Fix Our Eyes On Jesus
Key Verse 3
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
We have finished the long chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews and reviewed, at times even in detail, the lives of the various men and women who have lived by faith and accomplished many heroic deeds by faith. However, if we were to summarize their lives, we can do so when we look at the reason the apostle wrote this whole chapter on faith and the men and women who lived by faith. The last words of the apostle in Chapter 10:35-36 before he took a break to write chapter 11 were these: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” These words perfectly tell us why he wrote chapter 11. It was these people’s faith, expressed in perseverance. And that’s the summary of their lives of faith— perseverance! They persevered in the faith because they wanted to receive what God had promised them, the reward that was promised them at the end of their journey.
So Chapter 12:1-3 is the continuation of 10:35-36, the apostle takes up where he left off when he said to them: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Look at 12:1-3: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” There are many things to consider here in these verses, although we will not be looking at them in the order they come. But first, we have a duty and a commanded to run the race which is marked out for us. Second, there are obstacles that hinder which we are commanded to throw off in order to efficiently run the race. Third, we are told that as we run the race, we are to engage in the necessary grace, and that is “perseverance”. And fourth, our encouragement is the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before.
Read verse 1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The Christian life is described in many ways in the Bible. One of them is a “pilgrimage”, another is a “narrow path or narrow door”, another is “soldier life”, and so on. Often however, Paul talks about the Christian life as a “race”. Here the apostle also calls the Christian life a race. What is a race and why did the apostle choose this particular way of describing it? First of all, this race is a race like all other races in the sense that it has a beginning point and an ending point. Every one of those clouds of witnesses he described in chapter 11 actually ran the race from beginning to end. But it’s not a race that requires speed. The apostle tells us exactly what is needed to remain in the race. He talks about “perseverance”, “patience” in the old tongue, and “endurance”. These are the necessary grace needed in this kind of race.
The Christian life we are called to live is described here as a race to the finish. It begins when you have accepted the sacrifice of your Lord and Savior Jesus which he made on the cross for your sins; when you have repented of your sins; when you have been recreated in the new life which comes through the coming of the Holy Spirit on you; and when you have been called to begin to live the life of faith set before you now as a Christian purchased by the blood of Christ and marked with his Holy Spirit for running the race. If these things haven’t happened to someone yet, these words aren’t for them. Most likely they won’t be able to understand what the apostle is teaching here. It is our prayer that you let God’s grace into your heart to turn your life around so that you enter the this race and begin your journey to the end of the line. But if God has called you to a life of faith, these words are intended for you because they have the power to help you in the race you’re on.
The world sometimes describes life as a race. But when they run they do so without knowing where they are running. We don’t run a random race, nor do we run haphazardly, here and there without a point. The world does that. We “run” because we are anxious to get to a certain place, because there is something at the other end that has captured our attention. Therefore, when the apostle uses the word “run”, he has in mind something our hearts are set upon— a goal of sorts— something we want to take a hold of at the end of the line. For us Christians, the “goal” of our run is our final deliverance from the power of sin in our lives; the goal is our total and perfect conformity to the glorious image and likeness of the Lord Christ Jesus whom we love and are eager to please and be with; our goal for running is our entrance into the eternal rest promised us by the Lord. And only when we stay focused on that in faith, in hope, with perseverance, that we can actually make progress along the running path that we’re on. There’s no other way to run this race of ours. If we’re in the habit of looking back, we are likely to stumble; if we are in the habit of looking down at all the difficulties in the way we are sure to be discouraged, hindered, retarded from our race. But if we keep the prize in view, like the cloud of witnesses we just saw in chapter 11, we will have the assurance and the courage to continue. And this is not our own imagination. It is how our Lord Jesus himself did it. He did it this way, and even more! He went before us and marked for us the way that we too should go. That’s why the apostle tells us to fix our eyes on him— to consider him very carefully.
Verse 1 tells us explicitly that the race has already been marked for us. By whom? Of course, by none other than the Lord Jesus who himself has already run the race ahead of us from the beginning to the end. Read verse 2. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What does this mean? It means that in our own race, we should look at Jesus for strength and endurance and encouragement. He has gone ahead of us, has run the race and finished it and has called us to take the same course and follow him in the running path. How did Jesus run the course when it was so hard to run? It was for the joy set before him. The apostle is talking about the prize Jesus set his heart on in the race he ran. Of course his prize and our prize are different. Jesus’ prize and the joy of it set before him was beyond our comprehension in value to him and to us. But we should know the sort of prize and goal he was aiming for when he ran the course. It was to ensure for us a way back to the father. It was to ensure for us liberty from sin and life eternal. Our goal is to stay the course and take what Jesus has guaranteed us at the finish line. We must not forget that. But here’s how Jesus himself ran the course. He ran it by faith. And he marked the road for us to run also by faith. And we should stay the course by faith. It’s our responsibility to imitate his faith and the faith of all who have gone before us in that same course.
