The Gospel of Manning


It was a bittersweet thing… seeing Peyton Manning retire from football. It has been so much fun to watch #18 master his craft and manhandle some of the toughest players and teams on the planet. But today we learned “the sheriff” won’t be back in town to lead my beloved Denver Broncos to another Super Bowl victory. Peyton Manning is undeniably one of football’s all-time greats… and we will miss him. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

But how sweet it was to hear the hope that he still has for a purposeful and productive future. As Peyton expressed in his retirement speech Monday, “I’m totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven’t even discovered yet. Life is not shrinking for me. It’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities.”

When I heard him say goodbye with such confidence and optimism, two of my greatest passions—God’s Word and Football (especially the Broncos)—collided on the gridiron of life. I don’t want to over-spiritualize the words of Peyton Manning. He’s “the Sheriff” not the Messiah. But his attitude of staying hopeful and curious about an unknown future got me thinking about Jesus’ disciples when they faced extreme uncertainty in the hours and days after His death.

Prior to His Crucifixion, Jesus tried to prepare His followers for those dark days.

From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (Matthew 16:21, NASB)

He tried to get them to understand that His life on earth had to end so that the next season of their lives as Kingdom-builders could begin.

"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." (John 16:7, NASB)

But they were not prepared to deal with His death. They had given up everything—family, homes, livelihoods and security—to follow Jesus. When He died on that Cross, their hopes and dreams died with Him. Listen in as two Christ-followers traveled back home from Jerusalem in utter discouragement and disappointment.

And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:13 - 21a, NASB)

"But we were hoping..." When the life that they had envisioned with Jesus looked far different than their reality, they threw in the towel. Everything that had given their lives meaning and value was gone… or so they thought.

And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:13 NASB)

Discouragement and fear of an unknown future had gotten the best of them. During times of uncertainty I have also traveled that path of unbelief. Have you? What we learn on the road to Emmaus is that even during times of darkness, when we can barely see in front of our noses… we can be assured our future as Christ-followers has never looked brighter because it's in His hands.

“Football has taught me not to be led by obstructions and setbacks, but instead to be led by dreams,” the Sheriff said before riding off into the sunset. Let Manning’s final play call be an encouragement to all of us.

If God has given us breath of life, He has given us purpose in life. It may be difficult to see that purpose in the midst of uncertainty. But by staying curious and optimistic as we wait on Him, we will be better prepared to embrace the unknown seasons to come.

Happy trails Peyton!