Summary: Keep your eyes on Jesus - Sermon by Gordon Curley PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email: email@example.com
Look at the winners (vs 1a)
Look at yourself (vs 1b)
Look at Jesus Christ (vs 2-4)
Look at your status (vs 5-13)
• I showed you two film clips earlier on in the service;
• From the film 1981 British historical drama ‘Chariots of Fire’.
• Chariots of Fire: Harold's despair: https://youtu.be/xxRJu2MaDEk
• Chariots of Fire: I Run to Win: https://youtu.be/4MeadbGQx18
• The film tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics:
• Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God,
• And Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.
• In the 94 years since the 1924 Paris Olympics,
• There has been a lot of change.
• You can see that in everything from diet to their sports kits.
• In the original Olympics there were only one event.
• Called the ‘stadion’ (or ‘stade’) race,
• This was a short sprint measuring between 180 and 240 meters,
• Or the length of the stadium
• Only men participated and only men watched,
• I’ll tell you why later.
Later on other events were added such as:
• The Pankration (Combination of wrestling & boxing & kicking)
• The Pentathlon (running, long jump, discus, javelin, wrestling)
THE WRITER TO THE LETTER OF THE HEBREWS:
• Whoever he was!
• Many think it was the apostle Paul,
• And some like the theologian John Calvin are convinced it wasn’t!
• But whoever he was, used sport for his illustrations.
• Here in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 4,
• He refers to two of those Olympic events:
• Verse 1: Athletics mentioned “Running the race”.
• Verse 4: Boxing may be referred to “Resisted to the point of shedding blood”.
It was a patriotic thing to be a good athlete and to bring glory to your country:
• And Paul combines those two things:
• Athletics & Citizenship in this chapter.
• In fact no-one could take part in the official games,
• Unless he was a citizen of Greece and also a ‘freeman’ (not a slave).
So in this chapter the writer of the Hebrews:
• Uses the picture of the race (vs 1-13)
• Which we will look at this evening.
• He uses the picture of citizenship (vs 14-29).
• Which you will look at next week.
• The author was writing primarily to Christians,
• This is not about starting the race (i.e. how to become a follower of Jesus),
• It is for those who are already in the race (i.e. already followers of Jesus).
• Not only is the author writing primarily to Christians
• But to Christians who had been converted from a Jewish background,
• That is why the book is heavy with Jewish imagery, history and tradition.
• These Jewish/Christians were struggling in their faith;
• They were finding following Jesus tough & felt like giving up,
• And so the writer of this letter writes to them;
• To specifically encourage them to keep pressing on, not to give up.
Note: One theme that dominates this chapter is Endurance:
• Verse 2: “Jesus.... endured the cross”.
• Verses 3: “Not grow weary”.
• Verse 7: “Endure hardship”.
• . And it is a point mentioned again and again earlier on in this letter.
So in times of difficulties & hardships;
• The writer gives his readers some encouraging advice,
• To keep them going forward.
• On the 20th October 1968 Tanzanian marathon runner John Akhwari finished last.
• That is because during the race, Akhwari suffered a significant fall,
• He sustaining injuries to his knees, shoulder, and head.
• Akhwari had every reason to give up.
• Many others already had;
• Out of the 74 participants, 17 didn’t make it to the finish line,
• And Akhwari could have been the 18th;
• If he was not a man of sheer determination and unrelenting resolve.
• It was already dark when Akhwari crossed the finish line.
• The awarding ceremony was long over and the crown had mainly gone home.
• Out of the darkness of the Mexican night,
• Akhwari emerged as a limping man to finished the race last.
• A reporter asked him this question?
• “Why did you carry on with a serious injury and no hope of coming anything but last?”
“My country did not send me seven thousand miles to Mexico to start a race.
They sent me seven thousand miles to finish it!”
That is the kind of attitude Paul wants the Hebrew Christians to have:
• And to help them develop that mental toughness he gives them three examples.
• To encourage them to keep going, even when the situation is difficult.