1. For the Joy Set Before: Hebrews
When we fix our eyes on Jesus and his worthiness of our devotion, we find strength to endure
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
How do we persevere when things get hard? It seems as though endurance necessitates a belief that the cost of going back is too high. Whatever is on the other side of our trial is worth the struggle. The college degree is worth the late hours studying; the physical health is worth the strenuous exercise; the relational closeness is worth the pain of working through conflict.
In the first century Roman Empire, a group of Christians were facing persecution for their faith, and their endurance was beginning to sputter out. The letter of Hebrews was written to them in their trials, and it charges its reader to remain faithful to Jesus by showing that he is worth their devotion!
This group of Christians had a Jewish background, and many of them were tempted to revert to their pre-Jesus ways to escape persecution. The author of Hebrews spells out Jesus’s superiority to their old ways. The cost of going back is too high. The letter lays out why:
First, the message of Jesus is superior to your old spirituality. The author challenges the formerly-Jewish Christians: If you listened to the message delivered by angels to your forefather Moses, how much more should you listen to the message of salvation delivered by God’s Son? Once you’ve heard from God himself, you can’t go back.
Second, the hope of Jesus is superior to your old hope. The Old Testament tells of how the Israelites rebelled against their leader Moses and lost their chance to enter into the rest of the Promised Land. The author of Hebrews warns: if Jesus is greater than Moses, then how much more will you lose out on if you rebel against him? Jesus is restoring all of creation, and those who follow him have the assurance of inheriting an eternal rest. Everything our hearts long for - peace, perfection, restoration - Christians will step fully into at Christ’s return.
Third, the salvation of Jesus is superior to your old ways of relating to God. The Old Testament priests had to offer a constant stream of sacrifices to atone for people’s sins, but Jesus became the once-and-for-all sacrifice! The sins of those who trust in Christ are wiped away for eternity: nothing else is needed. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him,” the author writes (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is the perfect connection to God. Because he himself became human, he can empathize with his peoples’ weaknesses, and he is constantly advocating on their behalf.
For all these reasons, Jesus is worth enduring for!
The timeless message of Hebrews challenges us today:
Is there something in your life holding you back from following Christ fully?
Does the cost of following Jesus feel too high?
In his letter, the author seeks to inspire his readers with great models of faith found throughout the Scriptures, people who persevered because of their hope in God. The ultimate model of faith, he writes, is Jesus himself, who “for the joy set before Him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).” “Fixing our eyes on Jesus,” the author implores, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).”
When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we see his superiority in all things, and we see the perfect model of faith. But even more than that, we see his love. What brought Jesus joy before his incomprehensible suffering and death? The thought of saving you and embracing you as his child. After encountering a love like this, nothing else compares. He is worthy of it all.
RESPOND: Take a moment to fix your eyes on Jesus and his worthiness of your devotion, that you might find strength to endure.