Jarryd Hayne baffled the mainstream media this week after he compared himself to Jesus in a press conference.

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The NRL superstar did a stint with the American NFL last year for the San Francisco 49ers before trying for a spot on the Fiji Sevens Olympic team (he wasn’t selected, but the Fijians went on to win gold this month in Rio). Now Hayne has made his way back to the NRL field for the Gold Coast Titans, to the disappointment of many Eels fans who had held out hope he would come back to his old Parramatta team.

As one of Australia’s most high profile sportspeople, it could be at least a little bit understandable that Hayne thinks of himself as something of a messiah of the game, after returning to the NRL to resurrect the Gold Coast Titans from a close-to-bottom rung placing in 2015 (though, the team was doing much better in 2016 before Hayne arrived). But here at Eternity, we’re pretty sure that’s not what he was saying at yesterday’s press conference anyway.

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Pop culture rag Pedestrian.TV called it a “very strange press conference” and put a shout out to its readers: “if any of y’all can figure out what he means by [his Jesus comments], please let us know.”

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So here is our attempt at decoding what Hayne might have been saying.

What he said

Asked questions about his return to the fullback position this Saturday, Hayne took a swipe at the media’s portrayal of his recent career moves.

“You do read articles and you do get upset and you want to get fired up but when you read the Bible and realise everyone hated Jesus.”

“It’s not about factual truths, it’s more leading towards a story or how much they can really blow something up,” he said.

“It’s about selling papers and getting viewers. It’s not about the truth anymore as much.”

Then he was asked how he copes with the constant public scrutiny.

“You do read articles and you do get upset and you want to get fired up but when you read the Bible and realise everyone hated Jesus. So you’ve got to put that in perspective as well and realise how much he stood up and was still him,” said Hayne.

“I try not to let it fuel me. When I was younger or a couple of years ago it might have but I read the Bible a lot and I read a lot of history and stuff like that.

“In America it’s a huge thing to let it motivate you but I don’t want that. I want to be motivated because I have an ability and I want to see that come to the fullest.

“When you get in that situation you’ve got to pull your head in and see what he went through and for him to make the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, you’ve got to pull your head in when you’re worrying about a piece of paper or an article.”

What it means

Hayne knows that his name sells newspapers, and it certainly sounds like he is frustrated with the way the media has represented and misrepresented his career choices.

“I’m not perfect. I struggle with sin and temptation all the time. For me, they are the key areas where I want to improve as well. They’re part of that journey now… Christ comes before everything.”

But instead of internalising the voices of the “haters” and letting their comments fuel his anger, he looks at the guy he’s chosen to follow and model his life on – Jesus – and points out that Jesus had to deal with lots of haters, too. To us, Hayne sounds like a guy trying to swallow his own pride and remember that, in the end, the headlines don’t matter.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first,” Jesus told his followers in the Bible (John 15:18).

Jesus was talking about the world hating Christians. Hayne calls himself a Christian and while the media aren’t hating on him because of his faith (at least, not this time), he’s a guy looking to his Saviour Jesus to figure out how to respond to the stories propagated by a critical media. Good on him, we reckon.

Hayne is not living for fame and glory now; he’s living to point others towards Jesus, for Jesus’ fame and glory.

That “ultimate sacrifice” Hayne refers to is Jesus’ death on the cross. Talking to the Daily Telegraph in 2015 Hayne said, “I’m not perfect. I struggle with sin and temptation all the time. For me, they are the key areas where I want to improve as well. They’re part of that journey now. It’s not just about playing in the NFL. Christ comes before everything.”

For Hayne, that sacrifice does set everything else in perspective. Compared to that, NRL looks tiny. Insignificant. Hayne is not living for fame and glory now; he’s living to point others towards Jesus, for Jesus’ fame and glory.

Hayne wants to use his sporting ability in the best way he can, and he’s saying that the haters won’t stop him from doing that. And he’s looking to Jesus and his example to help him get through.

Let’s pray that he continues to do that.

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