Hebrews 12:1-3 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
We are now halfway on our journey between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. On Sunday the crowds cried “Hosanna!” which means “save us.” Several events have happened in the life of Jesus during this week. He cleared the temple of the money changers. Jesus was anointed by Mary while hanging out with Lazarus. It has been an eventful week so far, but the most eventful part is still to come. In our circle of the world that we call the Wesleyans, Wednesday night is when we have/had our mid-week service. It was halfway through the week. In our tradition for many years it was the time when the church gathered to pray. We called them prayer meetings and eventually they just morphed into another teaching time, with very little time devoted to prayer. Sorry, I digressed…So here we are on Wednesday…we are tired…but just think – Jesus knew what lay ahead.
In our gospel reading for today, we learn of the treachery of Judas. We learn that Judas will betray Jesus – Judas already knew this. I find it surprising that Judas acts surprised by this revelation. It is true, surely your sins will find you out. The disciples were a bit confused by all of this, not knowing what Jesus was telling Judas to do. Judas was the treasurer of the group. I’m sure Jesus was tired – and the week was only beginning for him. Wednesday night may have been the last full nights sleep for him. Because we know that he was arrested on Thursday night and kept up all night during the various trials…Jesus was tired.
So in our New Testament passage we have these familiar words written by an unknown author – it is simply a letter called “Hebrews.” Beginning in chapter 12, right after the Faith Hall of Fame in chapter 11 we are called to run the life of faith with perseverance. Why are we do to that? Because we are surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses. I used the word cloud on purpose. Think about clouds – when you go up in an airplane or the clouds come down to earth (as in fog) or when the clouds come down to 3,000 feet and cover the gap at Afton Mountain – the clouds surround you – you are closed in. Because we are surrounded by that cloud of witnesses, we are to run the race with perseverance. I don’t really think I knew what that meant until I started running. Perseverance means to keep going, even when the body says stop. There are way too many Christians who simply stop running the Christian race because they are tired or because sin has tripped them up.
A few years ago, when I first started running, I had several instances where – after running 10 or more miles – I tripped and did a face plant. Sometimes I simply got up and started running again – sometimes I said I quit. I am much more proud of those days when I dusted myself off and continued right on. The life of faith is the same. We need to strip off the things that will tangle us up – but even when we do, we might hit a crack in the pavement – our legs might get tired and we will trip up – I know how that feels in running. The thing to do when sin trips us up, is to obey the Holy Spirit – repent, ask forgiveness, get up, dust ourselves off (figuratively) and start running again. How do we do that? By fixing our eyes on Jesus! He is the one who will help us grow and mature in our faith. It is He who initiated our faith and it is He who will perfect us or in other words, bring us to completion. I know as a runner how fun it is to finish a race. This is what Christ is looking for in our spiritual race. Christ – if we look to him and keep our eyes on him will perfect our faith. I promise – that is true.
So why do we keep on keeping on? Because we look to Christ – Jesus saw what was ahead – He knew the cross was ahead – He knew the long hours that lay ahead – and he considered it joy – he endured the cross – he disregarded the shame – the shame of being put on public display – no where to hide – stripped of all dignity and clothes. He did that all for us – to perfect us so that we could live the life of faith like those in Hebrews “Faith Hall of Fame.”
Are you weary tonight? Look to Jesus! Are you beat down? Look to Jesus! Are you being tripped up by sin? Look to Jesus! As the author of Hebrews writes, “Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up.”
Don’t give in – don’t give up – persevere and let us run the race with endurance.