What does it mean to run a race surrounded by witnesses? In the first Olympics of modern times in 1896, the crowd not only cheered but literally surrounded one runner. The games had returned to their place of origin in Greece to inaugurate a new era. One of the largest crowds had gathered in the Olympic stadium, the location of the finish line, to witness the end of the marathon.
As word began to spread that the front-runner and likely gold-medalist was one of their own, a Greek athlete, many of the onlookers poured out of the stadium and ran backward along the route to greet the leader of the race. When the crowds got to him, they began running alongside him, almost crowding the course too much for the runner to pass. Finally passing through the crowds leading up to the stadium, the winner entered to the sound of deafening cheers and then, remarkably, both the Crown Prince and Prince of Greece jumped down from the royal box and ran across the finish line with him. Then they carried him with them in triumph up to the royal box.
Can you picture the kind of excitement that comes when a hopeful crowd knows that one of their own runs toward their home turf? That’s the scene playing for us here to close out the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews. The long list of ordinary heroes made remarkable in the Lord is here not just for entertainment value. Instead, these remarkable saints surround us on our journey and cheer for us. The author of Hebrews encourages us to rid ourselves of the things that weigh us down and to keep Jesus firmly in our sight. Jesus has run before us and will carry us over the finish line.
Lord, give me a cheering section, and make me a cheering section for someone else. Amen.
Isaiah compares the people of Israel to a vineyard that God has planted. However, the grapes that grow there have become wild. There is no justice, no right living in the vineyard so God is considering letting it be destroyed. The psalmist bemoans the state of God’s people using the same metaphor. The vineyard has been overrun, burned, and cut down. The psalmist appeals to God to restore the vineyard. The author of Hebrews presents many more examples of people of faith in past times. All these exemplars now surround us and cheer us on in our life of faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cautions that following the gospel requires full commitment. For some, this will mean tension in relationships, even within families. Following Jesus is not a commitment of convenience.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7. Recall a time when you lovingly prepared a place. What would prompt you to destroy it?
Read Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19. How has God restored you when you have been at your most vulnerable?
Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Who makes up your personal Faith Hall of Fame? How does each person cheer you on in your spiritual journey?
Read Luke 12:49-56. What does it mean for your life of faith for Jesus to have come to bring division?
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