This week I want to build upon the point we made last week from the note titled “Standing Tall” as we briefly reviewed Hebrews 11. Today I want us to look at the main point the writer of Hebrews was pointing to throughout that chapter. Our focus passage today is one of the more beautiful and important in all of God’s Holy Word to help His children live life on this earth.
Hebrews 12:1 - 2 (KJV)
1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2) Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The “wherefore” means that this passage ties back to what had just previously been stated in Hebrews 11 that we covered last week. All those heroes of faith were still looking for something that they never got to see fully. They are commended still today and were given a good report through faith but they never saw physically what had been promised them while on this earth. They were not made perfect as verse 11:40 just prior states because the perfecter, the originator, the author, and the finisher of their faith had not yet come. We get to see this much more clearly than they ever did in their lifetimes because the originator and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ, has come. As such we should recognize the “something better” (11:40), that God has provided us.
Verse 1 highlights a great cloud of witnesses, and others who have gone before us as Cory highlighted in speaking of his mom and dad a few weeks back when he preached from this same passage. We are to lay aside all of the distractions and sins in life and run the race, a similar race they all ran, that God has set before us. What race? That race, that life, that God created you to run. That life that you, as God’s masterpiece as described in Ephesians 2:10, are called to run and do all of the things God planned ahead of time for you personally to do in your specific life race. That race that God wills you to run as Philippians 2:13 tells us, putting the desires and wills into us in the first place to fulfill His good purpose. That race we were created for God’s own glory to run as Isaiah 43:7 so eloquently outlines. That race with an easy yoke and a light burden because He, Jesus, is the finisher of the race.
How do you run that race successfully, even while this great cloud of witnesses is standing tall cheering you on? How do you run it with endurance or patience? You run it by “Looking Unto Jesus”, who Himself looked forward, toward something in the future. What did He look forward too? He looked forward to returning to His Father’s side at the right hand of His throne. That is how He endured all He did for just over 30 years on this earth. That is how He endured the scourging prior to the cross and then the pain and agony of the cross, the cruelest form of execution many say has ever been devised by man. That is how He endured and actually despised the shame of all of the world’s sins, your sins and my sins, heaped upon him there on that cross.
The writer of Hebrews uses this concept of looking forward to something better many times. Hebrews 10:34 tells us we may be put in prison and have our property taken but we know we have a better possession and an abiding one awaiting us. Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us that to Moses, knowing Christ and suffering similar reproach to Him was of far greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt and that was the reward he was looking toward. Hebrews 13:13-14 tells us that we can bear the reproach out in the world, a similar reproach as Christ bore, because we know that we have no lasting city here but instead we are looking forward to the city that is yet to come, referring to the new Jerusalem and our own room in the Father’s house. Over and over the writer shows us that to run our race, to live out our life here on this earth, we have to be looking forward to something else. We have to be looking forward to something “not of this earth”. We have to be, and I know this sounds crazy to most in the world, looking forward to something our eyes have not seen. We have to be looking in faith for “faith is to hope for things that are not seen, but yet are true” (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus though had seen those things. He left them and came to earth just so He could die a tragic death, become the perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could atone for our sins. He left them because He loved you!
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “Look Unto Jesus”. If ever in your life you wonder what it is you should look to that will help you through your hardest day, your toughest trial, your most dire persecution; climbing your highest mountain or traversing your deepest valley, you must “Look Unto Jesus”. He is the only satisfying answer there is to your hurt and heartache.
I have been reading a book written by Isaac Ambrose titled “Looking Unto Jesus”. You may have never heard of it since the author, a pastor who lived in England, wrote it in 1653. This man of God knew the scripture well and it is prevalent all through the book. His life verse was Hebrews 12:2.
Consider the following excerpt from the book as you think about why you should look unto Jesus:
“I determined not to know anything among you, saith Paul, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. He resolved with himself, before he preached among the Corinthians, that this should be the only point of knowledge that he would profess himself to have skill in, and that in the course of his ministry he would labor to bring them to. This he made the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, of his knowledge. Yea, doubtless, saith he, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. In this knowledge of Christ there is an excellency above all other knowledge in the world. There is nothing more pleasing and comfortable, more animating and enlivening. Christ is the sun and center of all divine and revealed truths: we can preach nothing else as the object of our faith, which doth not some way or other either meet in Christ, or refer to Christ. Only Christ is the whole of man’s happiness; the sun to enlighten him, the physician to heal him, the wall of fire to defend him, the friend to comfort him, the pearl to enrich him, the ark to support him, the rock to sustain him under the heaviest pressures; as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Only Christ is that ladder between earth and heaven, the Mediator betwixt God and man; a mystery which the angels of heaven desire to pry into. Here is a blessed subject indeed: who would not be glad to be acquainted with it? This is life eternal, to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”
Pastor Ambrose offers the following point on simply, the name of Jesus:
“Jesus signifies Savior, it is a Hebrew name; the Greeks borrowed it from the Hebrews, the Latins from the Greeks, and all other languages from the Latins. It comes from the Hebrew word Joshua, which in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (written after the Babylonian captivity) is Jeshua; and so is our Savior’s name always written in the Syriac translation of the New Testament. This name, Jesus, was given to Christ the Son of God, by His Father, and brought from heaven by an angel; first to Mary, and then to Joseph; and on the day when He was circumcised, as the manner was, this name was given Him by his parents, as it was commanded from the Lord by the angel Gabriel. It includes both His office, and His natures. He alone is the Savior of man; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. And He is a perfect and absolute Savior; He is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by Him; seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.”
