Looking to Jesus. 12:1-3
This short passage speaks of Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of faith. It is part of a larger section that serves to remind God's people that they are able to persevere through difficult times by means of faith.
v1. In chapter 11 the writer to the Hebrews lists some great ones of the past who persevered in difficult times by holding onto the promises of God. In the face of difficult circumstances they trusted God, even though the circumstance they faced seemed to deny what they believed. From the witness of these great ones the writer encourages us do likewise. Let us run the race set before us with patient endurance that we may gain the promised prize, cf. 1Cor.9:24. First, let us discard all that can "easily entangle", all that can "easily distract". Let us cast off every weight which slows us down, every sin which drags on us, holds us back, trips us up; let us set aside every "sin that clings so closely", NRSV.
v2. The second piece of advice is that we focus on the performance of a classic athlete. Jesus is the supreme example of the Christian athlete who has run the race and reached the goal. That is why he is the "pioneer" (trail-blazer, or pathfinder, is better than the NIV "author") of the life of faith. In the running of the race, Jesus faced the full weight of suffering which comes upon those who choose to submit to the living God rather than the powers of this age. Jesus "endured the cross", "scorning its shame", setting aside the joys of earthly life. This is why he is the "perfecter of faith" ("our" is not in the Gk.); he sets the perfect example. Against all odds, Jesus trusted the will of God, living it out day-by-day.
v3. Therefore, "let us fix our eyes on Jesus." The Christian athlete needs to focus on the outstanding performance of Jesus. Jesus' life shows us how we can run the race of faith; he is the supreme inspirer of faith. "Consider him", therefore, the one who "endured such opposition from sinful men" and did so trusting God. We must let the example of Jesus' life inspire us in our life of faith, so that we "will not grow weary and lose heart" in the day-to-day grind of living for God in a world falling apart.
Discuss how fixing our gaze on Jesus might help us in the Christian life.
Running the race|
The Christian life is like a race. Our passage for study gives us some clues about the type of race we are in and how to run it.
First: what type of race are we in? The race is like a long distance foot race with a finish line completely out of sight. It's a marathon. The goal is but a hope, an anticipation. Many have run before us. Of all who have run the race, only one has, as yet, crossed the finish line and received the prize. He is the one who is our trail-blazer. So, this is a faith-race. We run hoping that there is a stadium filled with the angelic host and a wreath of glory at the end of the run. We run in faith.
Yet, unlike most long distance runs, all who run this race receive the prize. It's a noncompetitive sport, a community game. All who compete win. All win, all get to sit in God's throne-room alongside God's supreme athlete.
Second: how do we run this race? The writer to the Hebrews gives us three pieces of advice, two negative and one positive.
The first negative piece of advice is that to run the race we need to get rid of "everything that hinders" us. There are many things which hinder us in the Christian life, often things which are not evil in themselves, but which hold us back in our run with Jesus. They are the things of this world, the clutter of life.
The second negative piece of advice is that to run the race we need to negotiate "sin that so easily entangles", drags on us and trips us up.
The piece of positive advice, given by the writer to the Hebrews, is simple in the extreme; we must "fix our eyes on Jesus". A good athlete needs a brilliant trainer and a positive role model, and Jesus fits the bill. "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
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