I have always been a huge fan of boxing and through the years have had many “favorite fighters,” but my all-time favorite is Muhammad Ali. I can remember my family gathering around the TV to watch one of his fights which was titled, “The Rumble in the Jungle.” It was a fight between the undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman and challenger Ali, a former heavyweight champion.
Ali was famous for his hand and foot speed and his technical skills, while Foreman was known for his raw power. The start of the fight was all everyone expected it to be. However, as the second round began, Ali changed tactics and began to lean on the ropes and cover up, letting Foreman punch his arms and body (a strategy Ali later called the “rope-a-dope”). As a result, Foreman threw lots of punches that either didn’t reach Ali, were blocked, or were only body blows. Ali's "rope-a-dope” strategy was designed to make Foreman run out of energy.
Watching Ali on the rope terrified me. I was yelling at the TV, “GET OFF OF THE ROPES . . . FIGHT BACK!” It was painful to watch my boxing hero get beat up that way. I felt like he was throwing the fight, not trying, giving up, and didn’t have a chance to win if he didn’t fight back. Watching Foreman dominate him this way made me think, “Maybe the other guys that Ali beat weren’t all that good, or maybe Foreman is just that much better.”
After several rounds, Foreman began to slow down and was staggered by Ali at the beginning of the fourth round, and again several times near the end of the fifth. Although Foreman kept throwing punches and coming forward, after the fifth round he looked dog-tired. Entering the eighth round, Foreman's punching and defense became ineffective from throwing so many wild punches. Ali came alive as Foreman tried to trap him on the ropes. Ali landed several punches which caused Foreman to stumble and fall to the canvas. The crowd exploded - my hero overcame - and my faith in him was restored. Ali wins by a knockout!
When I think of “The Rumble in the Jungle,” I’m reminded of Easter. The Easter Story is, undoubtedly, the greatest fight of all times. Easter is the ultimate battle of Good vs. Evil, God vs. the Devil, and Everlasting Life over Death. have his hand raised in victory and everyone thought the fight was over and were leaving, Jesus came back and scored a knockout. Jesus waged the greatest comeback of all time. Ali came off of the ropes, but Jesus came back from the grave.
Then, like a ring announcer, the angel broadcasted Jesus’ victory, "HE IS RISEN.” Jesus was arrested instead of me, stood the trial that I was subpoenaed for, served the sentence for the crimes I was charged with, endured the punishment for my wrongdoing, and won the fight so I can claim the victory. Jesus, “The Heavy Weight Champion . . . of my life.” HE IS RISEN! This Easter, “Celebrate the Victory!”
I can only imagine how it felt to be one of the Disciples walking every day with Jesus. They watched Him defeat sickness, reclaim sight for the blind, tread on water, and rescue people from the clutches of death. Then the day came when their hero was arrested and didn’t resist, put on trial and wouldn’t testify to His own innocence, put on the cross and just hung there and died. He was buried and the final blow was the stone being rolled in front of the grave.
All the while, they had to be like me yelling at the TV, “DEFEND YOURSELF, STOP THEM . . . PLEASE FIGHT BACK!” And like me, they didn’t understand that it was all a part of the plan. The plan that early on the third day, as the Devil thought he would