“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.”
I have had this verse running through my thoughts on repeat lately, trying to capture its meaning, and wrap my mind around it. What does this teach me about Jesus? I have asked myself many times as I say this verse, “what was the joy that lay before Jesus that He would endure the cross and bear my sins and shame?” Jesus’ home was in heaven prior to His incarnation, before He came to earth as the God-man, cloaked in human flesh. Yet when Jesus came, He was here to do the will of His Father in heaven. John 6:40 tells us this, “For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus’ purpose during His brief tenure here was clear: to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
What does all of this have to do with the joy that was set before Jesus? The path to saving the lost and the path to eternal life was, is, and forever will be the cross upon which Jesus suffered, bled, and died. Jesus couldn’t fulfill the will of His Father without enduring the cross. Easter is the day on the calendar each year that we set aside to remember and to recognize and to celebrate the high price Jesus paid to have eternal fellowship with those who believe in Him. Yet what if we started living daily with that same awareness and attitude of grateful celebration? Would our lives not then be filled with more joy?
Jesus endured the cross–the agony, the shame, and the separation from His Father–all so that we would not have to. Every day I realize how little I truly grasp the depth of the love of God and pray for a deeper, soul-level understanding of His amazing love for me. How frequently we hear the stories of Jesus’ love and yet how frequently we fail to absorb the magnitude of so great a love. The only reason Jesus would remain hanging on the cross, His body struggling to breathe, wounded and marred beyond recognition, was because He loved us so much that He would rather bear the cost of our sins and shame rather than bear an eternity without us present. Jesus’ joy, the joy that lay before Him, was fulfilling the will of His Father. Jesus carried our salvation to completion. As He uttered the words when He breathed His last breath, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was declaring the completion of His Father’s will, His plan for salvation for all mankind. If we only believe. He completed the work, and now it is ours to believe.
I want what I now call the Jesus joy. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is our example. He never lost sight of the joy that accompanied fulfilling the will of the Father. Joy comes when we fulfill the Father’s will, when we do what we know He wants us to do. Joy comes when we fulfill the Father’s will by demonstrating love, kindness, and patience to others. Joy comes when we place others first. Joy comes when we spend time with our Father. Joy comes when we are obedient to what God has asked of us. Oh how the Father longs for us to delight in Him. Jesus joy is always present when we are honoring God with our lives, our thoughts, our choices, our actions, our relationships, and our words. Jesus joy is not always going to feel happy. We must be careful to not confuse joy with happiness. No, Jesus joy is much more abiding. It is deeper. It is a satisfaction of our souls found only in Christ. Jesus wasn’t feeling happy as He was suffering and dying on the cross. In fact, He felt thirsty and forsaken. But He remained there–because of the joy that lay before Him. He kept His eyes on the completion of His Father’s will–to save us and to draw all men and women to Himself.
I have Jesus joy when I set down the shame I carry from past mistakes and sins. Jesus already bore the shame so I no longer need to. I have Jesus joy when my life reflects the heart of Jesus. I experience Jesus joy when I pray and confidently know that He is near, and He is listening. Jesus joy abounds because I know that He will never leave me alone. Jesus will not turn His back on His followers, His true believers, ever. You see, Jesus may have breathed His dying breath on the cross, but He didn’t stay dead for He was resurrected. He was brought back to life! My Jesus is more powerful than death and the grave. Hallelujah!
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 34:5: Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” Oh that my face would reflect the radiance of Christ, manifested in a joyful disposition. Today, if you feel like you’re in a joy deficit, take heart and be encouraged. Jesus joy is in abundance. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and not your surrounding circumstances because those who look to Him are radiant with joy. Follow His example of doing the will of the Father. Joy inevitably cometh!