I love baseball. I have an annual tradition of watching Ken Burn’s Baseball documentary series when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training every February. My baseball fanaticism is palpable. The other night I watched one of my favorite baseball movies with my five-year-old son, The Sandlot. It’s a gift to spend time with him and watch his love for the game grow.
This is your The Sandlot spoiler alert. The entire plot of the movie revolves around San Fernando Valley neighborhood kids that play baseball at a local sandlot in the 1960s. Their main predicament in the film is rescuing a Babe Ruth signed baseball from a junkyard dog. You know, the Great Bambino! The Sultan of Swat! The King of Crash! The Colossus of Clout! The one and only, Babe Ruth.
Worse than tangling with the junkyard dog for the signed ball is the idea of running into its owner, Mr. Mertle. At the end of the movie, however, the kids are inevitably confronted by the old man.
The gospel parallel between the boys and Mr. Mertle is striking. Mr. Mertle is not a bad guy after all. He even mentions that all the boys had to do was knock on his door and he would have gotten the baseball for them.
Mr. Mertle asks Scotty Smalls who stole his step-dad’s signed baseball if he is in trouble. When the boy confesses that he is because the ball was signed by Babe Ruth, Mr. Mertle replies, “George signed this? I take it back. You're not in trouble. You're dead where you stand.”
“Dead where you stand.”
The law has us dead to rights. Apart from Christ, we are dead where we stand. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) We are just like Scotty. We are thieves, and our righteousness from day one is as worthless as a chewed-up baseball. Any good signature on it has been gnawed to shreds from our sin. No matter our efforts in fixing things, we still remain dead where we stand.
Just like Mr. Mertle, God gifts us with an unexpected, lopsided gift.
Mr. Mertle then does the unthinkable. Something so unexpected it takes us all off guard. Mr. Mertle offers a trade. It turns out he loves baseball as well and has a house full of baseball memorabilia and keepsakes. His trade offer is scandalously good. He keeps the chewed up, worthless baseball and gives the boy a new signed ball. This new ball is also signed by Babe Ruth. As well as the rest of the 1927 World Series Champions, the New York Yankees.
Then the obvious question comes up from one of the boys. “But why would you trade? That one’s all chewed up!” Old Man Mertle smiles pointing back inside his house, “I got a lot of good stuff. Look at that stuff! Besides, you need it more than I do.”
God the Father has a lot of “good stuff” and he is pleased to give us more than we can fathom. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32-34).
Just like Mr. Mertle, God gifts us with an unexpected, lopsided gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
Our unrighteousness is traded to Christ to claim as his. The righteousness of Christ is traded to us to claim as ours. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
This trade or exchange that was made on the cross of Christ was done for you. The forgiveness of your sins and your reconciliation with God the Father courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood is gifted to you, for you. It is a scandalously good gift from our Father in Heaven who delights in you.
But why would God make that trade? Because he has an endless amount to give to us and it pleases him to do so. God loves you so much more than you think he does.