…[K]eeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2 NET (emphasis added)
I like guarantees. I want to know that an investment of time, energy, and money will pay off in some way—that I might even get more back in return. And if there is no guarantee, I’m a bit reluctant to invest, take the risk, go out on a limb. So, when I think of Jesus as an example for me to follow in this journey of faith, I occasionally wonder what joy was “set out before him” that seemed to make the investment worth it. Many of the online sources I read suggest that Jesus’ joy had something to do with His final reward—of sitting at the right hand of God after His horrific ordeal. Frankly, while many scholars think this way (not all), I’m having trouble accepting that understanding of the text.
We know from John 15:11 and 17:13 that His joy is directly related to His union with the Father. In other words, His joy is constant, it does not come and go. So what joy might Jesus anticipate when facing the cross? Personally, I can’t help wonder if His joy had something to do with the plan—things coming right, becoming as ultimately intended. Before the foundations of the world, God had a plan. Part of the plan involved pain in order to restore a broken relationship with their creation. Jesus was the face and embodiment of God’s willingness to suffer on our behalf in order to restore what we broke. Sure, He would soon take His place at the Father’s right hand but His ultimate (often stated) goal in life was to bring glory to His Father. His death and resurrection did just that—this was the crescendo of God’s intention with His creation in bringing it (us) into deep union with Him.
Jesus reaffirmed His joy in the Father and His commitment to the plan set in place when He said, “not my will, but your’s” while in Gethsemane. Once Jesus suffered and died, Satan no longer had any hope of succeeding. The serpent’s head is crushed. Salvation is here.
Jesus’ connection with the Father, bound up in mutual love, worked out though obedience, becomes our standard for persevering joy…regardless of context (the cross or, as James puts it, “all sorts of distresses”).
ACTION: Can you imagine a connection so close and deep with Jesus that no manner of struggle can derail your abiding joy and desire to make Him look good? Jesus, though in on the plan, wondered and asked whether there was another way. Yet, He still submitted to His Father’s will in the end. I encourage you to meditate on Luke 22:42 as you ponder joy in the context of intense struggle and Jesus’ own example.