Text: Hebrews 12:2
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
As a child whenever we went out as a family to visit relatives I feasted upon the snacks served to the embarrassment of my mother. I saw to it that not even a trace of mixture or sweets remains. Seeing this continuing she took me to task. “The snacks served are not for you to sweep it clean as if you don’t get anything at home. Take only as much as you need.” But when was obedience part of childhood. Next time when we went for our family visit my mom gave me the ‘Statutory Warning’. The snacks were served. And I pounced as instincts dictated me. Had one hand full. Then the next and suddenly conscience pricked and like Peter looked at Jesus after denying him, I looked at my mom and those eyes that did Kathakalli instructed me to put those snack back. I looked into her eyes and my hands involuntarily became loose. Down went the snack. Power of a look I say. Next terrain was the church. My friends and I played cross and knots, gossiped endlessly and displayed our art on our sunday school books when the Priest gave sermon in full gusto. This annoyed my mother. And whenever we played or spoke I just gave a glance to see if she is looking and to my disappointment always she was busy rolling her eyes. When I look back in retrospect, looking at my mother’s eye helped me understand what it means to fix your eyes on Jesus. This fixing of my eye on my mother instructed me, disciplined me and it also exuded comfort and assurance. I remember when I was in standard 8 I had failed in the subject of Marathi and when I went home when I broke this news I looked into her eyes. But her eyes said “it is ok.” Try again. How comforting.
The author of Hebrews uses the imagery of race. The church is made aware of the great cloud of witnesses that would inspire them to run the race by countering all the hurdles that come in the way. The Epistle is addressed to a church that is facing immense persecution and trouble. Therefore the imagery of race becomes meaningful when the Icon of Jesus as the perfecter and pioneer of faith is used. In vs 2 the author asks the people to fix their eyes on Jesus. The participle aphorontes in Greek which means fixing the eye makes sense in a Greek Olympics where the athlete had to fix the eye on the image of the Greek God that was fixed at the end of the race. This helped the athletes to run so as to become like the God and imbibe divinity through their running. The icon of the Greek god propelled the athletes to overcome the cruelties of the terrain and the competitive attitude of the opponents. In this context the author uses the imagery of the crucified Jesus for them to continue their race and withstand the persecution of the context in order to transcend it. In such a context the author formulates a response that shows them the possibility of a faith and presents to them a Christ who has taken the shame of the cross and endured it through absolute faith. The hostility and the shedding of the blood of Christ are emphasized for the people to relate to their everyday experiences. In the context of persecution the people had submissive attitudes that made them think low of themselves. Since Christ is what made the community possible, the author makes a self formation possible by presenting Christ as crucified and humiliated. This makes their experiences real and bearable. An imagery that helped them accept the reality of suffering.
My dear friends fixing our eyes on Jesus has two dimensions. One it comforts us to carry on in life when every situation militates against us. It gives us hope to carry on when everything seems lost. Recently one of my friend Abraham George cleared his C.A. examinations. He has been doing it for past 7 years. I really admire him for his tenacity and perseverance. There might have been so many voices that deterred him, there may be millions of self doubts as to the possibility of clearing the exams. When I spoke to him he said in a very emotional tone. “Every single day in the last 7 years I was living and dying. By God’s grace I have made it.” Abraham had fixed his eyes on Jesus to get to his goal. I know many friends who are pursuing some goal at this point of time. Please don’t give up on it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Slowly but surely by the will of God you will reach there.
The second dimension of Fixing the eyes is that of responsibility. This eyes disciplines us, helps us to correct our track in life. It helps us to accept our failures to move on. Nobody knew this more than Peter. Let us turn our Bibles to Luke 22: 60- 62
Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
It says after Peter denied Jesus, Jesus looked straight at Peter. And then Peter went out and wept bitterly. Anthony DeMello in his book Song Of the Bird says that He wondered why did Peter cry after Jesus looked at Peter. What did Peter see in Jesus’ eyes? Anthony continued “While I was praying I started practicing the Early Church style of prayer where they raised their arms and looked to the sky as if looking into Jesus’ eye. I started it but after a month my heart was filled with guilt. I did not have the strength in me to lift my eyes and fix it on Jesus as I felt in his eye I would find him condemning me for the sins that I have done. I feared his judgment. So for 3 months I continued to pray this way. My soul was restless. I had no peace. And I told myself that tomorrow when I pray I will look into Jesus eye and face the consequences. I can’t live like this. I have to fix my eye on him. The next day when I raised my eye and looked into the Eye of Jesus, I saw in his eyes abundant love for me. I was expecting judgment and I would handle that. But in spite of everything the love was too much for me. I went out and wept bitterly. Then I realized what Peter that day saw in Jesus’ eye. That look restored the denying disciple to become the rock on which the church was to be built.”
Every time when we come to the Lord ’s Table we should be aware of the abundant love that has made us whole. It is a comfort to see love for us in Jesus eye. But let us not stop at that. We have a responsibility to measure up to that love. It calls to be like Jesus. Christian life is not just about being intoxicated by the Grace of God. It is also a life of responsibility where we are called to be healers, comforters, story tellers and beacon of hope in a world that is groaning with pain. My fellow pilgrims let us fix your eyes on Jesus. Amen
Mar Thoma Syrian Church