photo by Laura Evans
[Jesus] for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
Dear ICB family,
Every once in a while a pair of biblical texts are held up side by side, and in the space of a moment their peculiar juxtaposition causes words you've read a hundred times to jump off the page and surge with new meaning. That happened for me this past Sunday when Pastor Neil read John 17:24 in the context of Hebrews 12:2.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross." It was the Father's promise of eternal joy that sustained Jesus in the very darkest hours of his life and of human history.
Then Pastor Neil, asking the question, "What exactly was Jesus looking forward to?", read John 17:24. There Jesus prays, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."
Does the thought that one day I will get to see Jesus in all his glory fill me with anywhere near the kind of joy that it afforded Jesus?
Part of the Son's joy was the knowledge that one day his blood-bought people would be able to see his glory with unveiled faces, as it truly is, in all its splendor, and that thought was so overwhelmingly powerful in his mind that it was enough to convince him to march up Calvary's hill with his face set like flint, willingly stretch out his arms, and die the most horrible death ever conceived by any civilization in the history of mankind.
And here's the question that pierced me through: Does the thought that one day I will get to see Jesus in all his glory fill me with anywhere near the kind of joy that it afforded Jesus? Does what I find joyful match what Jesus found so joyful that it carried him through the crucifixion? Would such joy sustain me in the face of unbearable loss, unimaginable sacrifice, even death?
It is meant to.
I can bow my head in obedience to whatever my Lord may ask of me, just like Jesus bowed his head in obedience to what his Father had asked of him, because of the unshakable confidence that there is "joy unspeakable and full of glory" on the other side (as the old hymn I used to sing at church as a little boy has it; see 1 Peter 1:8).
Do whatever you must to rivet your mind on that truth and hold onto it with all your might. There are a thousand lesser joys that surround you moment by moment in this life. Most of them are good things in and of themselves. But they won't sustain you when you're getting your back whipped, a ring of thorns pressed into your forehead, and your hands driven through with nails. They won't hold out much hope when you get that most dreaded phone call or the oncology report or news on par with the kind that Job received that day in Uz.
I can bow my head in obedience to whatever my Lord may ask of me because of the unshakable confidence that there is joy on the other side.
You're going to need something that brings you even more joy than sunsets, a child's laughter, or your spouse's touch in moments like those. And when Jesus looked around at what he could set his gaze on, he chose to look into the future and, based on the promises of God, set his sights on the reality that one day his people would get to see him in all his glory. With that hope burning within him, he allowed every last ounce of his dignity to be stripped away and every last human comfort to be denied him. The joy of that hope got him through.
And it's meant to get you through. All the way to the very end in fact. Such a joy is big enough. It's already been tested and has proven its worth. And it's offered to you. If only you would be able to count the hope of one day looking on the risen and glorified Christ with your own eyes as more joyful and longed for than any other joy you could ever imagine.
Grace, peace, and joy to you,