From The Heart

Publish date: 09/23/2001

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us. Looking away (from all that will distract) to Jesus, the Leader and Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 Amplified

Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning - despising and ignoring - its shame. The cross was no picnic, no walk in the park. It was a sacrifice, a total commitment, laying everything on the line. It was a one shot deal. If something went wrong – there were no second chances, no recourse, no way to undo the mess. The cross was a very long time in the making. Before the foundation of the earth, God set in motion the plan to save us from the devil and ourselves (our own choices). God was infallible, but His creation was not.  He had to have a plan to save and preserve His creation and He did. He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to complete the work and everything rested on His shoulders.

Jesus could not afford to make a mistake or to put one foot wrong. He had to conduct Himself perfectly for thirty-three and a half years. He had to prepare Himself, God’s sinless and blameless Lamb, without spot or blemish, to be sacrificed on the altar for the sin of man. He could not allow the thought of the pain and the shame to prevent or hinder Him from following through with the perfect plan of the Father. It was the Father’s plan, but He had to willingly step forward to accept the assignment, or it would not have been carried out to its glorious conclusion. As a soldier accepts his president’s call to fight and to give his life, if necessary, for his country, so Jesus accepted the call to sacrifice His life for the benefit of those who might never, ever appreciate nor appropriate what He had to endure on their behalf.

Those who saw His fate despised Him, thinking God was against Him. Without opening His mouth to explain, defend or justify Himself, He had to submit to their scorn, their abuse and their judgment.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 NIV

Men did not esteem Him, rather they despised Him – the One who would purchase their freedom, the One who would die so they could live, the One who would stand in the gap, pleading with the Father to forgive them, release them and pronounce them free from sin and all bondages that were imposed by their own choices and decisions. Men thought that it was God who smote and afflicted Him.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.  Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV

It was God’s will to crush Jesus, in order to purchase our lives. We are not our own, but we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 7:23). Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning - despising and ignoring - its shame. We are His joy – He did all this for us. What are we prepared to do for Him? What is our joy? What are we looking forward to? What are we prepared to do to obey God and see the blessed outcome of that obedience? We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Fix your eyes – do not take your eyes off Jesus – or the prize that awaits you if you finish the race. Jesus is the One we look to. He is our example and also the One who cheers us on together with a great cloud of witnesses, who have gone before us, paving the way for us.

Whatever we endure for the cross or His Name – it is nothing compared to the joy that lies before us in the eternal presence of God!