Summary: This sermon explores the tension between the accomplishments of the faithful and their character and discovers that Jesus fills the gap between righteousness and our character.
Running The Race
The image of chapter 11 is a great one. The saints of old cheering us on so that we finish the race.
If life is a race, it is a steeplechase not a track meet. Maybe even an extreme steeplechase. There are moving obstructions we must avoid. There is quicksand to bog us down. There are people with weapons to hurt us. The point is life is not easy. It is not so simple to start with the firing of the gun and moving toward the finish line.
If life is a steeplechase, then I get tired of climbing those walls.
• Red Sea divided, but let’s not forget the land of slavery and the mighty Egyptian army on one side of the sea and the desert on the other side of the sea.
• Abraham had a son, but was told to kill him.
• Joseph rose to prominence, but not before his brothers sold him into slavery.
• Moses was great leader, but what about being separated from his family and the angst that he must have gone through when he learned of his adoption by the enemy of his people.
It is actually pretty absurd, the whole idea fans cheering athletes anyway. Even today it is. There is a thousand overweight men who cannot hold their glass of beer and tray of nachos the same time without spilling them on the guy in front. They are all yelling at Ray Ordonez and Alphonso Soraiano because they bobble a hard-hit-in-between-hop-ground ball.
Let’s look at the saints of old in the stands cheering for us. I know I am no Ray Ordonez or Alphonso Soriano when it comes to making the plays in the Christian life, but this is who is cheering for me?
• Moses was a murderer
• Noah got drunk
• Abraham lied about his wife with the intention that someone else would take her for his wife
• Jacob was a swindler who was willing to sacrifice his servants and wives in a moment of cowardice.
• David was an adulterer and accomplice in murder.
What about these guys? To use the baseball analogy I had a few minutes ago, they are going to walk out of the stadium with nachos and beer all over their clothes complaining about Mike Piazza’s passed ball. Those ancients who were so great are no more than walking wounded. If you were their contemporaries you might not think of them as blessed, but cursed. Yet they kept going. Why?
11:39,40 give us a hint.
SUDDEN SHIFT/GOOD NEWS– our support is not the faithful who have gone before us. It is Jesus. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before hem endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throe of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
• Jesus was perfect, the ancients didn’t have to be. Neither do we. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4
• Jesus was wounded – he can understand us. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Is. 53:5
• Jesus was victorious – he has blazed the trail for us “But Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” I Cor. 15:20