It was on this day in 1667 that the practice of forcing Jews to run a footrace in the Roman carnival, while being buffeted and harassed, came to an end. This carnival typically opened on a Monday, and so to the Jews that day became known as Black Monday. On Black Monday, scantily clad Jews were forced to run 400 yards while being shouted at and being struck. On occasion these blows were savage enough to lead to death. After the runners had completed this gauntlet, local rabbis and Jewish leaders were forced to walk this same course while being insulted by the mob. It is somewhat reminiscent of what some Native American tribes did to their enemies when they compelled them to run the gauntlet. The unfortunate victim was forced to run between rows of their opponents who were shouting at them, striking them with their fists, club and tomahawks. Many times the person running the gauntlet did not survive.
What does this have to do with us today? As believers, we also find ourselves in a race. It’s a race that Paul speaks of on more than one occasion. In the book of Acts the Bible says:
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)
Paul makes it clear that this race will be marked with chains and tribulations. Still, he intended to finish it and so should we. Later, Paul makes this statement:
I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Like Paul, we are to run and finish the race which is equivalent to obtaining the prize that he referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:24. Keep in mind that running the race doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be out in front. Solomon said that the race is not to the swiftest. Actually, we are in a race of endurance, and those who will endure are those who will overcome.
What are we to overcome? What are we to endure? Messiah says we are to overcome the buffeting, insults, trials and tribulations that are incurred by running this race. Because we’re following in the footsteps of Messiah, we must expect to encounter much of what He encountered. He said, “The world didn’t love me. Don’t think they’re going to love you, either.”
Also, we must remember what the writer of Hebrews exhorted us to do:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
The race that those Jews of long ago were forced to run was one of shame and humiliation. In sharp contrast, the race that we are in is one of great honor, blessing, and, yes, cost. Therefore, pace yourself and always keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of God.