Why did Jesus do it? Have you ever wondered about that? Why did Jesus come and suffer and die for us? Oh, I don’t mean the nuts and bolts of it– as glorious and worthy of a billion articles as they are. What I mean is, why did he do it? What motivated him? He accomplished amazing things for us. But why? What was compelling him as he sweat blood in Gethsemane, as he allowed the Romans to whip him and shame him, and as he was led up to Calvary, his cross crushing down on his back?
This amazing section of Hebrews gives us a glimpse:
“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
It’s natural for us to reflect with sadness and horror on the cross and Jesus’ death. It was a dark and bloody, shocking and terrible day. And so perhaps the word ‘joy’ isn’t one we associate with Good Friday very often. And yet the writer of Hebrews tells us that the foretaste of joy was precisely what was in Jesus, motivating him as he endured the cross and scorned its shame.
“For the joy that was set before him,” it says in the ESV.
“Because of the joy awaiting him,” says the NLT.
Isn’t that rather incredible? If that doesn’t make us sit back and marvel we need to read it again. Let it sink in.
What was in the heart and mind of Jesus as he was being crucified was marked by joy.
And what was the object of this joy? What was this joy set before him; this joy for which he’d endure derision, false accusation, being spat on, whipped and beaten, imprisoned, paraded through the streets, nails driven through his hands and feet and hung on a cross for hours until he was dead? What was this joy set before him for which he’d endure the weight of the sins of the world, separation from the Father and death itself?
While there is so much that could be said and so much Scripture that could be quoted about this perhaps 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 gives us enough for now:
“Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.” 1 Thess 5:10 NLT
Jesus died, enduring the cross and scorning its shame, so that we might be with him. In the very heart of Jesus, as he persevered through the most excruciating and terrible of days, was the joy of having you with him always. As he fell under the weight of the cross, as he cried out to the Father from the tree, and as he breathed his last breath the joy of life with us in his kingdom forever compelled him.
As we remember the passion and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, may we remember that it was love that brought him there and joy for which he willingly endured it all. May we be overwhelmed and overcome by such love as we fix our eyes upon him. And may we know and abound in that same joy that he had set before him; the joy he now experiences, that we know in part and one day soon will know with him in full.
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2