Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
– Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB
All 27 of the New Testament writings – including Hebrews – were written during the decades between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His coming in the kingdom of God. They were all written by apostles named by Jesus, or else by assistants to those apostles. This means that all 27 writings were originally produced over roughly a half-century by laborers who knew each other to one degree or another. By contrast, the Old Testament writings were produced by prophets separated sometimes by centuries.
There was a great sense of urgency among the apostles and their co-workers because they wanted to get the message about Jesus spread to the whole world before the kingdom of God came so that people would be prepared for it. If Jesus was going to reign as king, people – Gentiles as well as Jews – needed to know who Jesus was and how He came to be the king of this coming kingdom. The apostles would get started in a city usually by finding a synagogue and then using the Scriptures normally housed there to explain how this Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled them.
No Jews were expecting their Messiah to be crucified, and Gentiles weren’t expecting a Messiah at all. “Messiah” was a Jewish thing. Nevertheless, the crucifixion was central to understanding what Jesus was all about – not just because Messiah had to die first if He was ever going to be resurrected, but also because suffering for doing what is right reveals the nature of God. Jesus was crucified for telling the truth. That was His “crime.” We need to stay focused on that so we don’t get fussy about whatever comparatively minor suffering we have to endure for doing what’s right.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, You suffered for our sake. Let us, therefore, bear up under suffering while suffering unjustly. We will not lose heart…because You didn’t…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.