Quote from the bulletin: The Hebrews who converted to Christianity face great opposition. They were often divided from their friends, separated from their livelihood. How would they persevere ? By fixing their eyes on Jesus!
Jesus makes this journey to cross and resurrection. We notice how He does not pull any punches when he's talking about life, and death, and discipleship; really about anything and everything related to following Christ. Some of these things we call “hard sayings of Jesus,” and in the course of the next few weeks we will be listening to some of these hard sayings, and to related sections of Scripture that echo, or expand, on those hard truths Jesus will be challenging us. And, of course, this is all out of love for us. Jesus wants us to take up our crosses and follow him so that we too can share in his crown.
The theme for this Sunday—the first Sunday in this Hard Truth series—is we want peace but God Word divides. It’s certainly true that we have peace with God through Jesus. That peace is solid and secure, but the peace being referred to in today’s theme is not. Think of the conflicts we have with other people. Jesus tells us the Hard Truth that a peaceful co-existence is simply not going to happen, at least not consistently in this world. Why not? Because, when we are loyal to Christ we will inevitably have conflict with people who do not follow him. We live in love toward all people absolutely, as the apostle says. As much as it depends on us, we live in peace with all others; but sometimes we have to stay loyal to Jesus and his Word, and that means being in conflict with those who do not follow him. Sometimes it’s painful, especially when it involves people who are close to us. But, Jesus gives us the strength to endure such conflict as we continue to follow him.
So, for now I would like you to hold your hand in front of you with fingers extended. Let the hand and fingers suggest and illustrate your family, your household, any work-related group that you belong to, or any neighborhood where you live. In this text see it as a Galilean household of five: a father, a mother, their son and his wife, and an unmarried daughter. How will that household (or that neighborhood) be impacted when the Gospel of Jesus comes into it? Sometimes by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit a whole family will respond to the Gospel with faith, and all its members are baptized as Christians. And sometimes not. The text “fixes our eyes on Jesus” (Heb 12:2) as he takes up that issue. From our readings this morning we come to understand,
WE CAN PERSEVERE IN THE RACE
1. WE PERSEVERE WHEN WE REMEMBER THE WITNESSES..
A. There are many witnesses
1) There are witnesses in both the Old and New Testament (Heb. 11).
2) We are not alone in the race. There are a number of people running the race today as Christians. In other words, we are in this together.
B. Their witness is encouraging.
1) The witnesses of Hebrews 11 experienced some of the same challenges and sin as we (Heb. 12:1).
2) By faith they were able to lay their hindrances aside (v. 1; Heb. 11).
3) We can likewise lay hindrances aside through a faith that lets us distinguish between what is temporary and what is permanent; the earthly and the heavenly.
2. We persevere when we submit to the Father’s Discipline.
A. It is difficult to submit to discipline (Heb. 12:11).
1) When sickness and trouble come, we may begin to thing, like Job, that God has become an enemy.
2) It’s not that sickness and trouble come from God, but that He allows it to happen to draw us closer to Him.
B. It is important to accept our Father’s discipline.
1) Discipline testifies to the Father’s deep love for us (Heb. 12:5-9).
2) And know that in the midst of discipline, God has 100% of our temporal and eternal good in view.
3) Submission enables us to experience that good (Heb. 12:10-11).
10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
3. We persevere when our eyes are sixed on Jesus.
A. Jesus is the supreme example of endurance in the race.
1) Christ endured much worse suffering than what will be required of us to endure (Heb. 12:3-4).
2) Yet, He persevered for us by keeping the final joy in view (Heb 12:2).
B. Above all, Jesus is faith’s enabler.
1) He authored our faith, when in Baptism He started us off in this race.
2) He will perfect and finish what He started.
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
Conclusion: Hard Truths. There is no easy, pain-free solution in the Christian life, but to persevere. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (Jn 16:33). Yet, we persevere in this Christian race when we remember the witnesses, submit to the Father’s discipline, and fix our eyes on Jesus.
What gives courage and hope to us in the race is that he has overcome the world and that He is powerfully present with us to the end in his Word, in Baptism, and in his Holy Supper. Praying for his disciples Jesus said:
Holy Father . . .“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. . . . I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth”(Jn 17:11, 13–19).