Hebrews 12:2

Monday, 8 April 2019

…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. Hebrews 12:2

The author now turns to my particular favorite set of words in Scripture by saying, “looking unto Jesus.” The word “looking” is from the compound Greek word aphoraó. It is seen only here and in Philippians 2:23, and it signifies, “looking away from all else to fix one’s gaze upon.” It is for this reason, many translations include the word “fix” in one form or another, such as, “simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus” (Weymouth New Testament).

There is a purposeful looking away from all other things in order to direct one’s complete and full attention on… JESUS. With such a gaze, there is nothing else which can fill our eyes, and thus our hearts, minds, affections, and desires. To look unto Jesus is to be consumed with Jesus to the exclusion of all else. May it ever be so in our lives!

With this thought in mind, he then describes this wonderful JESUS in order to explain why such a gaze is proper. It is because He is “the author and finisher of our faith.” Vincent’s Word Studies notes that this choice of translation “is misleading, and narrows the scope of the passage.” The word “author” comes from the Greek archégos. This signifies the first of a long procession. It is “a file-leader who pioneers the way for many others to follow.” It is then a pioneer leader, or a founding leader. The word is widely translated as “founder,” “pioneer,” “source,” “leader,” and so on.

The Greek word translated as, “finisher,” is found only here. It is a noun derived from a verb which signifies to bring to an end or to complete. Thus, He is the “Perfecter,” “Completer,” or “Finisher” of faith. The NKJV inserts the word “our” in the verse, but this brings in a false sense of the meaning. There is actually a definite article before “faith,” and so it can rightly be translated as simply “faith,” or – more precisely – as “the faith.” As Vincent’s Word Studies notes – “Not our Christian faith, but faith absolutely, as exhibited in the whole range of believers from Abel to Christ.”

With this understood, the author continues with, “who for the joy that was set before Him.” This is speaking of the exaltation that was His to possess upon the completion of His work. It is referred to quite a few times in the Bible, and it is revealed in both Testaments. Paul refers to it in Philippians 2 –

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

This is the “joy” that was set before Jesus, and for which He willingly “endured the cross.” Again, referring to the same thought, Paul spoke of this as well in Philippians 2 –

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

In Paul’s words of Philippians 2:8, there is no article in front of “cross.” It says, “even cross death.” The utterly shameful nature of the death is brought forth in Paul’s choice of words. It shows the enormity of the level of obedience and humility which Christ endured for us. Thus, the author here refers to the “shame” of the cross. Christ was willing to endure this because there was also joy set before Him.

The connection between the first clause and this is not to be missed –

– looking unto Jesus
– who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross

Those who trust in Christ are to look to the JOY set before us, meaning Christ, just as Christ looked to the joy set before Him. No matter what comes forth in our lives, and no matter how shameful it may appear, the PRIZE of Christ is to consume our vision. In this, we will be able to laugh at the minimal, temporary, and inconsequential shame of the present. This, just as Jesus did concerning the cross. It was there, waiting for Him, but in looking beyond that moment, He was “despising the shame.”

Christ looked at what would occur there on the cross with scorn and contempt. Because of the glory which is assigned to the cross today, it is hard for us to grasp what is being said. We look to the cross as the highest fulfillment of God’s love for us, and as a badge of honor to be cherished and boasted over (see Galatians 6:14), but the cross was an instrument of death which was a sign of great shame at the time.

To be crucified was something that would bring a sense of horror upon those who were connected to it. Mothers of the crucified would bear the shame, friends of the crucified would not speak of what occurred, those who did the crucifying would revel at their ability to so humiliate another human. But Christ despised this, knowing that something far greater was ahead of him. And so after the cross and the humiliation, He “has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

To “sit down” is to be in a state of repose. Christ accomplished His work, even the work which was deemed to be a shame by the people who crucified Him, but that very work completed His mission of fulfilling the Law of Moses. In fulfillment of the law, a New Covenant was initiated in His blood.

To sit “at the right hand of the throne of God” signifies the position of power and authority. It is not a lesser position, as if God has actual hands and Christ is sitting by one of them. Instead, it is the position of God’s complete and absolute power and authority. This was spoken of by Jesus Himself in Matthew 28 –

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20

The word, “name,” Jesus used there is in the singular. The three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are one essence. Christ is at the right hand of the throne of God, possessing all of the royalty, authority, power, dignity, and force of the Godhead.

Life application: The almighty and infinitely wise Creator of the universe stepped into the continuum of time and space in the Person of Jesus. He alone has bridged the gap, provided atonement, redeemed lost man, and restored felicity between God and Adam’s fallen race. He is the focal point of our worship and the light in our lives. He wrote our faith and He will bring it to perfection. He looked forward to His day of triumph and joy, knowing that the cross with all of its shame and agony lay ahead…and He scorned it!

What is shame? What is agony? What is worth the humiliation of His accusers? The answer is as astounding as it is simple… God loves you so infinitely much that, before He created a single grain of sand, He determined that Jesus would go to the cross and bear the punishment for sin which each of us deserves.

No cost was too high to pay the ransom. No pain was too great to right our wrongs. No disgrace was too shameful to cover our nakedness. And so Christ Jesus endured this for you. And when His mission was complete, He ascended again to the Father with all authority and all power granted to Him.

This is the same authority He possessed from eternity past and which He set aside in order to destroy the work of the devil. The tabernacle of Moses had no chairs because the priests’ work was never done. But Jesus Christ, our true High Priest, finished the work His Father sent Him to accomplish. And when He did so… He sat down.

His work is complete and never needs to be repeated. Jesus Christ’s atonement is all-sufficient for the salvation of the human soul. Think today on the majesty of God and His great love for you – expressed in the Person and work of JESUS our Lord; God’s Messiah.

Heavenly Father, it is right that we ask as David did, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Of what value are we, even lost in our sins, that You would send Your precious Son, Jesus, to buy us back from this state of death? How terrible was the cost, and yet, how glorious was the work accomplished there! All praise, glory, honor, and power – they are Yours alone. Amen.

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