If we, like Jesus, willingly endure our sufferings, those deserved and those that are unjustly imposed on us, then, we too shall sit near the throne when the time comes for us to “shuffle off this mortal coil.”
It is always easier for us to find our way when we can fix our eyes on the goal that we seek. Paul is inspiring the Jews Christians to keep their “eyes on the prize,” to stay focused on Jesus. This is very important because Paul is telling them that the Christian life is to be inspired not only by the Old Testament heroes of the faith, but even more importantly now, by the new way of Jesus, who is the Messiah of their hopes and dreams.
What marks this new way and makes it different? The first challenge for the Jewish Christians was to confront the mystery of the cross. The Jews had prayed for a millenium that the Messiah would come to their aid against their enemies. This was not the picture of the Messiah that they had in their imaginations. The cross was a problem for the Greeks too and for many today it still remains a problem. In faith, they had to come to the realization (as we must) that without the cross, there could be no resurrection, indeed, no salvation. Jesus changed everything. He taught an entirely new way of living and thinking about the world and our relationship to God and to our neighbors. But the cross? The cross was not the end, but the beginning. It was the resurrection that changed everything.
How, then, is this new life to be lived? It is to be lived in imitation Christ. Jesus willingly suffered and died on the cross before he received his glory and triumph. It was necessary for him to do this in order to conquer sin on the cross, and death through the resurrection. It is this fact that Paul is challenging the Jewish Christians (and us) to reflect on above all else. Keeping our eyes and minds on this helps us to have the courage to continue in our own struggles, even, if necessary, to the shedding of our own blood. If we can do this in the name of Jesus, we will be participating with him in the continuing surge of his salvation history. We can unite our suffering to his for the lifting up of others in Jesus’ name.
It was out of love for us that Jesus came into the world. It was for the salvation of the world that Jesus accepted with joy what was “set before him..” It was for the forgiveness of sins that he “…endured the cross, scorning shame…” When he came among us, even though we were in the fullness of our sins, he took upon his body on the cross the awful weight of our sins and he paid the terrible price for them in order to show us how much God loves us, to show us the depth and the reality of God’s mercy and forgiveness. This he willingly endured in order for the ultimate victory to come about.
Paul is telling us here that so it is with us as his followers. In our Christian lives, we are to always look to Jesus as our example. We are to humbly and lovingly open our hearts, minds, and souls to God in order to receive his infinite graces so that we, too, might answer his call to serve willingly and effectively in this life. With this attitude and with his loving support, we will be able to joyfully accept and endure our crosses, scorning the world’s shame. In doing this, we honor Jesus and the heavenly wisdom of the Father. This is the path, the narrow path to heaven for us. If we, like Jesus, willingly endure our sufferings, those deserved and those that are unjustly imposed on us, then, we too shall sit near the throne when the time comes for us to “shuffle off this mortal coil.”
Lord, help us always to keep our eyes on you. You are our wise teacher, the source of our strength and of our happiness. Let us show our thanks to you by living Christ-like lives each and every day. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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