Talk about courageous! At Easter a few years ago, a well-known Italian journalist who was a Muslim was baptized by the Pope at the Vatican. He publicly abandoned Islam and embraced Jesus in an international way. His extended family may not have been thrilled with this dramatic crossover. It is not hard to imagine the threats and attacks he might face. Bowing to Jesus means bowing out of other faith commitments. He is a rightfully jealous Lover.
For some disciples - like many in India, Egypt and China - a "yes" to Jesus means serious persecution, economic hardship, ostracism and maybe even death. Christians are still suffering and dying for being faithful to Jesus. First century Jews who bravely and obediently submitted to Jesus as their Messiah knew such trials. Confessing Jesus as Lord meant one might get to go to heaven a lot sooner than they had planned.
They had a powerful temptation to turn back to Judaism and away from Jesus to end their pain. Who wants to have to choose between life, one's livelihood and loved ones and the Lord? Thus the book of Hebrews was written; to encourage and bolster embattled believers.
Their hope? Their help? Their need and ours? To "consider Jesus" - look afresh at the One who also suffered. He stayed faithful, He knows. Look to Jesus. Learn of Him, lean on Him. He is a faithful, merciful and powerful helper to those hurting for His sake.
Hear Hebrews 2:
"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
"Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him..." (Hebrews , 15, 17-18; 3; 1, 2 ~ ESV).
Let's pick out a few encouraging reminders from that packed passage for when we are tempted to turn back, to compromise our commitment to Christ.
First of all: your walk with God may provoke the Devil, but fear not, he has been de-clawed, neutered. Jesus shared skin - became human - so He could share in our sufferings and thus skin the serpent, end his claims and control over us (vs. 14). We are now able to resist the tempter as we stand firm in the faith. We draw near to God so He can draw near to us and the devil will flee (1 Peter 5, James 4; Eph. 6). Our sympathetic Savior - who is in us - is greater than the one that is in the world (1 John 4:4; 1 Cor. ).
Consider this: since Jesus, our Apostle and High Priest was faithful to God unto death, He can set free those enslaved by fear of death. If the worst someone can do to you because your faith in Jesus is send you to heaven - where is the threat in that?
The process of dying doesn't thrill me. But, in Jesus, death itself is nothing to fear. Where is your sting, death (1 Corin. 15)? Jesus has the keys of Death (Revelation ). It is in His control. Make me a slave with a fear of death? Not any more, I consider Jesus.
Saint Patrick wrote some 1500 years ago: "Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere." I think this missionary to Ireland was considering Jesus!
Matthew Henry, an English pastor of the late 1600's commented: "Here the wonderful love of God appeared, that, when Christ knew what he must suffer in our nature, and how he must die in it, yet he readily took it upon him. And this atonement made way for his people's deliverance from Satan's bondage, and for the pardon of their sins through faith...Let those who dread death, and strive to get the better of their terrors, no longer attempt to out-brave or to stifle them, no longer grow careless or wicked through despair. Let them not expect help from the world, or human devices; but let them seek pardon, peace, grace, and a lively hope of heaven, by faith in Him who died and rose again, that thus they may rise above the fear of death."
To help us be faithful in our faith-race (ala Heb. 12:1, 2), two key opponents have been dealt with: the Devil and Death. Both lost their power to dispirit or defeat us. Jesus, our brother and priest, hammered the Devil and dealt death a deathblow. To stay faithful like Jesus was - and is - look again at Him. He displayed and defined fidelity to the Father. He now emboldens and empowers faltering and fearful followers. Consider Him, all ye scared and suffering saints!
When trials, tiredness or timidity tempt you to give up, consider Jesus. He was faithful in His sufferings to bring us into His family: steady to the Father, staying the course. We must stay true. And we can as we consider Him! Consider Jesus!