Last night’s sloppy, foul-filled, and competitive game resulted in UNC knocking off Gonzaga and becoming the National Champions for the sixth time. The finish was unique with the tug of war abruptly coming to an end, and UNC all of a sudden winning the game.

It was a huge win for North Carolina when you consider they were in this position a year ago, but Villanova’s confetti was falling from the ceiling instead. Since that heartbreaking loss, “redemption” has been what UNC has desired and is what they received last night.

Not only did the team redeem themselves by making it back and this time winning the championship, but individual players also found moments of “redemption.”

Isaiah Hicks couldn’t seem to hit a shot in the Final Four or earlier on last night, but his fancy one-hander in the paint helped seal the win in the closing minute, and redeem his previous poor shooting.

Joel Berry II was playing on two bad ankles and shot 2-14 against Oregon, but then redeemed himself by scoring 22 points against Gonzaga and being named the Most Outstanding Player.

Kennedy Meeks was in foul trouble and seemed to have disappeared for awhile, but ended up making the game-winning block…and finding redemption.

UNC’s best player, Justin Jackson, went 0-9 from the 3-point line, but came up with an enormous layup in the final 2-minutes, along with the final dunk, to put an exclamation point on the team’s redemption.

It’s hard not to love another redemption story in sports (unless you’re a Duke fan) because there’s something wonderful about watching a team experience the joys of winning after knowing they went through heartache and disappointment.

When it comes to faith, the word “redemption” is even more powerful and incredible. Although rare in sports for a team or player to even have an opportunity for redemption, thanks to Jesus we are all offered a chance to be redeemed – and it’s not even based on anything we do.

Redemption in sports means “the act of making up for,” but Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross means “the act of saving from sin.”

The Bible says in Romans 3:23-24 (ESV), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 1:7 (ESV) tells us, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”

All of us have a story of losing, brokenness, heartache, struggle, sin, and separation from God. However, as followers of Jesus, we’ve received grace and forgiveness. Thankfully, the victory on the cross turns our story into a redemption unlike any other. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross and redeem me from my sin. I’m thankful to live a life of redemption because of Your grace and forgiveness. I pray that I’d help others see the wonderful gift of redemption You offer them, too. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.