I really enjoy baseball. I enjoy playing the game. I enjoy coaching the game. I enjoy watching the game and talking about the game. I enjoy the way the game’s history seems to weave itself so effortlessly into America’s history. I enjoy the stories. One of the greatest and most disputed baseball tales involves one of baseball’s greatest, Babe Ruth.
In the 5th inning of Game 5 of the 1932 World Series between the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, the Babe came to bat having already hit one home run that day. The Cubs’ players had, as we would say today, been talking lots of trash. Following two called strikes and some more choice words from the pitcher, the Babe seemed to point in the direction of center field. The pitcher sliced off a curve ball, and then turned to try to find said curve ball well over 400 feet away in the center field bleachers. The Babe had called his shot.
Or so it seems. Even Babe Ruth himself played rather coy. And much debate and investigation has gone into determining the veracity of the incident. Nonetheless, it has lived on in baseball lore.
The Babe’s is a great story and assuming he did predict his home run, it’s a pretty extraordinary feat. But it’s not the greatest called shot; not by a long shot.
Early in his ministry Jesus found himself in what would become a common spot – He, passionately and wisely leading people to true faith, at odds with religious leaders, zealously and gravely opposing him. John chapter 2 tells of Jesus making his way into Jerusalem to find that the temple, this most sacred symbol of the faithful presence of God with his chosen people, was being used by merchants and money-changers who had set up shop to supply those who had traveled from afar to worship. Actually, they were likely set up in the temple courtyards, which would seem ok except that this was the only place where non-Jewish God-fearers were permitted. So these proprietors were not aiding in worship, they were disrupting the very worship that was meant to take place there. Jesus, seeing the situation, drove these people from the temple, infuriating the leaders who had sanctioned such a wickedly arrogant and racist arrangement. They questioned Jesus’ authority to do such an outlandishly righteous thing.
And so Jesus answered in a way much like he usually answered – a way that so fully answered the question that only those who were really listening could understand:
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19-22, ESV)
Jesus called his shot. One can question whether he was really raised but unlike the Babe there is very little debate about whether Jesus was confident it would happen.
The resurrection was not simply a fortunate supernatural by-product of a life well-lived. It was the culmination of a rescue plan that has existed in the mind of God for all eternity. And the Old Testament Scriptures had pointed the way. You see Jesus had called his shot long before that day in Jerusalem. He had been calling it through the lives of his people for thousands of years before.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Psalm 16:8-11)
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:22-32)
For those who trust that Jesus is God – creator, savior and King – we celebrate and bear witness to the One who calls his shots for the good of his people.