“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2
Have you ever played Scrabble (or any other word-type game), and been trying to make some simple word, when all of a sudden you looked down and realized that you had the greatest word right in front of you the whole time, but just hadn’t seen it? I LOVE that feeling! Those are the moments when you pretty much bounce up and down in your chair and pound the table and yell “HAH! Beat THAT!”… Ok well at least I do.
Anyway, sometimes I find that the same sort of excitement, the same sense of discovering a secret treasure you completely overlooked before, can be found in the reading of God’s word. It’s like you all of a sudden had a black light turned on and saw for the first time some glowing thing that you’d never noticed before, and it’s incredible.
I found one in Hebrews. In chapter 12, verse 2, we read this passage: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Emphasis mine).
I love that phrase, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”
I get the sense of Jesus looking ahead to the most painful, unbelievably difficult ordeal ever imagined. He knows that He will not only endure immense physical pain, not only bear the full weight of the sin and guilt of humanity, but for the first time in eternity He will experience a darkness and despair that our finite minds can’t begin to comprehend.
The triune God, eternally existing in perfect community and wholeness, will for the first time be separated, split into disunity and divided against Himself. The Father will have no choice but to turn away from, and sever His communion with the Son.
Jesus sees this, knowing there is no ordeal in all of history that ever has or ever will compare to its horror. Then He looks past it to something that lies just beyond, and He smiles. Jesus looks past the cross, past the grave, past even the resurrection, and sees an incredible joy that will make the entire thing worthwhile, and so He “sets his face toward Jerusalem” and goes on with the plan, “for the joy set before him”.
What is this joy?
In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus says this, “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Emphasis mine) Question: in this passage, who is rejoicing? Is it the angels? Well, perhaps, but from the text it looks more like they are observing someone else rejoicing.
Who is this rejoicing?
I’m no Bible scholar, but I’ll tell you this. When I read of this rejoicing, the first person I think of is Jesus. Jesus is a joyful God. Jesus is a celebrating God. If Jesus is the One rejoicing here, then what is it that He is rejoicing about? The one sinner who repents. If that’s the case, then when Jesus looks past the cross and endures the pain “for the joy set before Him”, what is this joy?
Maybe it’s you.