The Hebrews are suffering under immense persecution. Many have had homes and personal property confiscated. Some have been tortured; others killed. It is no wonder that they have grown discouraged. The writer implores them to hold on to their faith in Christ by considering the example of heroes of the faith who endured to the end.
In his message of encouragement, the writer describes the Hebrews’ lives as a race and then reminds them they are not alone in this race. Cheering them on are heroes of the faith who have already finished their course. Jesus is the leader of them all—the one who marked out the race, ran its course to the very end, and made it possible for us to follow. One of the basic teachings of Christianity is this: It is not how you start that matters; it is how you finish. Jesus makes it clear that those who endure to the end will receive their reward.
The finish line for us is Christlikeness, and all through our race the Creator is shaping us to be more like Jesus. When we grow weary or lose heart, we can change the trajectory of our story by considering those who have run the race before us. They give us courage to endure, to stay the course, to finish the race God has set before us. They demonstrate a life of faith that really works.
If we are to finish this race, we are to imitate Jesus Christ. He never lost sight of where he was headed. The cross, the shame—none of it could slow him down or distract him from the ultimate goal of finishing with God.
Loving God, we are grateful that your mercy includes even those who feel like giving up. When we grow discouraged, remind us of all that Christ endured on the cross so we could be saved. Amen.
Although we anticipate the celebration of Easter, this week’s readings remind us to slow down and walk through the suffering of Jesus. If we fail to understand why he has to die, then we fail to grasp fully the power of his resurrection. Monday’s passage in Isaiah anticipates the Messiah, the Anointed One, coming to bring justice to the nations. Tuesday’s Psalm laments that sometimes the righteous are met with scorn. The Hebrews passage for Wednesday declares that Christ knows of the suffering that awaits him, yet he endures it because of the joy to come. On Thursday, the reading in John shows us that even when facing death, Jesus continues to model selfless love. Friday brings pain and rejection, but Sunday is the greatest day in human history. He is risen indeed!
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. Consider someone who has disappointed, hurt, or betrayed you whom God might be calling you to love. How could a posture of service help you act in a loving way even if you cannot feel affection for this person?
Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12. How does this description of a suffering servant help you more fully understand Jesus’ suffering on the cross?
Read Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24. When has grief felt like mercy? When has noticing you are alive felt like a miracle?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24. Recall a time you forgot how to sing God’s praises despite the joy around you. How did God provide the song?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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