Online Bible Commentary
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)
The writer is encouraging the Hebrew Christians in their faith. They are being persecuted by the Jews, whose faith they have renounced. The Christian converts were ostracized by their communities and families, at the very least. There was significant pressure placed upon them to return to the Jewish faith.
In this passage, the writer of the book of Hebrews uses athletic events as analogies. He writes of running the race, and struggling with defeating sin. Paul often used such analogies. Although the writer of this book chose to remain anonymous, those to whom he wrote knew him very well, as he did them (Hebrews 13:18-23).
It is my contention that Paul is the writer and that he is writing to the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem. This may well have been his last writing, occurring after 2 Timothy in late 67 or early 68 A.D., just prior to his beheading by Nero. After being rejected by the Gentiles (2 Ti 1:15, 4:14-17), he may well have turned back to ministering to his own people, the Jews in Jerusalem who had converted to Christianity. They were under intense pressure from the Jews, as evidenced by the plot to kill Paul that was hatched some ten years earlier in Jerusalem.
The passage begins by referring to “a great cloud of witnesses”. This is a reference to the previous chapter, which recognized the men and women of God who had exhibited great faith. The word translated “witnesses” (v. 1a) is the Greek word “martys”, which is better translated as “martyrs”. This is not a reference to the Christian martyrs witnessing the events of the time, as that ability is not supported by Scripture.
The writer is using the previously cited examples of great faith by the martyrs in order to encourage the Hebrew Christians to “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (v. 1b). The literal Greek translation of this verse is “having laid aside every weight and the easily surrounding sin, through patience let us also run the race set before us.” The writer is urging them to copy the example of the people of great faith. The Hebrew Christians are to lay aside sin and meet the challenge before them to remain faithful. Their faith should be one of patience and endurance.
Even more so, they are to fix their “eyes on Jesus” (v. 2a). By keeping their focus on Jesus, the Hebrew Christians can remain faithful. Jesus is the “author and perfecter of our faith” (v. 2b). So, He should be the one upon whom we keep our focus. He “endured the cross” (v. 2c), and scorned the “shame” (v. 2d), to achieve the joy of serving His Father. Then, after completing His task, He returned to Heaven and “sat down at the right hand” (v. 2e) of the Father, celebrating His victory. He is worthy of our forever focus.
After all the examples given of faithful men, the writer caps off chapter eleven by giving us the ultimate example of faith. We are to look to all of the faithful men of God, but our focus should be on the greatest example of faith, Jesus Christ. He endured intense “opposition from sinful men” (v. 3a), as the greatest example for us to follow. We should follow His example so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3b).
Throughout this passage, the writer was intending to encourage those first century Christians who faced struggles. This passage should also be an encouragement to Christians today. Our focus should always be on Jesus. He is our author and perfecter. Fix your eyes on Jesus and He will help you to lay aside the sin that is always surrounding you. Fix your eyes on Jesus and He will help you to run the race, and not grow weary or lose heart.