In 490 BC, Persia invaded the coastal city of Marathon, Greece. Greece valiantly battled against the bigger Persian fleet…and prevailed. A Greek soldier, Pheidippides, was sent to Athens to proclaim the good news–they were victorious, Persia had been defeated. Pheidippides ran the entire distance. Legend says he shouted the words “Niki” (victory), then collapsed and died.
To commemorate his courageous run, the Athens Marathon was born–24.85 miles. Year after year runners gathered, ran the distance and celebrated “Niki” at the finish line. In 1908, the marathon stretched to 26.2 miles so that the race could finish in front of the royal viewing box of the Queen of England.
in 1896 Greece hosted the first modern Olympic Games. The Greeks had yet to win a medal, and had one final chance to bring glory to their nation. Twenty-five runners assembled on Marathon Bridge. The starter mumbled a few words and fired the gun, and the race was on. Spiridon Louis, a Greek postal worker from the village of Marusi and veteran of several long military marches, crossed the finish line a full seven minutes ahead of the pack. His time was 2 hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds for the 40 kilometer distance. The United States was one of 9 nations at the 1896 Athens Olympics, thanks to sponsorship of athletes by the Boston Athletic Association. Middle distance runner Arthur Blake was the only American to enter the first marathon but unfortunately dropped out after about 14.5 miles. Planning for North America’s first marathon began on the boat back to United States. The first annual Boston Athletic Association marathon was conducted on April 19, 1897, the date chosen to commemorate the famous ride of Paul Revere in 1775. (from athensmarathon.com)
Yesterday, the shout of victory was deadened by falling shrapnel and cries of despair. Devastation replaced joy, horror displaced celebration.
We pray…and seek God.
While Athens commemorates a Greek soldier, and the Boston Marathon remembers an early American patriot, we are reminded that we can’t find ultimate hope there. In the midst of chaos and pain, we remember and cling to a man who faced unbearable pain. Somehow, with the images of bloodshed from the streets of Boston now permanently imprinted in our minds, we find ourselves clinging to a man who came to make “all things new,” who looked into the face of the bombers themselves from the cross (and us too) and cried his own shout of victory “It is finished.”
And while we pray through the pain of today, we look forward to the hope of tomorrow. John allows us to eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and his saddened disciples. Jesus is talking,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Thomas doubted. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus didn’t scold Thomas. He answered him. Man to man.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Thomas, you gotta believe. And we do too. Especially now.