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The Author and Perfecter of Faith, Jesus

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Hebrews 12:1-3

May 26, 2013

Kevin Rees

There is really only one faith hero; Jesus Christ … the rest are heroic by derivation.


• What is the shape of faith for you? We have spent these last 15 weeks talking about it. So, what has been cooking, stewing, simmering? I trust that the next faith-step has been materializing as we have walked the path with Abel, Enoch, Noah and the rest.

• Some might look at your next faith-step and say that’s too radical, or that’s not radical enough. But we don’t dream up faith’s next step or evaluate it based on previous steps. Faith is God’s domain.

• I think it is interesting that the news feeds have been juggling the radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers of the Boston Bombing. What mutated in their hearts to rush toward violence? Who coaxed them to dream of mass casualties and terror? By contrast, and I see nothing similar, those who undergo a radicalization toward the Christian faith sell their belongings, relinquish their jobs, adopt children, feed the poor, visit the home-bound and the prisoner and preach the gospel.

o Psalm 115:8 captures it perfectly—“Those who make them will become like them; everyone who trusts in them.” We become like the one we worship. If worship a demon; we become more and more demonic. If we worship Christ; we become more and more Christ-like.

• But knowing Christ deeply, loving God and others authentically and serving the world compassionately are not radical; they are normal. What’s abnormal is to see the normal so seldomly that we treat it as radical.

• This chapter is about the next faith-step for the church. God has given the church a gift in this epistle. For it is guiding them, quite skillfully, to connect the dots and to fill in the color of their next faith-step. Through a series of warnings and a flood of better-than comparison the apostle is steering them toward Jesus and away from the traditions of men and away from the Judaism of brick and blood.

• For in just a year or two from the circulation of this letter Jerusalem will be destroyed by General Titus under the new Emperor, Vespasian who came to power after Nero. Every stone will be toppled. Every shred of gold will be plundered. Most of the Jews in Jerusalem will die. A hundred thousand will be carted to Rome as slaves. And this epistle is a gift before they might even realize they need it.

• It says: “You have need of endurance” (10:36). It gives a series of saints who in fact endured. And it concludes with this command, “Consider Him who endured” (12:3).

o Faith inspires faith. Steadfastness inspires steadfastness. Holiness inspires holiness.

o You have need of endurance. Therefore look to the one who endured perfectly—Jesus Christ.

o It is not Abraham or Moses or Rahab that we primarily consider; it is Jesus. They endured by looking to Jesus by faith. We endure by looking to Jesus in faith. Because in Jesus we have the better promises.

o There is really only one hero in this Hall of Faith—Jesus! All the others are brave, but secondary.

• The language begins with the imagery of a race. A foot race, a horse race, a chariot race—they could all work. Historically, around 68 or 69 A.D. there is no greater racing venue in the world than Circus Maximus

• Circus Maximus—operated in various stages of pomp and circumstance between approximately 500 BC – 500 AD. At its height it could seat about 150K spectators with perhaps another 100K more looking in from the surrounding hilltops. It was originally the site for the games—“i ludi”—in honor of the Roman gods much like the Olympic Games were competed in honor of the Greek gods across the Adriatic Sea.

• In 64 A.D. Nero burned Rome and arguably started that fire at the wooden stadium of the Circus Maximus

• So when Vespasian became Emperor one of his first major works was to build stadium, not of wood, but of marble. We know this marble stadium as the Coliseum started in 70 A.D.—built, at least in part, by the Jewish slaves extracted from Jerusalem. Some of the very recipients of this letter will be building this monstrosity for the entertainment of the masses and the honor of the Roman pantheon.

• This book, this imagery, is a gift to the Christian subgroup of the Hebrew people. A happier arena, a more joyful race, an encouraging crowd superimposed over the torture chamber they will be forced to build.

I. The Feet of Faith (vs. 1)

1 Therefore,

• A conclusion of emphasis—toi gar oun—summarization of entire section. Unfortunate chapter break.

since we have

• Exo—present participle … we currently have this, “it is not somewhere over the rainbow” or “I wish I may I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight”

so great a cloud of witnesses

• Nephos—not an individual cloud, but a dense mass of clouds that piles higher and higher … greater than any Circus Maximus or Coliseum crowd.

• And the crowd is not full of blood-thirsty spectators, but of fellow witnesses to the promises of Jesus.

• APP—Your next step may be lonely, but you are never alone.

surrounding us,

• Perikeimai—present passive participle—“the metaphor refers to the great amphitheater with the area for the runners and the tiers upon tiers of seats rising up like a cloud” (A.T. Robertson)

• This is our true setting; the heavenly city—not the city of earthly Jerusalem or the imperial city of Rome

• This may be the only verse that allows the possibility that the heavenly throngs are aware of our struggling on earth. The faithful do not help the runners, save through encouragement and solidarity.

let us also lay aside

• Apotithemi—aorist middle particple—prepositions preach! Apo—away from. Tithemi—to place, to set

every encumbrance

• Every impediment, hindrance—morally neutral. The garment of flowing robes would be terribly difficult to manage in a race. Therefore the runner sets it aside as well as any other distraction.

• Set aside the good in order to pursuit the better.

and the sin which so easily entangles us,

• Now negatively, in contrast to the neutral encumbrance, the runner must abandon sin in order to run better.

