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Therefore...Run the Race...

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3

As Holy Week begins, let’s transition to our final character in the “Hall of Faith”—Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. To prepare to take in the glories of the resurrection, the hope of ages, and the consummation of all those we’ve read about colliding together with us to be made perfect, we’ll go low into the abyss of his sufferings.

But we will be careful about the way we speak of what Jesus endured. Jesus came as the new Adam, as the head of a new humanity ( Romans 5:12-21). Jesus is the Son of Man and the Son of God. He entered the world wrapped in flesh, but inside, he had no sinful nature to which to appeal. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This means that in moments when he wrestled with loneliness, no ounce of self-pity tainted his experience. When accused, no self-righteousness swelled to defend himself. During his afflictions, he never felt the prideful pull toward questioning God’s goodness, faithfulness, or wisdom. Jesus is the only human who endured sufferings with a pure heart, and therefore, endured them fully.

Jesus endured all that any of us has ever endured and more. We could consider how he groaned in anger at death’s door when his friend Lazarus lay sealed in a tomb (John 11). We could listen to his deep sigh before making the deaf hear and the mute speak (Mark 7). We could marvel at his patience with his disciples as they argued about their own self-importance the night before his uttermost self-denial (Luke 22). If he knows our every weakness, endured the fullness of humanity’s plight, suffered not only the aches and pains of the human condition but also the brunt of evil itself, how can we manage to do anything but scratch the surface?

Yet, that’s what we have to try and do. We scratch and glean, all the while training our minds and hearts in a pattern necessary for our endurance. As we learn the rhythm of laying aside the weights and sins which cling so closely, we learn that we can only do so by looking to Jesus. Our characters have shown us this method over and over. The only power strong enough to take the next step of faith comes not from ourselves but from our better hope. May even this one week of taking this particular angle on our Savior—considering what he endured, what he laid aside, what he must certainly have believed—serve your faith for a long while.

Because in studying the sufferings of Christ, we move beyond simply finding sympathy and solidarity, though learning the ways Christ identified with his own creatures supplies endless ministry. We even move beyond letting the expression of his faith testify of his steadfast belief in his Father, though the actions he took and the content of his hope will forever astound those who ponder it. In setting a magnifying glass over the sufferings of Christ, we look squarely at the source and means of our own salvation.

His condescension, his weighty grief, his sin-bearing—these melt us in a way no other character’s endurance has or can. The lot Christ endured humbles us because every bit of it fell to his shoulders because of us and for us. His sufferings redeem the fate of fallen man! His blood appeases the wrath of a holy God against sinners, gifts us a righteousness we’d never attain, and reconciles us in peace to the Father. His resurrection liberates the captives and brings the dead to life. Without his endurance, we’d have no hope.

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