What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness — namely the righteousness that comes from faith. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written:
Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over
and a rock to trip over,
yet the one who believes on Him
will not be put to shame.
Grandma’s Marathon may not be a big deal to those reading this devotional who live out-state of Minnesota, but for those living here, it is a big event. It happens once a year in Duluth, and last I heard around 10,000 people run in this event every year.
Let’s say that you are born and raised right here in home-grown Minnesota. From the time you can remember, you have been training to compete in Grandma’s marathon when you turn 21 years old. Everything you eat and drink is for the purpose of winning that one race. You have ordered your entire life to this one goal, to win Grandma’s marathon in 2013.
The time has come; you and 9,999 other runners are eagerly waiting for the starting gun to shoot. Bang, and away you go. Your whole life has been for this one purpose, winning Grandma’s in 2013, and it appears that you are going to accomplish you life long goal. You are in the lead by 100 yards and see the finish line 40 yards in front of you. When you are nearly there, an older man dressed in blue jeans and a flannel walks out from the crowd sipping a large mouth Mountain Dew. He strolls briskly the last few steps and walks across the finish line 2 seconds before you do. The crowd goes nuts and the officials wave the checkered flag for their new champion.
You cross the line just seconds after this lumber jack of a man and can hardly believe your eyes. You watch the official bring a microphone to the man slurping on his big mouth 40 ounce and asks him what was behind his inspiration.
“What an ending to the race,” the official says. “Ya, sure was” says the flannel man. “What prompted you to come out from the crowd and cross the finish line just at the right time to win the race?” “Well,” says the man, “you see, I was just walking by, heading over to Grandma’s restaurant to get me one of those there carmel rolls when I says to myself, ‘hey I can win this race by trusting in the winning time of Dick Beardsley.’” “Dick Beardsley!” says the official, “what do you mean?” “Well Mr. Beardsley won this baby in 1981 with a time of 2:09:37; that time has never been beaten.” “I was just sitting there thinking that I could win the prize just like him if I merely trusted that his victory was mine.”
The man with the flannel was not pursuing a victory at all. Then he suddenly decided to trust in the victory of Dick Beardsley as being sufficient for him to win as well. He didn’t give any part of his life to pursuing a victory, he merely trusted in the victory of the ultimate grand champion, and the crown became his. Would you be outraged at this? Oh Yes!!! You have given your entire life to win this crown, and to have it stolen from you by a man who hadn’t given one second of thought to running this race before 10 seconds ago. Now he is the victor and didn’t himself even run the race.
The Jewish people had given their entire life to pursuing a righteousness by works. They believed that by obedience to the law, they could be crowned the champion of all righteous behavior. Then in a shocking turn of events, the Gentiles (who were not pursuing a righteousness at all) obtain the crown of righteousness by simply trusting in the righteousness of the grand victor Jesus Christ. Do you see now why righteousness by faith can be so offensive? It takes away all boasting for those who want to set themselves apart from the rest of humanity.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.