The whole Christian life that we are called to live, the life of faith, has already been marked for us by Jesus. The apostle tells us that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. What does this mean? First of all it means that he’s the champion— our champion of faith; he’s the Pioneer and captain of all everything which is considered the way and the life of faith. It also means that Jesus ran the course of faith perfectly as he also perfectly ran the course by faith. He ran the course perfectly without swaying neither to the right nor to the left, without taking breaks or shortcuts. He was perfect in the way that he ran. And it means that when he ran perfectly he ran the course not with some super human ability or special powers from heaven, but he ran the course by faith. It was faith that Jesus marked the way for us to run as well. It also means that Jesus’ faith was perfect, and for that reason he can help perfect our faith as well if we obey him along our running course. Jesus marked the way by showing us the path, by showing us the way— how to live, what to do, and everything else we need along the way, even when loving discipline is needed— especially the discipline to run along the road of faith. This is perfectly understandable, even to those who are reluctant to receive spiritual training. If you are slow as a runner, you train. If you are not skilled in boxing, you train. Same thing in our lives of faith in which we are running the course. We need his discipline. If we have an issue with serving, we train. If we have an issue with loving others, we can be disciplined and train. If we have an issue with purity, we train— we receive the discipline to grow in purity. If you don’t know how to train yourself, then you ask someone to help you. If you have an issue with pride, you train in humility or ask help to be trained in humility. You do everything in your ability to devote yourself to the race. The race we are talking about is a matter spiritual death or spiritual life. But you’re either in the race or you’re not. There is no in between in the Christian life. But if you are serious about running the race, then you have to fix your eyes on Jesus. He is the one who marked the race and showed us how the life of faith works.
The race has already been marked out for us by Jesus because he’s the Pioneer and perfecter of faith whose whole life was a journey to the cross. And while the whole time he knew what awaited him at the end of his earthly ministry, he pushed on by faith. Finally he embraced the cross and scorned its shame and endured the pain and humiliation of it, and showed us all the way to very heart of God and his kingdom. So we have to learn from him so that we might better fix our eyes on him. So the author tells us fix your eyes on Jesus. It’s like the song, turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. The apostle uses the human name of Jesus here, and not his title as the Christ, that we might relate to his humanity and imitate it. Jesus was really made like all his brothers in all things related to the necessary life of faith. The life Jesus lived here upon earth was a life of faith. And this is how he lived by faith. As our perfect Model Jesus walked by faith, always looking to God his father, always speaking and acting as a dependant son of his father. It was by faith that he looked away from all discouragements, difficulties, and oppositions, committing His cause to God who had sent Him and to God’s will which directed him. By faith He resisted and overcame all temptation, whether it came from Satan, or from the false Messianic expectations of Israel, or from His own disciples. It was by faith that he performed the signs and wonders, where the power and love of God’s salvation were symbolized. And it was Jesus who commanded us to “Have faith in God” out of his own wonderful experience.
What is the life of faith to us which we ought to imitate? I think it is the life of complete dependence on God. I also believe that like Jesus the life of faith is a life completely lived in communion with the Lord. And the life of faith is the life lived in obedience to the Lord and to his commands. This requires that we deny ourselves, our emotions and reasons, and embrace the word of God as it is. Today it’s hard to find such devoted Christianity— Christianity that wants to live by faith by fixing its eyes on Jesus, to see him in everything, to imitating him in everything, to having our heart and mind filled with thoughts of him, to ache to be with him. Today the heart is so filed with all kinds of mundane things, desires that the heart is ashamed to reveal, idols that the heart worships and the mind puts on a pedestal. Living by faith and running the race for many Christians seems impossible. How very little real Christianity there is in the world today! But we are in a race, a life that requires us to live by faith and to put our trust in the Lord, and to walk in the path that he had already marked us for us. How can we run this race imitating him? Perhaps if we look at how he persevered in the race he marked for us.
Look at verse 2 again. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus had a joy set before him. We talked about that. It was his victory in gaining all power and authority to liberate us from sin and to take us to be with him forever. He was determined in his race. He was willing, unwavering, unchanged in his determination to reach that cross which the father had called him to carry. Often he said: “The Son of man must suffer many things. He must be killed”. He not only set his heart on going to the cross, but he also taught us to resolutely go forward and endure the cross ourselves, to endure it, to carry it, and to follow him. These are serious words that the Lord has called us to listen to and follow. That’s the mark he set before us. That’s the mark we are to follow. That’s the path he set for you and me on how to live by faith and endure the cross.
