August 17-19, 2013
Text: Hebrews 12:1-3
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
“FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM!”
1. Jesus endured the cross.
2. We fix our eyes on Him.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) “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.”
Motivation. It’s the why behind what people do. For instance some grown men who make it sound like the really enjoy lying on the couch watching movies or playing video games will push their bodies to the limit, work out for hours and allow other grown men to publicly berate and belittle them all for the chance to become an NFL football player. On the negative side the teen heroin addict is so motivated to get another fix that he will do the unthinkable and steal from his parents and grandparents and raid his friends parent’s medicine cabinet. Some motivations can be very powerful. Today in God’s Word the Holy Spirit gives a peek into the heart and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ. He lets us see some of the why behind what Jesus did.
But let’s start with the what. We are told that Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Here we are reminded of what Jesus did to become the author and perfecter of our faith. That’s another way of saying Jesus is the one who did it all from A to Z, from first to last. He’s the starter and finisher. He got no breaks. It was all on Him. But for Jesus that meant the cross. I think we’ve all heard as least somewhere the horrors of the means of execution called crucifixion. Jesus endured that on top of being roughed up by the Roman soldiers, scourged and pounded on the head with a crown of thorns. Hopefully we all know that the physical pain was the easy part and the most severe pain was being separated from God as He was punished for the sins of the world causing Him to cry in agony “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The writer to the Hebrews asks us to think of yet another aspect, the shame and disgrace. Maybe we think of the fact that those crucified were left naked, hanging on a cross near the entrance to the city for all who passed by to heckle and jeer. If only that were all there was to it. Jesus bore the shame of sin, all sin. You know the shame of your sins. You know how it feels when you are caught and your sins are laid out there for everybody to see. Jesus experienced the shame of everyone’s sins. He hung before God as the 13 year old boy who bludgeoned his grandma to death with a hatchet and hammer. He hung there as the Cleveland Creep who kidnapped and brutalized women. On the cross Jesus was the drug dealer, a liar, a murderer, a rapist, a molester. We could go on and on but let’s not. Jesus had all of that shame attached to Him and He scorned it. He said, “Bring it on!”
Why did He do it? Why was the holy Son of God willing to do that? “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.” For the joy set before Him. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. It gave Him joy. It made Him happy. Not enduring the pain. Not taking on the shame. Winning souls. You. Me. With Him forever. Jesus had you in mind when He was on that cross. You were so worth it to Him. The thought of having you in heaven gave Him such joy He scorned the shame. So that Jim Guenther and the rest of Lois’ family could have comfort in the midst of sorrow and know that death actually meant life, that gave Jesus such joy He scored the shame. That’s why He did it. That’s why the cross and its shame was worth it to Him. For the joy set before Him.
Knowing why Jesus did what He did motivates us too. We respond to the joy of Jesus and we fix our eyes on Him. Just like God’s people in the past needed to. At the time the letter to the Hebrews was written some of the Jewish Christians were thinking of leaving Jesus and going back to Old Testament living just as if Jesus had never come. It was getting a little tough to live as a Christian back then. The Holy Spirit had the writer to the Hebrews remind them of all their heroes of faith in chapter 11, believers who had come before them and needed to keep the faith especially when things weren’t going so well. He wrote, “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.”
We fix our eyes on Jesus. A picture is being used of a runner in a race. The runners need to fix their eyes on the finish line. We fix our eyes on Jesus. The runner throws off everything that hinders. Imagine trying to run a race with winter boots on, or your winter coat. Some of you may know that at our church picnic I wore a winter parka into the dunk tank because the water was so cold. Then some naughty, naughty children legally and through blatant cheating dunked me again and again. That coat got so heavy. I had to take it off. It was hindering me from climbing out of the tank. What is there that hinders you, that takes your eyes off Jesus? Are there some earthly goals, career highlights, more important to you than Jesus? Throw them off. They are not worth it. Are your eyes fixed on things that won’t last? Hold them up next to Jesus, their glory fades. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Then there is the sin that so easily entangles. Another word picture. Ever try running with your shoelaces tied together? Doesn’t work so well, does it? We need to learn to look at sin that way, as something that is going to trip us up. The Devil has a nasty sneaky way of getting Christians to think that some sins aren’t so bad, they are little or normal. He wants to trip us up. And so when you as scared of some punishment or what someone will think of you he tempts you to lie. And you do. And that lie breeds more lies. It becomes a way of life for you. You are entangled in a web of lies. Your eyes are not on Jesus. Or maybe you play that little comparison game. You want someone else’s popularity, or their things or their spouse. You become discontent with your own. It eats at you. You think about it. Pretty soon you’re charging yourself into debt, you’re flirting, you’re tearing down another’s reputation, you’re cheating on your taxes, you have nothing to give to Jesus as a thankoffering. You are entangled. Your eyes are off Jesus. All of that started with a “little” sin. Throw it off.
There is a better way. Fix your eyes on Jesus and run with perseverance the race marked out for you. Veteran parents will tell you that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. You are in it for the long hall. So you don’t judge by the day or even by the year but by the final product. Veteran soldiers of the cross will tell you the same thing. Life as a Christian is a marathon, not a sprint. It is in the tasks of daily living that your faith needs to show and that matters much more than the short lived firework display of the day you made your confirmation vows. As our other readings made clear following Christ will get you opposed. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Fix your eyes on Jesus. He endured opposition from sinful men. We will too. The Lord has not revealed the future of true Christianity in America to us. He hasn’t shown us what’s going to happen to people like us who hold to Bible truth no matter what. Do you think we will face opposition from sinful men when we continue to say there is salvation only through Jesus, that sex is to be reserved for marriage, that gay marriage is not marriage and is abominable to God? I think so. Are going to grow weary and lose heart? Like the Hebrew Christians will be tempted to join churches where the going isn’t quite so tough? Not if we keep our eyes on Jesus who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.
That was His motivation. Let’s have it be ours too. We have the right to be joyful now. Jesus lives. Jesus rules. But the best joy is certainly to come. We get to be with Jesus and finally understand just how special we are to Him. Don’t throw it away for a short term easier path. No matter what you are going through right now, whether your life of following Jesus is easy or hard, fix your eyes on Jesus. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross for you. Amen.