Both of those paragraphs from the book are full of point after point after point about Jesus taken from scripture.
Here is another point from the book I want you to consider. Pastor Ambrose tells us, again written in 1653, what the term “Looking Unto Jesus” means as originally written in the Greek.
“In the text we have the act and object. The act in the original is very emphatical, but the English does not fully express it; it signifies a drawing of the eye from one object to another. There are two expressions; the one signifies a turning of the eye from all other objects; the other, a fast fixing of the eye upon such an object; and only upon such. So, it is both a looking off at something different than what you are looking at, and a looking on something else in particular. On what? That is the object, a looking unto Jesus: a title that denotes His mercy, as Christ denotes His office. My meaning is not to insist on this name, in contradiction to any other names of Christ. He is often called Christ, and Lord, and Mediator, and Son of God, and Emmanuel: but Jesus is all these; Jesus is Christ; as He is the Anointed of God; and Jesus is Lord; as He hath dominion over all the world; and Jesus is mediator, as He is the reconciler of God and man; and Jesus is the Son of God, as He was “eternally begotten before all worlds”; and Jesus is Emmanuel; as He was incarnate, and so God with us. Only because Jesus signifies Savior; and this name was given Him upon that very account; for He shall save his people from their sins: I shall make this my design to look at Jesus more especially, as carrying on the great work of my salvation, from first to last. He did it all. He started it as the originator of our faith and He finished it through His death on the cross. He did it all. This indeed is the glad tidings, the gospel, the gospel privilege; and our gospel duty—Looking Unto Jesus”
Christianity is the only religion that exists where there is someone else who is the “finisher, the perfector”. All other religions tell you how to finish the race but you personally must do it by yourself. You alone must finish the race in these other religions. You see, Jesus did not just start “a way”, He perfected “the only way”. He finished the way. Jesus lived perfectly and His righteousness with God, has now become ours. When you receive Christ as your Savior, God looks at you through the lens of Christ. Christ has become your advocate. “There is therefore, now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Jesus not only authors or originates or pioneers the way, He also brings it to completion. Hallelujah!
I love the way Pastor Ambrose explains the term “Looking Unto Jesus” from the original Greek as shown above. As soon as I read it, I thought of how it says almost literally what the song written in 1922 titled “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” states. Note the first verse and then words to the chorus or refrain from this song that you have most likely sang many times in your life if you have gone to church much:
Oh soul are you weary and troubled,
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
You have to turn your eyes from whatever it is that you have been focused upon. You have to focus them upon His wonderful face. You have to gaze directly at Him and all that He is with the eyes of your heart, your eyes of faith. When you do this, all of these things on earth, those things we are told to lay aside in 12:1, will then and only then grow strangely dim. It is not your trying harder that makes the problems go away and those problems become dim. No! It is looking at Jesus that makes them go away. Remember the heroes of faith referenced previously. There problems did not go away. Many of them died terrible deaths. The problems were not the main focus for them. They were focused on a future. They were focused on something they hoped to see that we now can see, even better than they could. Jesus is what we are to “look unto”. The problems grow dim the more and more we “Look Unto Jesus”, amidst the light of His glory and grace.
I want to leave another point with you regarding how you look at this key passage. The point is taken from a modern-day pastor and best-selling author.
“If we ever tell a particular Bible story without putting it into the overall main Bible story (which is about Jesus Christ), we actually change the meaning of the particular event for us. It becomes a moralistic exhortation to “try harder” rather than a call to live by faith in the work of Jesus Christ. There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus”
I pray you consider this point which a modern-day pastor makes alongside what was said by pastor Ambrose in 1653 in reference to the first two verses of Hebrews 12. Think back on what we reviewed Paul saying in his Romans Doxology at the end of Romans 11 - “For all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him. To Him be the glory forever. Amen”.
As I have said in these notes many times, it is not about you. It is about Him. Turn your eyes unto Jesus today. Look at Him. Read the Bible from that perspective. Read it as a now retired pastor, Michael Dearinger, brother of the prior pastor of CF Paris, and son of the pastor before him said one Sunday night some 28 years ago in the old church building down the street: “The Bible is not a rule book. The Bible is a love letter from your loving Father who just wants you to place all your focus upon His Son. It is a love letter encouraging you, His child, in your relationship with His Son”. Michael was sharing the story from Luke 15 of the father that had two sons when he made that statement. Those that look at the Bible as a rule book tend to call that passage in Luke 15 the story of the prodigal son. Those that look at the Bible as a love letter from the Father and all about Jesus, call the story in Luke 15 the story of the Loving Father who had two sons. Both had sin in their life. Pastor Cory recently reminded us of that point in a blog he put on the church website.
Look Unto Jesus my dear friend for it is He, and only He, that will change your life.