In Hebrews 12:2, the key phrase “looking unto Jesus” is often quoted, but popularly misunderstood in light of its context.
In general, every Christian knows we should always keep our eyes on Jesus. And in the midst of the troubles we face, it’s even more important to stay focused on Him as the apple of our eye. What we don’t realize is that the previous verse (12:1) gives us two commands. Both of which can only be accomplished by looking to Jesus.
As it says:
(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12: 1-2; ESV)
Lay Aside Every Weight
First, notice that we are commanded to lay aside every weight and sin which so easily clings to us. Another translation can be, “having laid aside every weight,” which would imply that because we have already cast aside our sins, we are exhorted to run the race with endurance, looking to Jesus. Of course, this is a chicken and egg circumstance. Because it is only by looking to Jesus do we lay side any sin whatsoever. But, if we haven’t done so already, we will cling tightly to any sin that keeps us captive.
Nevertheless, whether the author is commanding us to lay aside every weight by looking to Jesus, or because we have already laid aside every weight, in any case, we must rid our lives of all weight and sin and continue looking to Jesus! And unless our eyes are fixed affectionately upon Him who is the lover and redeemer of our soul, we will inevitably lay down alongside any and every sin and distraction that so easily weighs us down.
Run With Endurance
The second thing we are commanded is to do is run with endurance the race set before us. Just like the previous command, it is implied that the only way we can persevere in our Christian walk is by constantly looking unto Jesus. Because when a runner runs a race, looking anywhere else but the finish line will not only slow him down, but it will cost him the race! In the same way, the author of Hebrews is admonishing us to run with endurance, looking to Jesus in full screen (like IMAX). Because unless we lock Him in our sights as our most precious reward, we will fall away.
Looking unto Jesus
So now that we understand the commands in verse 1, when we read the verbal participle “looking” to Jesus in verse 2, we now see that keeping our eyes upon Christ is how we persevere. It is the only way we will have the motivation to lay aside every and any weight and sin in our lives. He is the reason by which we are willing to endure persecution. He is also the means by which we are empowered to suffer with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:25).
So while we can look to Jesus for financial decisions, comfort, everyday life choices, etc., in this context, looking to Jesus teaches us repentance and perseverance. And if we profess to be looking to Christ daily, are we taking up our cross as He commanded? (Luke 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:31) Are we living godly lives in such a way that it attracts the attention of the ungodly? (2 Tim. 3:12) Are we casting aside any sin and weight that would disrupt our fellowship and communion with Him? (Phil. 3:7-10)
Therefore, while we should always be looking to Jesus in every aspect of our lives, let us take seriously what the author of Hebrews wants us to remember: Endure suffering/persecution and cast aside all sin! If we fall into sin, or are thinking of falling away when suffering and persecution get red hot, looking to Jesus is what supplies more than abundant grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
– Until we go home