Jesus himself endured the cross, the apostle tells us. He carried his cross all his life until he was crucified on it. This is not only the actual cross he was crucified on and the shame of it therein, It’s also the life of the cross which Jesus lived. He loved the cross, that he scorned its shame. Glory always comes at a price. The cross was painful but glorious and liberating. But the cost was high. It was shameful to live by the cross, and it was shameful to die by the cross. Especially for one like the son of God. How shameful it must have been for the Holy and righteous king of kings to surrender himself to sinners to be mocked and shamed. It must have been terribly painful. Imagine what a blow this is to his sense of pride as the Creator of those who were shaming him. But Jesus didn’t let it hinder his resolve to surrender to them or to the shame of the cross because he kept his eyes on the prize; and he did it by faith. It means that he trusted God all the way never doubting for a moment that however shameful the cross was and however desperate the situation may have seemed, God’s plan for his life and the outcome would be glorious. When you trust God and know in your heart that your hopes, though you don’t see them, are real and about to be realized, even the shame of the cross seems trivial in comparison. Jesus marked that way for us as well so that we too might scorn any shame associated with the cross we ourselves have to bear. Often our crosses are shameful, requiring us to put aside our pride because and since the fruit is usually wonderful, holy and good. Consider the cross of love and forgiveness towards each other that we must all carry on our hearts all the time. Putting aside your pride and prejudice, your sense of justice (he needs to learn a lesson) and your hurts (he deserves to suffer for what he’s done to me) that cross is most difficult to bear, and the shame of giving in to someone who doesn’t deserve it is too great to ignore. But the fruit which is Christ shining in and through you is glorious— so great is it that as Jesus scorned the shame of the cross, you too should scorn the shame, forgive and wield the prize. And this goes for any cross we have to carry in our lives of faith.
Jesus himself scorned the shame of the cross. He considered it worthless considering the prize he was getting in the end— considering the fruit of what will come of it if he carried the cross and scorned its shame. We don’t usually scorn the shame. We esteem it so highly that we avoid it at all costs. We value the shame too much, otherwise we wouldn’t care much if we were shamed.
But Jesus didn’t care much about the shame of the cross. He scorned it. He knew exactly how he would suffer and be shamed if he were to be crucified. Even in life people shamed him for the heavenly teaching he gave. But it didn’t deter him from continuing the race and going to the cross. It’s not that he didn’t care, but he knew it was the will of God and accepted that shame as necessary and so he scorned it. In our lives when we even glimpse shame (the shame of the cross) most Christians run the opposite direction. We do everything to avoid it because he mere cross and its shame are undesirable to most of us. We rather be honored and revered by the world than shamed by the cross God has for us. But Jesus our Lord marked a race for us we should follow, even when it contains shaming, and difficulties, trouble, misunderstanding, and anything that causes us discomfort. For Jesus ascending to the right hand of God came at the cost of taking up the cross and all its shame. But he ascended and he beckons us to follow.
Why not humble ourselves and be a servant to others by faith! Why not welcome rebukes that cause us shame rather than get angry and defensive all the time. Why do we protect our pride so much even at the cost of losing in the spiritual race we are on! Because we value the shame of the cross much more than the prize and fruit of what the cross brings in our lives. But if learn from Jesus to scorn the shame of the cross, we won’t let anything hinder and block the way of our running the race, especially we won’t let our pride and our love of comfort or anything else do so. In the light of the joy set before him, Jesus scorned the shame that was marked for him on the road to glory. He put things in perspective— he considered one thing is more valuable than the other. Which brings us to the first part of this passage. Verse 1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
The apostle tells us what to do if we are to run the race side by side with Jesus. And he tells us what it takes. In Galatians, the apostle tells the Galatian Christians: “You were running a good race, what happened? Who has bewitched you, what has stumbled you.” They were running but things hindered them. Things always hinder the saints in their running. As for us, he tells us what. He tells us to throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that entangles. Everything that hinders in the old tongue is translated as “every weight” that hinders. And weights hare heavy. No wonder they drag us down. I like the term weight better. They are the things that weigh us down. What are some of the things that weigh us down? Most people are weighed down by cares and concerns, anxiety, depression, and all sort of other things. (Mark 4:18-19) Jesus mentions deceitfulness of wealth and the desire of other things in the world. These are the weighty things that drag us down and prevent us from continuing and running the race. There are weights that we impose on ourselves. Weights of the unnecessary burdens we carry, weights of our own expectations and other people’s expectations of us. There are weights or burdens of legalisms that we think we ought to do for God and others which in reality are only self imposed legalisms that only weigh us down. How often we walk around with burdens that are unnecessary. These are the things that hinder and make the Christian useless in the run, keeping him or her running in place rather than looking to the joy set before him or her.
