Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
I’m a hero.
That’s right. You read that correctly.
No doubt, many of you probably hold me in this high regard already; but allow me to explain.
This past Monday night I took Collin to a private coaching session for baseball. After a brief introduction and some basic mechanics from the coach, we stepped outside into the chilly fall air. This coach has a fully-enclosed batting cage in his backyard, complete with plenty of lights and pitching machine. Collin and I were both a tad bit jealous and dreamed of having one in our own backyard. Nevertheless, just as Collin was about to start taking live swings, we noticed a little rabbit caught in the netting way back in the corner of the cage. One line drive to the far-left corner of the cage would have sent that bunny into baseball oblivion, much like this poor bird. Talk about having a bad hare day! Fortunately, we saw the bunny caught before any pitches were thrown. So, the final 30 minutes of our lesson was spent trying to set him free. Easier said than done. Of course, the more this young bunny realized that he was trapped in the netting, the more he panicked. He flipped around with such reckless abandon that what was once, one foot caught had now become 3 legs caught and netting wrapped around his neck. Long story short, we were able to finally cut the rabbit free. After all the netting that entrapped him was cut loose, the bunny laid on the ground, still a bit shell-shocked, before finally scampering back to his home under the nearby shed. Hopefully to live hoppily ever after.
On our way home, this Bible verses came to mind: “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.” (Hebrew 12:1) The image of that poor rabbit violently bouncing around, trying desperately to get himself free, loudly preaches to the reality of sin. The more the bunny panicked and the more he attempted, the more stuck he became. You could see the struggle and fear in his big black eyes. What was once just a single leg had gotten far worse; and the gravest part was that the net was now wrapped around his neck multiple times. There was no way, that poor rabbit, would have broken free. If he had survived the onslaught of baseballs, he would eventually have died from the cold, starvation, or a passing-by predator. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to cast off and throw away anything that seeks to entangle us. Any sin. Any false priority. Any misplaced adoration. Any potential pitfall. If it seeks to remove our gaze from the Creator, it will eventually trap us in a no-win situation. Of course, sin is not something we can cut ourselves loose from. There is no amount of twisting or maneuvering that can shake us free. There exists no spiritual scissors strong enough to cut through the nets of sin we often find ourselves underneath. To put it bluntly, we cannot be the hero of our own story. The more we try to master the Devil who seeks to devour us, the more entangled and helpless we become. If we try to fight on our own, we will end up exhausted, defeated and without hope. As our opening liturgy reminds us of each week in worship, “We cannot free ourselves from our own sinful condition.”
But the good news of the Gospel is that we don’t have to free ourselves. Allow me to bring back to mind this uplifting verse of the Reformation hymn we sang a couple of weeks ago. Verse 2 of A Mighty Fortress says: “No strength of ours can match his [the devil’s] might. We would be lost, rejected. But now a champion comes to fight, Whom God Himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is He, Christ Jesus Mighty Lord, God’s only Son adored. He holds the field victorious.”
Jesus Christ comes to battle and sets us free from all that entangle us. By His merciful acts, we are cut loose from the stranglehold of sin, death, and the devil. Our struggles cease and instead we can rejoice in what God does for us. Having no power to set ourselves free by own might or right, God breaks into his world to do the dirty work on our behalf. Suffering. Desertion. Crucifixion. Death. This was the excruciating price Jesus paid, so that we can know what it means to be restored and released from bondage. This is how we are held victorious. Now, as His redeemed and restored children, we can excitedly scamper back to the eternal homes that await us. We give thanks and we worship Jesus. The Hebrews writer continues on, “…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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:2-3) The English word ‘consider’ leaves so much to be desired. We do more than consider him, we reflect on all that He endured on our behalf, and we worship Him. We thank Him for the love, life, and forgiveness that He brings. We think deeply and intentionally how His act of salvation changes everything for our lives. We rejoice over the fact that we need not be weary or lose heart because He still promises, even today, that He is always with us. Whenever something entangles us, we throw it off—by the power of and in the name of Jesus.
Or, to put it another way, Jesus is our hero.
He is our champion.
Thanks be to God!
“The Gospel is the only story where the hero dies for the villain.” (unknown)
“One crucial thing to keep in mind as you read any Hebrew narrative is the presence of God in the narrative. In any biblical narrative, God is the ultimate character, the supreme hero of the story.” (Gordon D. Fee)
“The kids look at me, 'Ah, you're my hero.' I want to teach those kids. 'Hey listen, God is my hero. He died on the cross for my sins, and He's the one. That's how I wanna live, like Him, and I want you guys to do the same thing.” (MLB player, Albert Pujols)
Pastor Steve Vera