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.
Hebrews 12:1-3 | New Living Translation (NLT)
This was my key text that I used on Sunday. This week we have focused on key texts about the cross. Today is no exception. The writer of Hebrews has just gotten finished quoting from the faith hall of fame. This hall of fame shows how many of the Old Testament did things by faith. We have all the famous ones in this passage, but then there are the unknowns. That’s when the writer says, therefore…since we know what others have encountered and they are now cheering us on…
I think about the enormous weight that Jesus had on his shoulders on the way to Calvary. He had the physical weight of the cross and the beating that he took, but he had the burdens and sins of us. There was the mockery – the shame of the cross. He took those burdens so that we could be free of our burdens. Jesus took the shame of the cross so that we wouldn’t have to. Since we have a great crowd of witnesses, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. This past winter I have put on more pounds that I really don’t need. Those extra pounds slow me down. The Christian life is a race – more akin to a marathon than a sprint, but still a race. As Paul mentions, we press on toward the goal. The writer of Hebrews says, “let us run with endurance the race set before us.”
How do we do that? By keeping our eyes on Jesus. Sometimes when you are running – especially when you are struggling – to keep your head down, so you don’t see how much further you need to go. But that is always a bad idea – for one it restricts your air passages and makes it harder to breath – also you can’t see where you are going. The writer of Hebrews says, “keep your head up – stay focused on Jesus.” You’ll run a much better race that way. An added benefit is that if you stay focused on Jesus, the sin won’t seem as enticing.
Jesus is the one who initiates our faith – Jesus is the one who perfects our faith – Jesus is the one who matures our faith. Jesus is our great example. He was tempted and did not sin. He endured the cross. He disregarded its shame. Jesus was both God and man. Hebrews tells us that he is our great high priest who has gone to the heavens. He knows what we have been through.
Are you going through a hard time – think of Jesus enduring the cross – think of the hostility he endured from his own people – his own creation. I still think of that half-marathon I ran several years ago. It was more like an endurance race. The first 12 miles were miserable. I had to tell myself to keep pushing – to keep plodding along…but then a mile from the finish something rose up from with inside me. I ran the fastest, most comfortable mile of the whole race. I still don’t know what happened, but I was glad that I slogged it out. I was glad that I didn’t become weary and give up.
Keep your eyes on Jesus – Keep your eyes on the cross.