Running the Race, Part 5
by Gil Rugh
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 (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Last week we saw that Jesus provides the perfect example of living by faith. Looking at the end of Hebrews 12:2, what did He do in this instance to show how to live by faith? We read that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Now you'll note here, He endured the cross because He was looking to the ultimate goal, the joy set before Him. To arrive at the appointed goal and the joy associated with attaining that goal it was required that Jesus endure the suffering of the cross.
Moving on in verse 2, we see that Jesus despised the shame of the cross. In New Testament times the cross was a mark of greatest shame. Only the basest of criminals were condemned to death via crucifixion. It was a punishment so degrading that no Roman citizen could be subjected to it. Jesus Christ despised this shame. The Greek word translated “despised” means “to think little of or to disregard.” Jesus counted the shame of the cross as nothing because of the joy of the ultimate realization of the goal — the securing of salvation that could only be accomplished by the cross.
The result of His obedience is that He “has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The reward for Christ’s perfect obedience was exaltation by the Father. We see a similar thought in Philippians 2:8-11 where Paul says of Jesus, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Christ despised the shame of the cross because of the joy set before Him, He was looking at the culmination when he would be seated at the right hand of the Father and the work of salvation would be completed.
It is this exalted Lord whom we serve. We are to follow His example of a life of faith. There will be shame, humiliation, and rejection for those who boldly identify with Jesus Christ. Don't quit, don't grow weary, don't lose heart, don't get discouraged. Keep your eye on the goal, fix your attention on Christ, the One who endured the suffering of the cross and has been seated at the right hand of the Father. Do you understand what God has promised us? We will be presented in the glory of His presence without spot, perfect, acceptable in His sight. Do you think that the saints who have gone before us are in glory now saying, if I had it to do over, I would have taken it easier, wouldn't have been as intense? We have to fix our attention on Jesus Christ, turn it away from things that distract us. We are engaged in serious business, we are in the race that God has set before us.