• Which sins have been highlighted in this marvelous chapter? Disbelief, leaving the faith, failing to endure, settling for lesser counterfeits when the genuine article is offered in Christ.

• The sin “cleverly places itself around in order to exert tight control” (Friberg)

and let us run with endurance

• The flips side of this admonition is to actively and presently run—trexo—subjunctive present.

• It is not enough to rid ourselves of barriers. We must also run skillfully and perseveringly.

the race that is set before us,

• This race—agon—where we get our English word “agony.”

• It is a false conclusion that the faith life will be an effortless life. There is struggle. There is sweat. There is agonizing training and enduring. There is rest, yes, from building our own righteousness. That is clear. But we are saved unto good works—that is clear as well.

• This agony is set before us providentially—prokeimai—present passive participle.

• God does not explain His providence, but repeatedly asserts that it is in operation along with His goodness. God chooses which race we must run, but promises that He is with us, that He has chosen our race for our own good and His own glory and that through our perseverance we will testify to the supremacy of Jesus.

II. The Eyes of Faith (vs. 2)

2 fixing our eyes

• Aphorotnes—present participle—looking away from in order to looking undividedly upon Jesus

• Where your eyes look, your feet will follow. ILL—Teaching the boys how to cut grass w/ straight rows

on Jesus,

• We might glance at the crowds in the stands and hear their roar, but we look on Jesus.

• Actually, when it all fits together there is a focus so centered that the crowds and noise are momentarily blocked out. I distinctly remember that sensation in soccer—there was just the ball and the net and an eerie slow motion and a confidence that I will just place this ball in that corner.

the author and perfecter of faith,

• The founder—archegos—the leader, the prince. Literally, the One who goes first on the path; pioneer.

• “Jesus is the pioneer of personal faith” (Moffatt).

• The finisher—teleiotos—the One who brings faith to its highest attainment—both in Himself and as an example. In a very real sense, we are saved by Jesus’ faithfulness. His faithfulness was so perfect that there is room for all to stand on the platform with Him at the awards ceremony.

• The founder and the finisher; the author and perfecter of faith—“not just my faith, but all faith absolutely” (Vincent)

• This is really why there is only One hero of the faith; all the other ones who have pockets of heroism are derived and secondary. Only Jesus.

who for the joy set before Him

• How can we say that? Because of His faithful endurance

• Anti—with the genitive = “for” … in the face of the joy set before Him—prokeimai—present passive participle. He was given a race—an agony—to complete as well.

endured the cross,

• He who was exempt from all struggle took our struggle as a joy. There was joy before. There will be joy after. Jesus endured the agonizing middle because He knew the joy of reconciliation was waiting on the other side.

• Hupomeneo—under/abide—aorist. He did not short-cut it. He did not by-pass it. He received it as from the Father.

• We must not seek the short-cut either. We must not seek the by-pass. We must receive it—whatever it is—as from our good and gracious Father.

despising the shame,

• I find this phrase terribly fascinating. Jesus accepted the guilt of our sin, but refused to accept the shame. He treated it as contemptuous—kataphroneo—aorist participle. He looked down upon it and rejected it outright. (Which is what we did to Him—“we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, afflicted” [Isaiah 53:4].) But He was confident.

• Guilt is about what I did. Shame is about who I am. I did wrong—Jesus took that upon Himself vicariously. I am wrong—Jesus rejected that about Himself. He was not stained in the process of bearing our sin on His back. He was not tainted, tarnished or contaminated. He remained pure even after He handled our darkness.

and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

• Kathizo—perfect—has sat down.

• The priests never sat down when they were ministering. There were no seats in the holy place. The job was never done. But Jesus sat down (Hebrews 1:3). He finished the previously unfinishable task.

III. The Object of Faith (vs. 3)

3 For consider Him

• Analogizomai—aorist middle imperative plural—consider carefully, sum up after investigation, reckon

• This is our command. This is our next step! Whatever the next step might be—this is the heart of it.

• All the other examples of faith did this reckoning of Jesus against the setting of the race placed before them. We must too.

who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself,

• Hupomeno—perfect participle—he has abided underneath and the ramifications continue.

• Antilogia—the anti-word; the contrary evidence, the disputation hurled at Jesus’ person

• It is personal! Rejection is personal. It hurt Jesus. It hurts us. But the hurt is not the last word.

So that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

• Purpose clause—why all of this? Why all of these examples? Why must we consider Jesus exclusively? So that we will not grow weary (“sick” James 5:15). So that we will not lose heart.

• The struggle in only just beginning. Losing heart is the temptation. Failing to endure is around every corner. Disbelieving God’s goodness is something our flesh already wants to believe.

• But by faithfully considering Jesus’ endurance, we are enabled to endure.


• The road set before us is God’s decision. We cannot often even imagine what it will include. We cannot guarantee that we will be free from pain or discomfort or confusion.

• But that which we cannot do is not the dominate force in this race. Rather that which we can do through Jesus is in operation.

• But what we can do is endure by faith. We can lay aside every neutral hindrance and outright sin. We can run with endurance the race set before us. We can fix our undivided attention on Jesus. We can consider Him who has endured. So that we will not grow weary or lose heart in our next faith-step.

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