Born to Die

Hebrews 2 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

While the road cycling fraternity has faced considerable criticism, for good reason due to repeated and systemic performance enhancing drug scandals, I still consider the sport unique and compelling.  A victory at the annual Tour de France (Le Tour) is the pinnacle achievement for any elite rider.  The multi-stage, multi-day race, first held in 1903, has stories of triumph and tragedy too numerous to recount all.

For me, one of the most compelling stories I have ever read is about an Italian cyclist named Andrea Carrea.  Carrea was on the 1952 Tour de France team supporting the great Italian racer Fausto Coppi.  Andrea Carrea’s role on the team was Domestique, a French word translated as servant.  As the name suggests, everything he did in the race was intended to support his lead cyclist.  He would sit just in front of Coppi, breaking the wind so Coppi would save his energy.  The Domestique would constantly be keeping an eye on the competition to react to attacks that may negatively affect his leader.  If his leader’s bike failed, the Domestique would even pull over and give him his and wait for another to arrive.

One race day in the Tour in 1952 Carrea joined an attack to protect Coppi’s interests, but without knowing it his leader was not able to follow and by the time Carrea had crossed the finish line he had become the overall race leader.  When the officials told him, he burst into tears.  He had ousted his captain Coppi, and Carrea felt nothing but shame, for his role was servant not leader.  Journalist Jean-Luc Gatellier said of Carrea that he was “the incarnation of personal disinterest…showing to perfection the notion of personal sacrifice.  He refused the slightest bit of personal glory”.

If that is how Carrea is immortalized, how much more does our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ deserve that distinction?  Beyond sacrificing himself in an athletic competition, Jesus gave up his life.  If you were to survey people on the street to find out why they feel Jesus came to the earth, few would say his purpose was to die.  Spend some time reading Hebrews 2.  Understand that he didn’t come to heal people of sickness (even though he did that); he didn’t come to train the disciples (even though he did that); he didn’t come to teach people how to love (even though he did that) – Jesus Christ was born so that he could die, “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:17b).

While Carrea’s story is a beautiful picture of humility and athletic sacrifice, I must disagree with Jean-Luc Gatellier and instead give Jesus the honour of this distinction:  “the incarnation of personal disinterest…showing to perfection the notion of personal sacrifice.  He refused the slightest bit of personal glory”.

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