• 52°

The best comeback story

By Thurman Hayes

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard some absolutely amazing “comeback” stories.

First, there was the University of Virginia winning the national championship for men’s basketball, after suffering a humiliating loss in last year’s tournament. It was one of the most inspiring sports stories ever.

But then just a couple of weeks later came The Masters, and Tiger Woods. I remember when Tiger Woods became a household name. It was 22 years ago, in 1997. Sports fans like me had heard his name before, going back to his days as a collegiate golfer, at Stanford. But in the 1997 Masters, Woods broke into the public consciousness in an astounding way, winning by a dozen strokes. And he was only 21 years old!

In the ensuing years, Woods came to dominate the sport like none other. For 683 weeks, he was ranked as the No. 1 golfer in the world.

Then came the crash. It began with a literal crash, in the middle of the night, as he ran into a fire hydrant in a neighbor’s yard. That crash, in November of 2009, led to the crash of his marriage, and many embarrassing revelations about his personal life.

He lost his wife. He lost his reputation. Then he lost his game. It seemed like something was missing. The cool invincibility under pressure disappeared. He was no longer winning major tournaments. Then he lost his health, going through multiple back surgeries. Few — and I mean very few — thought he would ever win a major tournament again.

Then came Sunday at Augusta, as Woods stared down the best young golfers in the game, and won his fifth green jacket. Just a couple of years ago, his back was so injured that he couldn’t even pick up his children. But on Sunday afternoon, as he walked off the 18th green as Masters Champion, he picked up his young son in a touching embrace.

But as powerful as the UVA and the Tiger Woods comebacks have been, Easter is about an infinitely greater comeback. Jesus Christ came back from the dead!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the fact that we have a risen Savior. The resurrection of Jesus is not a fairy tale. It was not a vision or a myth. He didn’t just “rise in the hearts” of his followers. No, Jesus really rose from the dead, literally and physically.

That resurrection on Sunday followed His crucifixion on Friday. Today is what Christians refer to as Good Friday. But at the time it seemed like a Bad Friday — the worst Friday. But Sunday was coming. And because Jesus rose, we know that He really was the Savior, dying so that we can live.

If you don’t know much about Christianity, start out by attending an Easter service this Sunday morning. I’d like to personally invite you to my church, as my guest. But go somewhere.

As pastor and author Tim Keller says, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said?”

But He did rise. And new life and eternal life can be yours, if you will fall into His arms that were stretched out for you on a cross.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.