The Joy that is Set Before Us
This month we continue this year’s theme of joy and we also think of Easter. We celebrate the joy of Resurrection Sunday because of Jesus. He had a mission to accomplish and the writer of Hebrews encourages us with the outcome of Jesus’ faith; Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
No one would put themselves through difficulty and rigorous physical and emotional challenges without some expectation of reward. The Olympian does it for a gold medal, the professional athlete does it for the golden trophy or ring, and the farmer does it to reap a great harvest. Every Christian has a race to run and should strive to do their personal best by God’s grace.
The joy set before our Lord Jesus was the anticipation of His glory with the Father and all that was to be the outcome of His finished work on the Cross, both in the present age and the ages to come. Because of the value He set upon this, He endured the Cross. The writer of Hebrews tells us to look away from everything else and look earnestly at Jesus. Our eyes gaze at that which captures the heart. If sinful desires are harbored in the heart, they obscure our moral vision which leads to loss of joy. We are to look unto Jesus as our example. He looked beyond the trial and the suffering to the joy that He knew would be His when the trial was over and had completed the glorious work it was divinely ordained to accomplish.
Only what awaited Him at the end of His earthly ministry could have motivated Jesus to leave the glory of heaven and endure what He did on earth. Two things motivated Jesus: “the joy set before Him” and sitting “down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We learn that Jesus ran the race of faith for the joy of exaltation. In His high-priestly prayer, Jesus said to His Father, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:4–5). Jesus glorified God on earth by displaying the Father’s attributes and completing His Father’s will. We run for the same reason Jesus did, and we achieve victory in the same way. We run for the joy of exaltation that God promises will be ours if we glorify Him on earth. By following our Lord’s example, we glorify God by allowing His attributes to shine through us and by obeying His will in everything we do.
Jesus was able to go through suffering and death of the cross because he looked for a reward. After His suffering was over, He was embraced by God the Father and God the Spirit when He ascended into heaven. We, too, anticipate heaven, and the exultation and the reward of God’s presence. Listen to the promises of Scripture: “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10, 11). We can have the same joy; let us keep looking unto Jesus and anticipate our joy in the Father’s presence.