One of the most unforgettable memories from my family’s years in England was watching Britain’s Linford Christie run for gold in the men’s 100 meters of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. What made Christie’s race unforgettable in the first place was certainly the fact that he had beaten the odds. No one expected this “over the hill” thirty-two-year-old athlete to make a showing. At the starting blocks, we barely caught a glimpse of his face, as the press moved on to focus on his younger American competitors—clear favorites to win.
A second and for me the strongest reason the memory of that race remains was the wild-eyed look in Christie’s eyes as he pressed on to the finish line. As one reporter observed, his “pop-eyed gaze made him look as if he was running away from mortal danger rather than towards his finest moment.”
I couldn’t help drawing parallels between the look on Linford Christie’s face and the call in Hebrews 12 for me to fix my eyes on Jesus—just the sort of down-to-earth advice I need to keep going in the race I’m running. Looking to Jesus is all about trust, a calling to mind and counting on what I know to be true of Him. It is also about making the effort to know Him better and, in the process, learning who He is calling me to become.
Holy Week guides me to focus on Jesus—both the resurrected Jesus and also the suffering, dying Jesus. Maundy Thursday, for example, turns my attention to Jesus on the day of the Last Supper when He washed His disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas Iscariot who later that night would betray him. Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means “command” and points to the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples to “love one another, as I have loved you.”
It would be a whole lot easier to comply with Jesus’ command, if He hadn’t added that last bit. Fixing my eyes on Jesus, I can see the brand of love He’s talking about is in a different league from the love I’m content to display. And what a stretch to think of washing the feet of friends who let me down, much less those who offend or hurt me. Yet these are the people I am called to love…in the same way that Christ loves me.
The Jesus of Good Friday takes love to a staggering new dimension by turning my attention to the cross. Not only am I freshly reminded of just how awful, dark, and hopeless the world is without Him, I begin to discover in powerful ways just how great His heart is for me and how far He is willing to go for my good. Paul describes Jesus as emptying Himself for our sakes (Philippians 2:1-11) and calls me to do the same for others. The dying Jesus puts love in perspective, for His kind of love does not give ground to sin, but stops at nothing to erradicate it from the lives of those He loves. Such love goes against the natural inclinations of my own heart and asks more of me than I can give without divine help.
Thank God for Easter Sunday and the risen Lord Jesus who is my hope and whose resurrection power is what it takes to change my heart and make it possible for me to follow Him courageously into a new way of loving.
Looking at Jesus makes it harder to settle for a lesser kind of love. It impresses on me my need of Him and for His transforming power in my life.
Linford Christie had gold in his sights. We fix our eyes on Jesus.
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”