In 1993, the Buffalo Bills made the greatest comeback in NFL history. In the wild card game of the playoffs against the Houston Oilers, the Bills were down at one point 35-3 in the third quarter, but came back to take the lead 38-35, and then won in overtime 41-38. To this day, that game is simply known as The Comeback.
In late November 1996, the Utah Jazz were down by 36 points to the Denver Nuggets, only to come back and win the game by four points, and is the greatest comeback in NBA history. In another game, Reggie Miller individually scored eight points in the last 18.7 seconds of the Indiana Pacers' game against the Orlando Magic to come back and pull out a win. In a 1980 college football game, Brigham Young was down by 20 points to SMU with less than three minutes to play, but scored three touchdowns and that final extra point to win the game 46-45.
A comeback, by definition, is "a return to a former position or condition," but as we see often in the sports world, a comeback is also defined as "a new effort to win or succeed after being close to defeat or failure." And in the realm of sports, comebacks are exciting to watch. When one team is down by a large margin, or one team doesn't have much time to score a bunch of points — or both — it appears a loss is inevitable. But then the comeback happens and what once appeared to be a loss has been turned into an improbable victory. The team that thought they had sealed the victory is left defeated [in more ways than one] and the team that looked like they were defeated leaves the field of play with that improbable victory. Comebacks are amazing and exciting to watch because we love to see the improbable or the impossible made possible. It gives us hope.
I've seen my share of sports comebacks, and I'm sure you have, too, but let me tell you about what is truly the greatest comeback in the history of mankind — no exaggeration.
To tell the story, we have to go all the back to the beginning of this man's life. He was born in the lowliest of circumstances, though everyone expected He would come with such glory as had never been seen on earth, nor had been offered to anyone. To be completely clear, His appearance was disappointing to many who anticipated His arrival! To add to the disappointment, He didn't grow up as royalty, either, but in humble circumstances with a family that was no more honorable or wealthy or privileged than any other. His father was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55), and He learned the trade, too. But His lowly birth and upbringing led many to reject Him for who He truly was (cf. John 7:40-44)
But this Man was more than a mere man; He claimed to have been sent by God (John 6:38) and claimed to be the Son of God (cf. Matt. 26:64, 64). Let us acknowledge that in this claim there is no 'middle ground' and no possibility of merely calling this man 'good' if it was not true. As C.S. Lewis put it, "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Indeed!
But this man who claimed to be the Son of God was rejected by the religious leaders of the first century — in spite of His numerous, undeniable miracles, signs, and wonders — and was tried as a blasphemer and with implications of treason (Matt. 26:65; John 19:12). He was handed over to the Roman authorities to put Him to death (John 18:28-32), and He was sentenced to be crucified. And so he was.
This was a dark time, for even before His death, when the mob came to take Him away, His closest disciples left Him (Matt. 26:56). As He hung on the cross, He was further mocked by those who put Him there, and by those who hung beside Him (Matt. 27:39-44). Though He was joined by two others on a cross, He was alone in His suffering, for He had done no wrong. So dark was this time that even the sun hid its face for three hours (Matt. 27:45). And when He died, even the earth trembled at what had been done (Matt. 27:50, 51)!
The disciples who had been following Him for the last three years must have been mightily disappointed and discouraged. His lifeless body was wrapped and placed in a tomb and they surely thought that was the end of it all. They had expected Him to be the prophesied King and throw off the Roman rule to restore Israel to its once-great glory (Luke 24:21), but they had to meet afterwards in secret for fear of the religious leaders (John 20:19) Things could not have been any more hopeless than at that time.
But, then…everything changed. This one who had been so thoughtlessly mocked and tried, who had been scourged and then crucified to suffer and then die such a horrible death, and who had been laid in a borrowed tomb, was alive again! Just when it seemed the hope of Israel — no, the hope of all mankind — was defeated, He rose from the dead! And this was no small comeback! As had been prophesied (Psa. 16:10), His body did not decay in the grave, and He arose to conquer death itself and the one who held its power — the devil (Heb. 2:14). Just when the devil thought he had achieved the greatest victory he could have ever imagined, it all came crashing down and he was more than defeated; he was crushed. But there is more!
This great story does not have to end with the resurrection of Jesus, No; in fact, because of His death and resurrection — His 'comeback' — you and I now have a chance of a comeback of our own.
You see, the devil has a hold over each one of us — all of us — for we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23). As such, we are all enslaved by him to do his will (cf. 2 Tim. 2:26) and unable to free ourselves. But, worse than that, we all face the penalty for our sins: death (Rom. 6:23). With the guilt of sin hanging over us, all we could expect was eternal punishment. Surely, in this condition, our situation is hopeless! And it is! The devil must be reveling in his victories over each one of us as he knows our fate, too.
But, you see, it doesn't have to remain this way. When Christ died, He died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3); His blood paid the price we owed, and for those who believe and obey, they are washed from those sins and now free of guilt (Col. 2:11-13)! We can be reconciled to God now — free of sin!
His resurrection from the dead made another 'comeback' possible. Without His resurrection, we would have no hope (1 Cor. 15:16-19), but He did rise again and, because of that, when Christ comes again, those who are in Christ will be raised up (1 Cor. 15:20; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). Victory (1 Cor. 15:57)!
The devil wants you to think life is utterly hopeless, there is no way out, and that he has already won. Don't believe him! Don't quit! While you are yet alive, you have the chance for a comeback! — Steven Harper