|Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images|
Watching Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane at Texas was a little scary, considering how hot and dehydrated he was after his in-car drink system failed. As he leaned back against the car to talk on camera, I prayed someone would give him another bottle of Gatorade or get him to the infield care center.
“I guess we had a caution Lap 3 or something, and I pointed out to my guys that my drink system wasn't working, so I just didn't have any fluids,” Johnson said. “ Stage 1 and 2, they handed me a small bottle of Gatorade, which I drank, but the 160 laps at the end or whatever it was, I just didn't have any fluids at all in the car.”
During the final laps of the race, Johnson’s heart rate was skyrocketing and his left-side muscles started cramping. And although he seemed OK during his TV interview, during a radio interview shortly after the race, Johnson’s condition deteriorated.
“I felt my back lock up and then my chest and my arms, and I was starting to cramp everywhere,” he said. “That was an immediate trip to the infield care center to get some IVs. I had three bags of IV and feeling a ton better now.”
Three liters is more liquid than most non-athletes drink in a day, so Johnson was in need of serious rehydration.
Yet despite being drained and dehydrated, “Superman” soldiered on through the long Stage 3 and won the race. Then he climbed out of the car, stood upright and talked into a microphone. Quite a feat.
When Jesus hung on the cross on the first Good Friday, He was drained and dehydrated, too. He had nothing to drink for six hours, except when some not-so-brilliant soul held up a sponge soaked with vinegar, which probably stung His cracked lips.
Imagine the excruciating pain He was feeling. There were giant nails through His hands and feet, His arm muscles pulled taut or torn. Imagine the effort it took just to breathe while His torso sagged forward. It was a horrifyingly brutal form of torture and execution.
Yet Jesus soldiered on, did His divine duty and won His race. Exhausted and bleeding, He delivered salvation for you and me. With nails separating muscle from tendon, ripping His tissues with every shift of His body, He still spoke to the thief hanging beside Him. Through the pain, He remembered His mother, Mary, and asked His disciple to care for her.
Then, with a parched tongue and throat, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And then He willingly gave up His spirit, collapsed and died.
Jesus was the real superhero. Not only was He drained, dehydrated and deprived of dignity, He was stripped of His Father’s comforting presence.
God had to turn His back on Jesus for a brief time so that the punishment for our sins could be fully paid. But even in His loneliness and suffering, Jesus knew that joy would come in a few short days — on that first Easter morning.
Jesus didn’t go to the infield care center to be pumped full of IV fluids. He received the holy power of heaven and rose from the dead, wholly hydrated.
On Good Friday and Easter, Jesus won the race for you, me and all of humankind. Will you dedicate your race of life to Him?
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. ~ Matthew 27:50 (NIV)
"Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the month during the NASCAR season.
Beth Reinke has been writing Faith on the Frontstretch since 2011. She’s a registered dietitian, author and editor who loves chocolate and Sundays. Follow her on twitter at @bbreinke.