“…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
Take another look at that verse, and think about this – what was the joy that was set before Him?
Was it Heaven? No, I don’t think so. Jesus was God in the flesh. Philippians 2:5-8 tells us that He stepped away from His throne temporarily so that He could come to earth, and did not feel His throne was threatened by doing so. He had left heaven to come here, so getting to heaven was just a return trip home.
Was it His throne? Again, He was God, and at no point was He ever not God. He created the universe. He ruled completely. His place in Heaven from eternity past was not jeopardized by His leaving it (again, back to Philippians 2), so why would He consider it a joy to attain what was always His?
Was it a sense of accomplishment? Maybe. When He said “it is finished” from the cross, it was the completion of something God had promised thousands of years before. It was a long-awaited promise fulfilled, a long-anticipated task finally done. So if anyone ever had reason to feel accomplished over anything, it was certainly Jesus in that moment. But I don’t think it was that either.
I think it was something much more personal.
I think it was us. You and me. Humanity. “The joy that was set before Him” – the thing for which He was willing to endure so much pain and humiliation – was the opportunity to have a relationship with us!
That opportunity for true community with God had been lost thousands of years before. Our sin prevented us from having a relationship with Him. We could not be righteous enough to have a true relationship with God. And the intensity of the purification that would make us righteous enough would have turned us to dust – there would have been nothing left of us for Him to have a relationship with!
But Jesus could endure the purification that was necessary on behalf of all of us. And that’s exactly what He did!
He willingly went through a horrible death to make possible the relationship that He longed for – a personal relationship with you and me.
Isn’t it awesome that a perfect God would consider a criminal’s death worth the cost, to obtain the joy of spending eternity with us?
I think it is.