Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 HCSB
Jesus didn’t take a clean, quick bullet for me. Those soldiers tortured Him to death while the crowd mocked and humiliated him. Crucifixion is absolutely the most awful way to die. And yet, Jesus endured it – every excruciating hour of it — for the joy set before Him.
That must be some mighty strong joy to make such a death endurable. And keep in mind, Jesus was far from being a helpless prisoner who had no other choice. He was God in human flesh. At any point in the process, He could have excused Himself from the torture. He could have sizzled the soldiers, called down the angels and escaped. He chose to stay there – endured it – for the joy set before Him.
Which makes me wonder – what sort of joy was He anticipating?
I think it was at least partly the joy of fellowship. His death paid the final price for sin, making it possible for humans to finally have unhindered relationship with God. Finally, God and his creatures could walk together again with no barriers between them, just like they did in the garden before Adam and Eve sinned. Jesus was looking forward to that sweet fellowship with us.
Jesus must also have been looking forward to sitting down at God’s right hand. When Jesus became our sin, God turned His back. I think Jesus was anticipating the joy of reunion with His Father.
Could it also have been the joy of a job well done? The kind of joy that a runner sets his mind on in the last mile of a marathon? “Every muscle in my body is stinging, I am craving rest and water, yet I will run on because I want the satisfaction of knowing I finished this race. That future joy is more important than this present pain.”
Hebrews 12 calls us to imitate Jesus – to set our eyes on future joy. Imagine how amazing it will be to finally step into the splendor of Heaven and see God Himself. Think of the wonder of it – how incredible will it be to have a conversation with Jesus face to face? Then, we will look back on our lives – and the endurance it took to live them – and realize “Yeah. This was so totally worth it.”
May we endure, for the joy set before us.