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Dear friends in Christ,
Someone once said, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.” How true! Needless to say he understood Jesus’ mission well.
Jesus knew that mission well. When Jesus was on the mountain where he was transfigured (when his face began to shine like a bright light and clothes radiated), the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” The apostles who were there reported that Elijah and Moses who were there, “appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” They talked about the mission of Jesus. Wouldn’t you love to have heard their conversation? Christ’s departure from this earth would come after he completed his saving mission.
The Bible tells us Jesus tried to warn the disciples more than once about what was going to happen. The Bible says, "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." Jesus was determined to do what the Father had sent him to do – die for the sins of the world. To this we say, “Thank God!” On this commemoration of the first Palm Sunday it is no exaggeration to pray that we have 20/20 Vision when it comes to Christ.
The first thing is to remember those who had and have that 20/20 vision. Most of us don’t like to do things alone. The exception is Judy when she shops. She doesn’t like me coming along. We also find it easier to follow Jesus with others too. All you need to do is ask a college student about going to church. It is easier to go to church with someone. The problem is trying to recruit someone. It is easier to recruit someone to go to a party.
The Writer to the Hebrews had written a little earlier in this letter, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The good Lord wants his people to get together so we can encourage one another and receive encouragement from one another. Why? Because it is hard to be a Christian alone!
There have been those who have felt alone. Elijah did. Noah was almost alone except for his family through the flood. Jonah was alone after he experienced what it was like to be whale vomit when he went to the city ofNinevehto preach repentance. The disciples felt alone when Jesus bowed his head in death and he gave up his spirit. They hid behind locked doors on Good Friday and Saturday and even on Easter Sunday before they understood what had happened.
But take heart Christians, we are not alone. In fact, we have never been alone and we will never be alone. Not only is our God with us, the Writer says, “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.” There is a great cloud of witnesses that surround us. What is he talking about? He is talking about all the people whom he just mentioned in the previous chapter. If you have your Bibles open, check it out. Chapter eleven is the great chapter about the heroes of faith.
The following are mentioned. There is Abel, the second generation of man; Enoch, the man who walked with God; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Moses, some of the Judges from the book of Judges are mentioned. They are the ones who believed just as you do - that God is holy, but also forgiving and merciful. He promised a Savior who would take a journey to die and save. Read your Bibles and take a look at all the godly men and women from Hebrews 11 who have gone before you. Remember the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” in heaven “who have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb” as it says in Revelation 7. Look around at the people here this morning who have the eyes of faith focused on what you do – the forgiveness of sins won by Christ and the certainty of a gracious passage into Paradise because they too have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God. Give us 20/20 vision like the great heroes and heroines of faith.
The second point the Writer says to give us 20/20 vision to see the journey that Jesus made on our behalf. Palm Sunday begins the home stretch for Jesus, doesn’t it? God devoted a lot of time to the home stretch in his Word. 33% of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John address the period of time from Palm Sunday to forty days after Easter. In other words one third of the Gospels describe 48 days of Jesus’ 33 years of life. During this time Jesus taught a lot of things. He taught about the end times of the earth and Judgment Day, the importance of generosity in the life of the godly, what it means to serve, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Pentecost, where government fits into the godly person’s life and life’s priorities and much more. But these chapters describe in detail what Jesus, the Savior, the God man, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords was willing to endure for you - the political intrigue, the betrayal, the denial, the trials, the blood, the gore, the suffering and his death – for you.
In 2004 Mel Gibson portrayed Jesus in the film entitled The Passion of Christ. It was very graphic. In fact Roger Ebert, film critic said about it, “The movie is 126 minutes long, and I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned specifically and graphically with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen.” Notice he didn’t say it was inaccurate. I have to admit that I had read the accounts of Jesus’ death hundreds of times as recorded in the Bible, but the movie made it most explicit what Jesus did for us. Visually seeing the possibility, or better said, the probability made it all the more real.
The writer says, “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.” Don’t look away from Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is not a myth. Eyewitnesses saw him; people experienced him. He gives us something solid to believe in. After all the sins for which he died are real; the guilt that comes from our sins is real; the punishment that he faced on our behalf and took away is real. The hell that we deserved is real; the heaven we get because of all that real suffering endured is real.
The writer says even more that gives us pause to think. Jesus “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.” It is amazing to think that Jesus did this for joy. Certainly this was no joy ride. The joy certainly comes from the completed task. He knew where it would all lead; he knows where he was leading us - to the throne of God. We are going to be able to stand before our God. We will see those pierced hands that were once so disgusting but now so glorious. So keep following Jesus on the complete journey. Don’t look away. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus with 20/20 vision.
Keep your eyes on the finish line with 20/20 vision. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but he must have known the apostle Paul. Why? He uses the comparison of life to a race just like Paul does. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” That’s what we are in – a race. It’s not a sprint but a marathon.
It is interesting that the word for race in Greek, the original language of the New Testament is the word “agon.” It is the word from which we get the word agony. In other words this is a hard race that is tough and wears on you and wants to wear you out.
He says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” When you see an Olympic athlete run a race, sometimes the clothes that they wear seems almost R-rated. It is usually very tight and very skimpy. Why? They want nothing causing wind resistance nor do they want something they can trip over and cause them to stumble. In the race we find ourselves running, that marathon, God wants us to throw away that can cause us to stumble or entangle us. He names the culprit – sin.
We throw it off by repenting of it. We throw it off by confessing it, and then knowing that Jesus journeyed to this earth to remove it from us and cleanse us from it. We also want to keep it off because we don’t want and need a guilty conscience that weighs us down.
We need to persevere. Someone once made the observation, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” Going anywhere for a snail is a marathon. Getting to the finish line is a marathon. A teenager had decided to quit high school, saying he was jut fed up with it all. His father said, “Son you can’t just quit. All the people who are remembered in history didn’t quit. Abe Lincoln didn’t quit. There was Thomas Edison. He didn’t quit. Douglas MacArthur, he didn’t quit. Then there was Elmo McCringle…” Wait, Dad, the son interjected, who’s Elmo McCringle? That’s just the point! He quit!
Our Lord gives us the highest reason possible not to quit. The writer says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men. Don’t quit on him because he sure didn’t quit on you. Lord, give us the 20/20 vision we need to keep our eyes fixed on you.