Monday, July 15, 2013
Looking to Jesus
Heb. 12:1 ¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
Heb. 12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
The racing metaphor continues as the disciple of Jesus picks up his/her lap of the race of faith. However, as that lap is run, the disciple realizes that the finish line is not something which exists here on this earth, but instead the goal of the entire race is Jesus Christ. The word "looking" in Greek means to turn from looking at anything else and now look only to Jesus. Why? Because he is the "pioneer" -- but that word means so much more. He is the author of our faith, he is the captain, he is the team leader. Not only is he our coach, but he is the one who built the race course. Who else would know the way to go but the one who created the whole path so stop looking anywhere else and only look at Jesus. But he is more than just the creator of the course, he is also the "perfecter" of our faith. Guess what Greek root we find again? That same one "telos" -- so he is the one who brings the whole race to completion. Jesus is the creator of the course, but the course leads to him. The goal is to become like him and to be united with him. Jesus endured the cross but that was not the goal. He endured the cross so that now he can be seated at the "right hand of the throne of God." And our invitation is to this very place with him.
Life is filled with distractions, both good and bad, that can keep us from looking to Jesus. Even good religious things can keep us from keeping our eyes on Jesus and from the goal. For years I had never heard Jesus brought into the message of holiness. Too often the message of holiness seemed to focus more on me and my behaviors and, I believe, the course laid out before me got most of the attention. I worried about how to make it through the obstacle course of life, wanting to run my lap well, but without looking to Jesus.
Gregory of Nyssa wrote a beautiful commentary on the Song of Solomon (Canticle of Canticles) in which he describes the incredible love which exists between the Lord and his beloved. True holiness is falling deeply in love with Jesus so that nothing else in the world distracts us from him. The metaphor moves from that of an athlete to one of love when we hear it from Nyssen. When we, as the Lord's disciples, allow ourselves to be vulnerable to him, we are wounded by the arrow of his love. Our hearts are suddenly opened by him and the love that he wants to pour into us. Nyssen says, "By a delicious wound she receives his special dart in her heart; and then she herself becomes the arrow in the hand of the Bowman, who with his right hand draws the arrow near to himself, and with his left directs its head towards the heavenly goal." (Nyssen, CC Homily 6) "By being filled with the love of the bowman, her head is now turned heavenward, and the focus of all her attention becomes the bridegroom. No longer is transformation the goal; he is the goal." (Sunberg, Cappadocian Mothers, 153)
For the follower of Jesus Christ whose goal it is to reflect the image there comes a moment of time in the faith journey when we no longer allow our eyes to wander to the things of the world. Instead, we are overcome by holy love; the divine nature found in the Trinity. Running the race, I may have thought that transformation into the image was my goal. Yes, it is a good goal but the longer we keep looking to Jesus and the more that his love is poured into us the goal will no longer be transformation. Overwhelming love for Jesus wipes away all desires but one -- to be with him. The passion of our lives must be Jesus, and he must be the central message of holiness.
Lord, may I look to you today, and every day. Amen.