“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV)
The book of Hebrews was written as a pastoral treatise explaining to persecuted Jewish converts to Christianity the folly of returning to Judaism. Why would they retreat to shadow when the substance that casts the shadow was at hand?
The writer makes the case for Jesus as God’s final word (Heb. 1:2). The whole of the ceremonial law with its sacrifices, strictures and structures anticipated the One who would be perfect priest and perfect sacrifice. He was the reality that cast the shadow of promise under the old covenant.
When the writer introduces his letter by saying of Jesus, “who being the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3), he emphasizes the finished work of Christ to bring salvation. God incarnate had done what no mere human priest could. As a result He “sat down.”
The image of sitting down harkens to the furnishings of the old covenant tabernacle. There was no seat in the holy of holies because the high priest would need to enter yearly, sacrificing first for his own sins and sins of the people. But following His sacrifice Jesus sat down. Nothing more needed to be done. As the sinless substitute His sacrifice was unique, sufficient, and final.
When we get to Hebrews 12 we again find the image of a seated Jesus.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1–2)
Here the writer is urging the Jewish believers forward in continual and comprehensive trust in Jesus as the object of their faith. No one who trusts in Him will be disappointed.
Like those Jewish Christians, we as believers are to run the race. That race is a pursuit of holiness (Heb. 12:14). As such we are to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us. Sin shackles us from running, disabling us from pursuing righteousness, holiness and peace (Heb. 12:3-12). Weights refer to whatever serves as hindrances distracting us from fully seeking first the kingdom of God (Heb. 12:18-24).
Our race though is not to win the crown of salvation. We are not to run for victory but to run in victory. That’s why our gaze is to be riveted on Jesus. He finished the race, enduring the cross, experiencing the shame, and was established in victory on our behalf.
The race before us is run from two vantage points. From a horizontal vantage point we run the course laid out, pressing on in holiness, dying to sin and living to righteousness. We fix our eyes on Jesus as our example (1 Pet. 2:21-23). We “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12:3).
But we also run that course from a vertical vantage point. We fix our eyes on Him who lives and sat down in victory, who won the race for us. In Him we are seated in the winner’s circle. He is our salvation, our solace, our strength, and our shield. Here we look to Jesus not as our example but who uniquely “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).
- What does it mean for Jesus to “seated” and how does this relate to the Christian life?
- What hindrances and sins is God calling you to toss aside in order to run the race of holiness and kingdom pursuit?
Heavenly Father, make Your church, those holy in Christ Jesus, to be holy as You are holy.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.