The pinch hitter. Former Bangor resident and Major League Baseball player Matt Stairs called this one of the most difficult roles on a team. Sitting on the bench or in the clubhouse for two and one half to three hours and then being called upon in a key spot, often with the game on the line. Many times this would be against a team’s closer fresh out of the bullpen. Of anyone, he should know. He holds the major league record for most career pinch hit homeruns with 23, having done this with twelve different franchises.
Kirk Gibson arguably has the distinction of slugging the most memorable pinch-hit homerun in baseball history. In game one of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium the Dodgers were facing the mighty Oakland Athletics. Down 4-3 with two outs and one on in the bottom of the ninth inning, Gibson comes to the plate. You’ve probably heard the story or if you are of my generation remember exactly where you were at the time. Gibson, of course, was the unlikeliest of heroes hobbling up to the plate with two bad legs. Despite the odds, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had faith in the veteran slugger to come through. Who else was on the mound in this moment than the A’s dominant closer, Dennis Eckersley. The count had gotten to two-strikes with Gibson fouling off a pair of two-strike pitches before working the count full.
On the 3-2 pitch, Gibson sent a rocket into the right field stands sending Dodger Stadium into a complete frenzy. Once the roar died down, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully exclaimed, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” Ironically, it was Gibson’s only appearance in the 1988 World Series but the magnitude of the moment helped propel the Dodgers to the four games to one title.
As great as the moment in 1988, an even greater pinch-hitter, so to speak, has had such an impact he changed history. The stakes of the outcome were so much greater than winning a baseball game, even the World Series, for that matter. Throughout the history of mankind, it is all of us who have needed and still need a pinch-hitter.
We need a pinch hitter? Yes, indeed. Throughout the history of the world, mankind, regardless of how perceived by others or self has had a problem, that being sin. How do we know this? The Bible, which has been preserved for nearly two thousand years and written by forty authors, all with one central theme, that of redemption, tells us so. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to Romans in Chapter 3 and Verse 23 that all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. Yes, God is love but God is also a righteous and holy God. To enter into his presence we must also be pure and holy before God. Romans 6:23 goes on to say this: “For the wages of sin is death” Death? Don’t we all die. Yes, we all die physically and yes we can die spiritually because of our sin, however Romans 6:23 doesn’t end there.
Enter the pinch-hitter, the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23 offers a key transition word: but. “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because we are sinners, God requires a perfect sacrifice in order for us to one day enter His presence. God left the riches of heaven to come to Earth as a man to be that sacrifice for us. He was the only one who could do it because of the billions of people to ever walk the Earth, He was the only perfect being. Jesus was perfect because he was and is God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “he made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Jesus Christ suffered a horrific death on a cross in our place so that we may have life everlasting. But thank God, the story doesn’t end there. On the third day, the tomb was rolled away and was found empty. Jesus was resurrected which we celebrate on this Easter day, proving that He indeed was God in the flesh. Our hope is based solely on the resurrection of Christ. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17.
So now you have in a nutshell read the story of Easter, now what? It requires a decision on our part, what are we going to do with Jesus Christ? John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This, my friends, is the gospel message in a nutshell. Religions and various denominations can create much confusion but the real crux of the matter is: what are you going to do with this pinch-hitter, Jesus Christ?
See, we can attend church, we can perform so many religious rituals. Doing those things no more makes us Christian than attending Fenway Park makes us a member of the Boston Red Sox. We have three primary choices, really. We can reject this message as some sort of fairy tale. We can sort of neglect this, which most people do, and just go on their merry way, or we can receive Him as our lord and savior. In the Apostle Paul’s letter in Hebrews 2:3, he warns the people “how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
So, what will you decide today? Will you allow Jesus Christ to be your pinch-hitter and accept the free gift He gave you, just as He gave me? The chocolate bunnies and trinkets in the baskets are nice gifts but no greater gift has ever been given than for God to come down as a man to be sacrificed and to rise again. That is the greatest gift of Easter and it’s yours for free just for the asking.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16
From The Press Box, Happy Easter!