"Real Characters" - Jesus, Hebrews 12:2
If you are going to run a race correctly, then you have to follow the rules. We all know that but sometimes we need a reminder. I found that out when I ran high school track back in the olden days. I have said before that one of these days I am going to tell a story where i am the hero, where I do something good or cool or at least not stupid. This still isn't it.
For some reason I was on one of the relay teams. I guess everybody else had died because while I may have been short, I was also slow. I was a shot put and discus kinda guy but on this day at this track meet they needed me to run a relay. So, I went up to the starting line and got ready to run and the track official was just about to shoot the starting pistol when he looked at me and told me I had to have the same color shorts as everybody else on my team. I had on red shorts and they all had on blue. He told me I couldn't run in red shorts so I looked around and one of my teammates was walking by and he had on blue shorts so we just exchanged right there. We got a couple guys from other teams to stand around us and we just exchanged. Kinda embarrassing but no problem. I ran the race. Pretty sure we came in last but I don't remember.
I was still out of breath from the race when my teammate ran up to me and said he had to have his shorts back right now because he had to race in the next race. We were in the middle of the field in a big stadium with everybody and my mother watching and so we thought we would be smart. We got a bunch of our guys to gather around to block the view. We had no more gotten the shorts to the ground when all of the feet around me disappeared. Hundreds of people watched Jeff Carter and me stand there for a split second and then trade shorts in record time to great applause.
But you have to run the race correctly if you are going to run. And it is the same for us today as we run the race of life. There are rules and we have to run correctly if we want to win the prize. Most of you know the 11th chapter of Hebrews is known as the Faith Chapter. It names person after person who could be described as having faith in God. From Abel to Abraham to Moses to Samson and David; all were men of faith who have gone on before us.
Chapter 12 of Hebrews starts with a reference to all of those people and to all of those believers who have gone on before us. I want to read just Hebrews 12 :1-3 this morning as I conclude our series, "Real Characters". The final "Real Character" I want to look at this morning is Jesus. As were all of the others, from Moses all the way to John the Baptist, Jesus was a real character. The biggest difference, of course, is that Jesus is still a real character in our lives.
"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. 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
The picture described here is of the Olympic games in a huge stadium filled with those saints that have gone on before us and cheering us on. All of those in the 11th chapter are calling your name, encouraging you as one who has already run the race and knows how hard the race can be, especially if you run well. Can you just hear Moses calling out your name and clapping with encouragement? Samson has his foam #1 finger waving. Rahab is jumping up and down causing Noah to spill his popcorn all over David.
They are cheering you on, calling your name, urging you to be obedient and run well. Let go of the sin that slows you down and run hard from beginning to end. But there is more than just moral support in this passage. The author of Hebrews tells us what the secret is to running a good race. It's a long race and difficult and Satan is always running alongside to trip you up and trying to distract you by trying to make you concentrate on how bad it hurts.
Your lungs are burning. Your legs are tired. All of your joints are screaming to stop but it says here that we are to keep our eyes on the finish line. It says to fix our eyes on Jesus. He knows you are tired and hurting...because He has been there. We are to imitate his example. We have studied some wonderful and powerful women and men of God in the past few weeks but we are not told to look up into the stands to the cloud of witnesses. We are told to keep our eyes on Jesus.
When it says he is the author and perfecter of our faith that means He is the judge. He is at the finish line waiting to give you your reward based on how well you run the race. Keep your eyes on Him because He is not only the judge but He is the finish line. We are to keep our eyes on Him because it says He endured the cross because He knew on the other side was joy.
Jesus knew if He could just endure the torture of the cross then He would provide the way to bring eternal joy to all of mankind who believed on Him. In Luke 9 it says that Jesus set his face like flint to go to
cross. He knew what that would mean for
Him and as a man, He didn’t want to go. Jerusalem
But He went “for the joy set before Him”; the joy of having a relationship with you; the joy of paying the price for sin that you couldn’t pay; the joy of knowing that He would rise again on the 3rd day and conquer death once for all times; the joy of sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God the Father.
We are going to take the Lord’s Supper this morning to remember that event. The night before Jesus was crucified, He was celebrating the feast of Passover with His disciples. He passed out the bread and the cup to the men and they shared in that simple meal and Jesus knew that after that that everything would be changed.
Jesus knew that His coming sacrifice on the cross would change the way people worshiped. It would change the way they saw God. It would change the way they got to God. It would even change the way God saw them. He knew that from now on if people would admit they were sinners and believe that Jesus had died to pay for those sins that God would see them like He sees His own Son.
It didn’t make the cross any less painful physically. It didn’t lessen the humiliation of being mocked and tortured for reasons that were lies. It didn’t mean that a part of Him wouldn’t have done anything else to avoid the pain and suffering if the Father would have allowed. But even through all of that it says Jesus endured it for the joy set before Him.
That ought to bring us joy as well. That ought to make us feel that if He can do that for us then we can run this race for Him and do it for the joy set before us!