Summary: We wait patiently for Christ who is victorious, faithful and worthy.
The main theme we’ve seen is that Christ Jesus is greater than all things. This letter is written with that theme in mind because the original hearers have considered leaving; they’re being persecuted and they don’t like that. They’re asking, “Have we left Moses and the sacrifices for no reason?”
And the author shows how Christ is better than those things and they are only types and shadows and they point to Him. He shows from their history that turning back is always the wrong to do, and he reminds them that the just shall live by faith—just as Noah and Abraham and Moses all the others in chapter 11.
And so now we come to chapter 12 and we ask, how is Christ glorified in these verses?
1. He’s proven faithful by His witnesses (:1)
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
This is a reference to all the men and women from the last chapter. Some people interpret this to mean “since there are so many great men and women watching us,” but I don’t think that’s quite right. Rather it should be understood to mean “since we have so many examples and testimonies of God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises.” There’s this whole group of people all through your Bibles that shows how God never lies and that we can depend on Him. Do you think your lives are bad? Is the persecution starting to get to you? Well, be encouraged—you’re in great company with all the others who’ve had to wait on Him to find Him faithful!
2. He’s removed every weight and sin from us that we may run our race (:1)
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
I suppose “weight” can be just about anything that slows us down and keeps us from finishing our race. In my mind I picture Christian from Pilgrim’s Progress: he’s walking around with this huge burden on his back that won’t come off until he gets to the cross.
The sin that easily besets us could also be translated as the sin that skillfully surrounds us. I picture a man walking alone on a road when suddenly 7-8 robbers rush out of the bushes and before he even realizes what’s happening he’s already completely surrounded.
So, our first reading commands us to lay aside the burden and to lay aside or overcome the sin that so skillfully surrounds us. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right, does it? I don’t read Greek, but I study it, and I’m occasionally asked why it matters. Well, this is one of those times where it makes a big difference. This is kind of hard to explain, but “let us lay aside” is all one word in the Greek. Its tense is called “second aorist” which means it’s something that’s already finished.
It’s also middle voice, and it’s a participle which means in English it’s probably going to have an “ing” or an “ed” at the end. It should be translated something like this: Seeing Christ’s faithfulness throughout history, and “having laid aside” every weight and sin, let us run our race with patience.
It’s an important distinction to make: “let us lay aside” implies that there’s something for us to do; it commands us to lay aside the weight and the sin so we can run our race. But we’ve already traded our burden for the yoke of Christ (Mt. 11:28), and He’s already made us free indeed! How can we add to His work? And so the glory that I see for Him in this verse is not that He enables us to lay aside the weights and sin and waits for us to do it, but that He has already done it and has made us to stand and run: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Is. 40:29-31).
In Greek it literally reads this way: “weight, having laid aside every, and the easily surrounding sin, with endurance we should run the lying before us race.”
“Seeing so many testimonies of God’s faithfulness and having laid aside the weight and sin, let us run with patience! You see? It’s not a command to strive more or work harder. It’s a command to wait because the striving has been done and the work is already finished. Now just wait on the Lord!