Read Mark 15:16-32.
“Let this Christ, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (v. 32a).
As he prepared his team for a bowl game, Tech’s head coach decided the school and his team needed a symbol, so he came up with one. As it turned out, he had a very good idea.
DeWitt Weaver’s Red Raiders of 1953 set a school record with 11 wins, (subsequently tied by Jim Carlen’s 1973 squad and Mike Leach’s 2008 team). The successful season landed the team in the Gator Bowl against Auburn on Jan. 1, 1954.
DeWitt had observed that unlike other schools, Tech had no visible and recognizable symbol for its team. He called a junior animal husbandry major, Joe Kirk Fulton, into his office and told him, “I’ve got an idea maybe you and I can work out.” That idea was the Masked Rider.
An expert horseman, Fulton quickly agreed to the plan and went to work. He first borrowed a horse named Blackie from a member of the Levelland Sheriff’s Posse; then he assembled his costume of jeans, a red shirt, a red and black cape, and a black hat. The horse was taken to Jacksonville by train for the Gator Bowl.
The first-ever Masked Rider then led the team onto the Gator Bowl turf — and was met by stunned disbelief and silence. That lasted only momentarily, though, before Red Raider fans burst into applause. Ed Danforth of the Atlanta Journal wrote, “No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.”
The Red Raiders have been making sensational entrances ever since. Today, to be chosen as the Masked Rider is one of the highest honors a student can achieve. The selection comes only after an arduous and challenging application process.
After all, “the Masked Rider is uniquely Texas Tech.”
Symbols are powerful factors in our lives. Consider the wellspring of emotions, thoughts, and sensations the passing by of the American flag elicits in many of us. Witness, too, the power of the Masked Rider to generate unbounded enthusiasm and joy when he leads the Red Raiders onto the field.
Some symbols — such as company logos like the swoosh and the golden arches — are carefully chosen. Others seem to arrive as if by accident or through custom. Christianity’s most recognized and beloved symbol is one of the latter. It is the cross, perhaps the most unlikely choice for a symbol in history.
After all, in its time, the cross was a symbol for the ultimate ignominy, the means of execution for the Roman Empire’s most scorned criminals and lowlifes. And our lord died on one of them.
Yet, today, for Christians to boldly and openly proclaim their faith for everyone to see, they need only wear a cross. What once symbolized death and despair has become a symbol of hope and love. Such is the transforming power of God through Jesus.
[The Masked Rider] represents one of the most noble and glamorous traditions alive today — not only at Texas Tech, but at any university. — Texas Tech Center for Campus Life Spirit Program
As it did with the cross, God’s love can take our ugly lives and make them beautiful.