06 Oct October Reverend Reflections
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint hearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
Two weeks ago, the New Testament reading assigned to the Morning Office in the prayer booklets we have made available at church was Hebrews 12:1-17. I have quoted just the first four verses for you above because they have always been a beautiful challenge to me. Perhaps that sounds rather ironic, doesn’t it? A beautiful challenge. Challenges are typically anything but beautiful, but this challenge can rightfully be considered beautiful because of its motivations.
The author of Hebrews is calling us to do something hard—“to lay aside every weight and sin and run with endurance the race that is set before us.” The language of “laying aside” sounds casual and simple. You lay aside your golf clubs before a tee shot. You lay aside half of the brown sugar to be used later in a recipe. But in relation to sin, laying aside is a struggle that daily wears us out. It isn’t for the fainthearted. It is not fun, nor is it easy. It requires discipline and conviction. The process is often discouraging. At times it feels like an undoing—a death.
But what will motivate us in this struggle, the author of Hebrews says, is fixing our eyes on Jesus. What is it about Jesus that should motivate us to resist sin and temptation “even to the point of shedding your blood”—even at great loss to yourself? For the author of Hebrews it isn’t just that Jesus endured the cross and rose again to the right hand of the throne of God. For the author of Hebrews, it is what motivated Jesus to do those things. In verse 2 the author of Hebrews says that Jesus was motivated by “a joy that was set before him.” It was because of this surpassing joy that Jesus was able to endure the cross and the hostility from sinners.
But what was this joy? This joy was you! The thought of you being set free from your guilt, your slavery to sin, you lust, your wastefulness, your exhaustive and exhausting selfishness, your arrogance and pride. His joy was the thought of you, whole and complete—in complete possession of yourself. This vision of you was so joyful to him that he endured suffering that cannot be put into words, because the depth of it is unknowable to us. It was a complete spiritual abandonment on top of a physical death so painful that it was reserved for only the worst offenders of the Roman state. His pain wasn’t just the mocking voices of the soldiers but the silence he heard from the Father. But the thought of your freedom provided him with the joy to press through the pain.
It is this love and joy of Jesus that is to now be our motivation when we experience the difficulty of trying to follow him faithfully. Our motivation in this effort against sin is that the person who loved us to death was motivated by a vision of us free from the influence of sin. To neglect the struggle is to disappoint the absolute lover of our souls and to reveal that while we were enough for him, he isn’t enough for us. He had no other motivation but for us. That alone should be enough motivation for us. We shouldn’t need any worldly comforts. He gives them to us, but when they are gone, is he alone enough motivation for us to resist temptation and pursue holiness with great conviction and purpose? The fact that we were his motivating joy is now our motivating joy.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint hearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
May Jesus be your joy in the struggle against sin, because you were his joy in the struggle to free you from it.
The grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you always.