What about those Christians who seem to be carefree, who have no weights to struggle with, no weights to put down, who seem to have shed all their anxiety and show no signs of struggle? I would imagine that these have never entered the race. They don’t even know there’s a race to run.
The author also mentions the sin that so easily entangles. What is that? He is not talking only of moral sins and hindrances of the physical moral nature, but of anything that hinders your walk with the Lord and your run in the race. Defining sin is different than the weights that hinder. Sin is anything of the flesh that contests God’s perfect standard of holiness and righteousness. So what we’re talking about here is not only ones individual sins committed here and there, but the also the very cultural things that we do that we’re comfortable with but in truth are nothing less than watered down godly standards. For example, there have been many things that were unacceptable a century ago that are being watered down to things that are now acceptable. People are constantly being hindered by such things which affect their walk with the Lord. Even in their acceptance of them, their run is hindered severely such that they are no longer running by faith, but they try to run with their emotion or intellect. The very fact that they have no concern about them is a great hindrance to the quality of their spiritual walk. They stop running all together. They end the race right then and there. To run the race correctly, you will have to live by faith and walk by faith. You will have to listen to Jesus when he says deny yourself pick up your cross and follow me. You have to cleanse you body and soul. (2 Corinthians 7:1) You have to put to death the misdeeds of your flesh (Romans 8:13) And you have to offer yourself as a living sacrifice and train your body in righteousness. It’s not easy, but it’s the way of running. And spiritual discipline can help.
What kind of spiritual disciples? He talks about perseverance, and patience, and endurance. What is perseverance or in the old tongue patience? Patience and perseverance are the qualities needed to run a race of this kind. The Bible always tells us to be patient, and to persevere. It takes patience and perseverance in your running course to put away sin and to live in repentance and faith. Endurance is also a heavy weight word in this letter, (1; 2-3; 7) In this chapter alone he mentions it several times. Why? Because a lot of Christians get easily weary from the life of faith and obedience they are called to live. How and why? When they see no immediate gratification and result from their faith. That’s why cultic ministries that emphasize and promote emotional highs that lift the spirit up for a short time but does nothing more for the soul other than to keep it waiting for the next fix like a drug; and that’s why they are popular. On the other hand gospel teaching that encourages endurance patient faith seems weak to many and are often ignored by those who want to run the race and be gratified right away. Endurance, patience, perseverance is the way to put off the weighty things of this world and to put to death the sin in your life. One by one, discipline by discipline, when you are open for it, can purify your heart and help in the race.
Look at the last thing he tells us in verse 3. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Consider is a very interesting word. It has the meaning of to think carefully about in order to make a decision, or to carefully regard something and meditate on it, or bear in mind to reflect on and pay attention to. Now you can see what the apostle means by the words consider him who! It’s like the words “Fix your eyes on Jesus”. You need to carefully think on whatever he is or does, and in this case consider him who endured opposition from sinners. It’s more than just look at him, you’ve got to think deeply about it and come to some conclusion or decision. Last week Nonso reflected on the question Jesus asked his first disciples when he turned around and saw them following him and asked them “what do you want”? That’s the kind of question you would need to consider carefully. John and Andrew had many options in their day. They could have just stayed with John because John was a great man. They could have gone to church every Sunday and performed their religious duties, and that would have been that. They could have become casual observers of Jesus as they kept themselves following his news, or followed him on weekends and on their days off. But no! They considered his question carefully, they reflected on it, they paid closer attention to it, and as a result they made a life changing choice to follow Jesus closely all their lives. They decided to be with him 24/7 and not just on weekends and holidays. They considered him very carefully and decided this is what they need, what they want, what God wants for them. The point is that they considered and then decided. This is what the apostle is telling us to do. He wants us to consider him who endured all the heartache and hardship, all the suffering and pain, all the persecution and opposition of those who stood in his way, be it by their own rebellion or rejection of truth, or be it by the work of the enemy Satan and his cohorts. Consider him, consider carefully Jesus who endured everything unpleasant and wasn’t discouraged or deterred at all. Consider Jesus who lived by faith, persevered and marked the way for us to do the same.
Jesus told us the same thing when he said doesn’t a man count the cost before he engages in war, or before he begins building a house. If he doesn’t have the determination to win or the right stuff to fight or to build, he shouldn’t embark on such decisions. When we make up our minds to follow Jesus and imitate his life because we hope to enjoy the heavenly blessings, we should consider everything he endured in his own pilgrimage and count the cost, and then decide to run the race with him count the cost. Do we have the right stuff? Are we ready to sacrifice what is necessary? Are we ready to take up the cross and follow him, enduring opposition and all in order to run the way of faith?