Pictures of God’s grace for us in and through His Son, Jesus, can be found in the most unlikely places. Recently, I witnessed one such picture of God’s grace during WrestleMania 34. That’s right. WrestleMania. Professional wrestling’s most popular pay-per-view event of the year.
Let me explain. At WrestleMania 34, the two-man tag team known as “The Bar” were set to defend their WWE Raw Tag Team belts. I realize that might not mean anything to you. Suffice to say that holding the tag team belts means that you are the champions. The challenger was a man named Braun Strowman. His tag team partner was to be announced at the start of the match. Viewers waited in anticipation as he made his way to the ring and grabbed the microphone. Who was it going to be!? Fans looked confused when Braun announced his partner…he was going to choose someone from the audience!
Braun then left the ring, crossed the barrier and entered the crowd on the floor level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to search for a tag team partner. He marched up and down the rows, section after section, until finally, he made his choice. And who did he choose? A very average looking, quite nervous ten-year-old boy named Nicholas.
Visually, the difference between Braun and Nicholas was striking. Braun Strowman is a beast of man standing at 6’ 8” and weighing in at 385lbs. Nicholas, by contrast, looked like he weighed 50lbs soaking wet. When they entered the ring, Braun told Nicholas, “Stand on that apron and I’ll do the rest.” And that’s exactly what happened. Nicholas walked to the corner of the ring, held on to the ropes, and watched as the 385lb Braun Strowman single-handedly defeated the two tag team champions.
How amazing is that!? A ten-year-old boy became a tag team champion without having lifted so much as a finger to earn it.
Do you see where I’m going with this? You and I were also given an undeserved victory through the work of Another. Jesus single-handedly defeated sin and death, the former reigning tag team champions.
We, like Nicholas, have no chance in the face of our enemies. Sin has broken us. Death has its hold. But Jesus tells us to stand back—He will take care of everything. He stepped into the ring in our place. He pinned our sin to the cross as He bled and died. He dealt the knockout blow to death when He rose triumphant from the grave. If you understand the reference, sin and death “got those hands.”
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of the sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Having been united to Jesus in our baptism, His victory becomes our victory. How amazing is that!? Undeserving sinners are given the victory over sin and death without having lifted so much as a finger to earn it. Jesus has triumphed for us.
It was a special moment as Braun Strowman and Nicholas held up their tag team belts to cheers of the crowd. Nicholas’ face was beaming. He gave high-fives to members of the audience. You could tell from his smile that he was on cloud nine as he walked out of the arena guided by Braun’s huge arm.
What a wonderful picture of the grace of God. Sin and death are defeated and we walk away with an undeserved, unearned victory while under the care and protection of the One who chose us to be His own.
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.
(from the Easter hymn “The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done”)
Jake serves as the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Williston Park, NY. He received his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 2011. His passions include exploring the depths of God's grace, playing guitar, good coffee, White Castle burgers, and old school video games. Jake and his lovely wife, Christina, have one adorable little son named Roman.