(Hebrews xii. 2.)
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
These words of admonition, instruction and encouragement are addressed to “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, called to run a race which is set before them, yet burdened at times with weights which impeded their progress, and sins which easily beset them, and sometimes bewilder them, insomuch that their eyes are diverted from steadfastly beholding and pressing toward the mark of their high calling. None can look unto Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith whose faith is not from him, in him and by him as its author, center and finisher. None whose faith is from any other source can justly claim Jesus as its author; nor can any whose faith requires to be perfected by any other than Jesus have a right to say that Jesus is the finisher of it. The preceding chapter (Hebrews xi.) defines the vital principle of the faith of which Jesus is the author and the finisher, and demonstrates its matchless power by a cloud of witnesses, extending from righteous Abel down to the time when this epistle was written. The Holy Ghost testifies that this “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And we are also informed in the sacred volume that it is the fruit of the Spirit and the gift of God. – Gal. v. 22; Phil. i. 29.
In the absence of this faith no man can be looking unto Jesus, for no light of nature, of reason or science can reveal him. Only the faith which is the evidence of things which are not seen can look unto Jesus. And unto those who by faith can behold him who is invisible, Jesus has said, “Blessed art thou; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew xxi. 17. Who else can reveal him, since Jesus himself has said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him?” – Matt. xi. 27. Only the living, who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand, can look unto Jesus and see in him the author and finishers of their faith. To know him is eternal life; and they who truly know him, know also experimentally the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, and are conformed unto his death.
As in the figure of running a race, he who runs should have his sight directed to the objective mark, so Jesus, who has finished his course of suffering in the flesh and entered within the vail, is the mark which is set before his followers, who are to be constantly and steadfastly looking to and considering him who endured great contradiction of sinners against himself, lest they should be weary and faint in their mind.
To be looking unto Jesus is to be looking away from themselves, and away from everything else as objects of attraction. The world, the flesh and Satan are to be opposed, denied and resisted, and every weight which is calculated to burden and impede progress in the divine or spiritual life is to be laid aside, with every besetting sin; and being thus stripped for the race, they are exhorted to run with patience the race which is set before them. In looking unto Jesus the enlightened follower of the Lamb sees in him a perfect pattern of patient endurance. Although the blessed Jesus encountered all the opposing powers of wicked men and devils, those never did or could for a moment divert him from the course in which he was engaged, nor could any amount of ignominy or shame slacken his onward progress. If briars and thorns were put in array before him, he went through them, “traveling in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save.” When led or driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil, he was tempted in all points as his followers are, and yet without being to any extent overcome by the tempter. Among the temptations when he then and there encountered was that in which all the glories and treasures of this world, with tall their alluring and fascinating charms, were in one moment of time, in all their concentrated power, brought to bear upon him, to turn him aside from the race which was set before him. In the infirmities of our nature, which he had taken on him, he experienced the feelings of our infirmities in the endurance of temptation, for he was tempted in all points as we are. On the one hand was arrayed all the glitter of wealth, fame and allurements of the world, while on the other stood the racking cross, the shame, the malignant spite, malice and scorn, with bitter reproaches and envenomed persecution of all the powers of darkness. The painful agony wrung from his tortured heart the sweat which like great drops of blood fell to the ground, and in that inexpressible ecstasy of anguish the piercing cry breaks from his sacred lips, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt.” – Mark xiv. 36. Thus, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared, though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. – Heb. v. 7-9.
Looking unto Jesus, who endured all this, we behold a most wonderful example of patient endurance in suffering and perseverance in him, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. All this the suffering Lamb of God endured for the joy that was set before him, not for any comfort the world could supply; for no affliction for the present is joyous, but sanctified sufferings afterward yield peaceable fruits of righteousness to them who are exercised thereby. The joy which was set forth in prophecy: “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” – Isa. liii. 10, 11. “Thus it behooved him to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day,” when he should be raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. When the eyes of our understanding are enlightened, we “may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” – Eph. i. 18-23.
Thus we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, now crowned with glory and honor. The once humiliated, patient, suffering Lamb of God is exalted and set down with the Father on his throne of transcendent glory; having risen from the dead and ascended up on high, and having led captivity captive, he has a name and glory which transcends every name that is named in heaven or in earth, in full possession of all power in heaven and in earth. To him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear.
“Behold he mounts his throne of state,
And fills the Mediatorial seat,
While millions bowing at his feet
With loud hosannahs tell –
Though he endur’d exquisite pains,
He led the monster, Death, in chains;
While seraphs in their loudest strains
With music fill bright Eden’s plains –
He’s conquer’d death and hell.”
To this once suffering but now triumphant Savior the eye of faith in all the saints is directed to look, and in him they see the Captain of their salvation, who has led the way through great tribulation up to the joys at God’s right hand. The joy that was once set before him is now set before his followers; and as thus it behooved him to suffer, so now it behooves his followers to suffer for his sake. And the same joy that was before him is now before us, if we are his people; and as he endured the cross and despised the shame, the bright example is presented to our faith, for unto us it is given on his behalf, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; for if we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together. And as he has overcome and sat down with the Father, so shall we overcome and sit down with him in his glory, when all tears shall be wiped away, and sighing and sorrowing shall be known no more forever. No one had led the untrodden pathway before him; but he has led the way for us, having made the passage through death up to the immortal realms of his supreme glory. He is the first begotten from the dead, and the first born among many brethren, and the way is open. He has entered as our High Priest within the vail for us; and although the intervening vail now hides from us the ineffable splendor of his glory, so that it doth not yet appear what we shall be in the consummation of the glory which is held in reserve for all who love his appearing, yet the golden bells of his priestly robe are heard, giving the cheerful assurance that he ever liveth by the power of an endless life, and because he lives, we shall live with him, if we now are of them who love his appearing.
Followers of our God and Savior, as dear children, it becomes us to lay aside every weight; we cannot bear the crushing weight of the tables of the Sinai law which Moses brought down; how can we run a race with such a load? Why attempt to run with a yoke upon our neck which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? The law is not destroyed, but it is fulfilled, and its righteousness is fulfilled in all who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. We are no more to serve in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit. Nor can we run well if we indulge in making provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lustings. Self and selfishness is too much of a load for us to carry if we run in this race; let self be denied, avarice curbed, fame and worldly honors be resigned, and laying aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new born babes desire the sincere milk of the world, that we may grow thereby. These weights are serious hindrances, and from them we need to be relived, in order that we may so run that we may obtain the prize, and not be as they who beat the air. Christians find themselves annoyed by so many besetting sins, that they are sometimes perplexed to know what is their most besetting sin. It seems to us that the Hebrew disciples were more easily beset by the sin of legalism than any other. It seemed hard for them to see how they were to be saved without being circumcised and keeping the law of Moses. Some of the Gentile churches became bewitched with that heresy, and it seemed hard to wean them from it. But this race which they were called to run was not set behind, but before them, therefore they were to look unto Jesus, not to Moses; for “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” To run this race the runner should suffer no attraction to allure or draw his eyes away from Jesus. As the eye of the faithful servant is unto his master, and the eye of the maid is unto her mistress, so should all the followers of Jesus be looking unto him, and to him alone, as their pattern and forerunner; looking to him for grace to keep them in the way, and finally to give them the victory over sin, death and hell, and to receive them into the full fruition of their reserved inheritance at the right hand of the awful majesty of his throne above.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 14.
August 1, 1881.