We all have times when we tolerate undesirable situations because of the outcome. Women endure pregnancy and labor for the joy of the birth of their child. Parents then spend years sacrificing in order to enable that same child to become a caring and mature adult. Many individuals tolerate years of higher education because of the joy of obtaining the job of their dreams at the end. Musicians and athletes go through years of long hours of practice for the joy of reaching mastery in their field.
In Hebrews 12:2 the author says “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.” There was something so exceptionally valuable to God that Jesus chose to endure unspeakable suffering and death. The joy from accomplishing this eternal purpose and commitment, and not the nails, is what kept Jesus on the cross. At any moment he could have crushed those who were attacking him. When he was arrested in the garden Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53–54).
This verse in Hebrews says that after the resurrection Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Did he endure so much suffering in order to receive a special place in heaven? Was Jesus’ time on earth nothing more than some heavenly right of passage? Even the most casual reading of the New Testament eliminates this notion. What was so important that the Son of God himself would submit to intense suffering and a gruesome death on a cross? What could possibly hold that much value for God?
The author of Hebrews devotes a large portion of the letter leading up to this verse elaborating on the purpose of Jesus’ coming. This verse then serves as a key point in the author’s conversation. I think it best to let some of the author’s own comments that preceded this verse tell us what the Lord cherished so much that the joy of success would outweigh suffering and death on a cross. Please pause, and read the following passages.
Hebrews 1:1 – 3
Hebrews 2:14 – 18
Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10
Hebrews 7:25 – 27
Hebrews 9:11 – 14
Hebrews 9:23 – 28
These passages tell us that achieving his goal of restoring all things to God was the joy that propelled Jesus. What brings the Lord joy? Isn’t it as we learn from these verses, providing “purification for sins,” “a complete sacrifice for sins,” “freedom from the fear of death,” “cleansing,” “entrance to the throne of grace,” “for us to serve God,” “purification for even heavenly things,” “an open door for his return to claim his own,” “holiness,” and “eternal salvation”?
The answer to this greatest of all mysteries is proclaimed all through scripture. The pure and holy son of God endured the cross, despising its shame, all out of love for us and his entire creation.
In his gospel, John records Jesus’ last words as “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus didn’t just mean, “Well, I’m about dead,” or “I’m out a here.” His crucifixion was the culmination of his earthly ministry. In the crucifixion Jesus completed the work that insured his joy would be realized. His resurrection was yet to come; but following Jesus’ death, God’s plan could not be thwarted.
The joy that caused Jesus to endure such grotesque suffering and a tragic death was the new creation and kingdom he was bringing. This was joy driven by love.
We learn from our Lord that the greatest joy is when his purposes are accomplished in and through our lives, and in the lives of others as well. This lets us know where we should focus our own efforts and passions. This same joy should drive us forward.
Consider with me:
- What joys drive our lives?
- What greater purposes motivates our decisions and actions?
- Is my salvation and the salvation of everyone else as important to me as it is to Jesus?
The challenge I want to leave with us is from the verse just before this comment about Jesus, where the author begins Hebrews 12 by saying, “Therefore, … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race market out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…”
None of us need remain trapped in sin. We can all be transformed through the presence of our Lord, but only if we accept his resurrected presence. His great joy is that we could live in the relationship with God that is only possible through his loving sacrifice and ministry. Let’s run the race he has set before us! Let’s devote ourselves to praying that we would be driven forward by the Lord’s joy and purposes.
Let’s actively pursue his purpose, and in doing this we’ll realize his joy.
As we consider these thoughts, join me in spending the next few days thinking and praying through Paul’s amazing prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21.
I’ve listed a few other New Testament passages that describe Jesus’ work and purpose in coming. This list is by no means exhaustive. Actually, I am leaving many incredible verses out of the list. I’d encourage you to notice other passages during the course of your normal Bible study.
May his purpose and joy drive our lives.
Romans 3:21 – 26
Romans 8:3 – 4
2 Corinthians 5:15 – 21
Galatians 3:13 – 14
Ephesians 2:1 – 10
1 Thessalonians 5:9 – 10
1 Peter 1:18 – 21
1 Peter 2:24 – 25
2 Peter 3:9
1 John 3:5, 8
1 John 4:9 – 10