After giving a detailed example of faith, the author transitions into how and why we should apply this principle to our lives.
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, 2 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. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
As I picture the author’s analogy in verse 1, I imagine someone running through a jungle hacking at the vines trying to hold him back and trip him up. Yet as we continue through verse 2, we see that the runner isn’t even paying attention to the vines, other than to hack them away, but constantly looking forward toward the goal which is Christ. As we continue reading about Jesus enduring the cross for us I imagine a path carved out in this jungle by the heavy cross He carried to Calvary. He paved the way for us. While the world continues to throw things and encroach upon this path, we must stay focused and keep running.
One of the phrases in the bible that has always astounded me is that Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. It’s something I believe to be true and I’ve repeated it many times to others and through this blog but when we stop and think of the reality and depth of it, it’s hard to fathom completely. Jesus gives us and increases our faith. Our belief in God is wholly dependent upon Him. The One we believe in gives us the capacity to believe in Him. For those who don’t believe, this is a foreign concept because they haven’t experienced that moment when they do believe. It doesn’t make much sense because there is no comparison of nonbelief to that day when suddenly something “clicked” and you realize that something you once didn’t believe in is believable. This experience is different from everybody and everyone will experience it, as we read in Philippians 2:
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Did anybody notice that Jesus’ enduring of the cross was a joy to him? Yesterday we looked at the possibilities when we keep the faith and Jesus, who perfected it, looked at a terrible torture and death with joy. Part of this is because He knew that the Father is in control and completely surrendered to His will. He also knew that this was His main mission in life (read Luke 22:39-46). Ultimately, it was because He had perfected faith and He saw things from a spiritual perspective (ie the freedom that you and I would have from sin) instead of a physical perspective (pain, suffering, and death). Jesus’ martyrdom was at the very least an encouragement and example for us to follow; that despite our physical afflictions, our spiritual lives have the capacity to fill us with joy in the most horrible of circumstances.
The author of Hebrews has built a case for Christ. He has explained Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies as well as the culmination of thousands of years of custom, law, and tradition coming together and being perfected in this one man sent from heaven. Today we read the shift; this is the turning point in history where the world has shifted from waiting for the messiah to arrive to realizing what He has done for us and how we put it to use. We should look forward to these final two chapters because it will detail for us the “what now” of the completion of Christ’s ministry on earth. What does it mean for us? How do we apply it to our lives? Why does it matter?
Before we finish today I want to expose the phrase “author and perfecter”. Other translations say it as “author and finisher” or “pioneer and perfecter”. The word for author or pioneer in the original text is the Greek word archegos which represents, “the chief leader, one that takes the lead in any thing and thus affords an example, pioneer, author.” Jesus is the first one who had faith and then revealed it to us as something worth achieving. Jesus created faith. Let that sink in for a moment. The second word, “perfecter” comes from the Greek word teleiotes which is defined as, “one who has in his own person raised faith to its perfection and so set before us the highest example of faith.” Not only did Jesus make faith, He showed us faith in its purest form as something for which we should strive. Then, in the very act of doing so (dying on the cross) He in the same moment of giving His last breath gave us the opportunity to be perfected in the faith just as He is.
If faith is the race and Jesus is the goal, then we can use the aforementioned path carved out by the cross to reach the goal. His omnipresence not only puts Him in front of us as the goal to obtain, but also puts Him inside of us with the desire to run and behind us with the force to do it. Jesus doesn’t keep His perfection to Himself, He gives it to us so we can join Him. Where are you running today?