In the middle of the noughties I trained as a teacher at Leicester University, and consequently worked at a few Leicestershire schools. Pretty much all of the kids were Leicester fans, and I – as a Liverpool fan – used to enjoy taking the mickey out of them for supporting substandard rubbish. If you’d have told me just 10 years ago that Leicester City would in a decade’s time win the Premier League, I’d have assumed you were some kind of second-rate satirist. Seriously though, even this time last year, it was utterly inconceivable.
It wasn’t supposed to happen. Leicester isn’t a big club financially-speaking, and we all know that it’s money that makes the Premier League go round. In fact, according to one respected journalist on Twitter, Manchester United have spent £100m more on players under Louis van Gaal than Leicester City have spent on players – ever.
The bookmakers had the odds at 5000-1; five times less likely than Sir Alex Ferguson winning the next series of Strictly.
Fast-forward 10 years from today – you know, when Leicester are in League 1 again – and imagine you’re speaking to a new friend about seasons past. Imagine they’d never heard of Leicester, or Claudio Ranieri. Imagine you told them the story of the 2015/16 season: how the club came from nowhere; how relative nobodies Vardy, Mahrez and Kante outshone the biggest stars in the Premier League firmament. They would laugh. They’d struggle to believe you. And you’d understand why.
But it has happened.
What Leicester’s Premier League success teaches us is that likelihood and believability are entirely different things. It’s not at all irrational to believe that Leicester are Premier League champions, or that Bournemouth might win it next year. They probably won’t, of course; but that doesn’t make it irrational.
For belief in something to be considered reasonable, it’s not required that the event be likely or even probable. Belief in something is rational dependent only on whether or not that thing actually happened or could happen.
The universe is geared up by design to produce repeatable and observable phenomena. The fact that this is the case means several things: firstly it’s an evidence of the faithfulness of God in His own creation, and secondly it validates the pursuit of empirical science. But it also means that we notice those things that appear to contravene these universal laws. Nothing would be out of the ordinary if the universe was not substantially orderly.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central moment of history. It’s a moment unlike any other. It a moment entirely unique. It’s a moment out of the ordinary.
But the key point here is what we learn from Leicester City. The essential fact that Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection were undertaken as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world is not made unbelievable because of its improbability.
The story of Jesus is implausible; so much so that many people scoff and laugh at it. People struggle to believe it. And I understand why.
But it has happened.
And just as with the Premier League, things will never be quite the same again.