The following is a parable that was revealed to me while watching runners – including my dear wife, Jessicah – finish a 10K race on Saturday. I'm pretty sure it was one of those parables that either got lost in translation or didn't make the final cut for the synoptic gospels, perhaps due to its high hokeyness quotient 😉
Then he said to his disciples, "The Kingdom of God is like a 10 kilometer race. Not one of those big charity races with thousands of runners in a big town or city, but a grassroots run in a county park with only a few hundred racers. It's a race with many participants but few spectators, and when the fastest runners finish, there is nobody to cheer them on. But when the slowest among them cross the finish line, there are scores cheering them on, for the faster runners had already finished, and were standing nearby the finish line, welcoming their fellow runners home."
Then the disciples asked him, "What does this mean?" And he answered them, "Do you not yet understand? In a race the first receive the least amount of praise, since nobody but the race staff are there to cheer him on. And what joy is there when a 21 year-old stud cruises to a first place finish in a community run? We all expect young studs to win the race!
"But the last runner receives the greatest praise. For when an overweight 54 year-old with achy joints sweats through the race, crossing the finish line in last place after running 6.2 miles without stopping to walk even once, the whole gathered crowd of racers who had already finished the race, cooled down, stretched, and begun replenishing their system with sponsor-provided food and drink, will put down their Gatorades and bananas to cheer on this last place finisher. The cheers will be much louder, and words of encouragement much more plentiful, and admiration much greater for this last runner than they were for the first. For they all know that the last place runner spent more time suffering on the course, and overcame more challenges, than any other runner in the race.
"And so it is in the Kingdom of God. The angels and heavenly hosts will hoot and holler more loudly for those who stumble and straggle into the Kingdom than for those who sprint in hardly breaking a sweat. For this world honors with heaps of praise the best and fastest among you; yet in the Kingdom of God, it is the least among you who are celebrated the most."