasp. A few days after the “Redeem Thyself” sign appeared at Yankee Stadium, Justin Verlander’s three hit annihilation served as the Hammer of God, finally convincing the Yankees, and their fans, that a Savior from within is not enough.
Today, let us celebrate the Good News that we have a Redeemer, and he is not us.