For the Joy Set Before Him

For the last year we have studied the inspired words of Hebrews 11. In studying this great chapter we have considered the subject of faith in some detail. As we mentioned last week, our last 3 lessons will actually come from  Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • In the catalogue of faiths contained in chapter 11, the writer hits the highlights of each life of faith. The faith of a lifetime is evidenced in just a few events – (Noah built an ark; Abraham offered his son; Moses left the Egyptian palace).  These choices were not the only ones prompted by faith, but they were certainly indicative of the true nature of faith, and what it meant for them to live by faith.
  • As we mentioned last week, the writer of Hebrews compels us to put our eyes on Jesus, as the ultimate example of one who lived by faith. Jesus is not just an example of faithful living. He is both the originator (author) and finisher of faith. We spoke about those words last week.
  • But what event in the life of Jesus best illustrates His commitment of faith?    “He endured the cross”. The admonition is for us to view Jesus on the cross.

I.  Enduring Faith:  Faith, as defined in Heb 11, is not a single moment’s decision to believe. It is a strong obedient commitment that is tested and tried throughout a lifetime. It is a consistent long-term choice to put one’s trust in God. So here in these two verses we find again the principle of endurance connected with true faith.

  • We instructed to run the race with endurance. Do not give up or quit. Finish the course. The Hebrew Christians who are addressed in this book are in danger of turning back and abandoning their faith in Christ.
  • Jesus endured the cross. Even though He knew it was coming, He did not stop short of death, but willingly gave His life up.

A.  The choice of the cross:  We cannot understand the faith involved in the cross unless we fully appreciate Jesus’ ability to avoid it. He was not caught by surprise, taken advantage of or overpowered. He chose to die on the cross. That is what makes this event a consummate act of faith. He trusted in God, His Father.

  • John 10:17-1817 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.
  • John 12:27 – Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
  • 1 Peter 2:23 –3 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

1.  despising the shame”one element of Jesus’ choice to die on the cross is described here as “despising the shame” (scorning the shame).  It is certain that we cannot fully understand the disgrace and shame associated with a crucifixion. It was the ultimate punishment for the worst of criminals. We have become so accustomed to hearing about the cross in an honorable context (even used to symbolize mercy and graciousness) that we fail to appreciate the shame that Jesus scorned.

a.  If one despises or scorns a thing it means he think little of it, and will have nothing to do with it. Here Jesus scorned the shame associated with the cross, by thinking so little of it that he would not attempt to avoid it.  On the other hand, In Phil. 2 Paul says Jesus did not consider His equality with God a thing to held on to (grasped – Phil 2:6) and so was willing to give it up in order to experience the shame of a cross.

b.  Enduring the cross is what Jesus did that demonstrated His faith. Why did He do it? The Bible answers that in several ways.

  • Titus 2:14 that Christ died to redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a special people…
  • 1 Timothy 2:6 “who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,”
  • Heb 2:14-15 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
  • Gal 2:20 – 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

II.  “For the Joy that Was Set before Him” – In this text the Spirit tells us that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him”. What does that mean?  What joy is He speaking of?  There are two possibilities:

A.  Jesus endured the cross “instead of” the joy. The word translated “for” in this passage is “anti” in the Greek. It has several meanings, but commonly connotes “instead of” (Genesis 22:13 – Abraham offered the ram caught in the thicket “instead of” his son.) This would suggest that Jesus chose to come to earth and endure the agonies of Calvary instead of continuing in his preincarnate heavenly state. It would emphasize the great sacrifice he made. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9 – “…that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.)  Jesus spoke of the glory He had with the Father before coming to the earth In His prayer in John 17. One writer states that Jesus came to earth “‘instead of’ the joy of continued fellowship in God’s immediate presence” (Harris – 1180).  Faith involves choosing one thing over another. Putting things in priority and trusting God for the outcome.

  • Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
  • Moses chose the affliction of the Hebrews over the pleasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:25-26) and thereby forsook Egypt in order to obey God through faith.
  • There could never be a more phenomenal choice to trust in God than the one Jesus made to lave the glory of heaven and come here as a man. (We often see attention focused on the birth of Jesus at this time of the year. Although there is no scriptural authority for celebrating His birth with a holy day, the human birth of the Christ was a stupendous event. The angels announced it and the heavens pointed the way to the child in a lowly stable. Who was this child?  He was the Creator of all the universe. He left the joy of heaven that was set before Him to come and die on a cross.

B.  On the other hand, anti can mean “in exchange for,” in the sense of “to obtain” (Thayer, 49). If this is the significance of the term here, then the meaning would be that the Lord willingly endured the shame of the cross in anticipation of joy that was to come.  This seems to be the best understanding.  In the true nature of faith, Jesus endured the cross by looking forward to what was ahead. He had confidence in His father that He would experience joy through His suffering. What joy is this? (it was more than just getting to go back to heaven)

1.  I believe that it was the joy of saving the lost (whom He loves), and thereby bringing glory to the Father.   Morris says: “He looked right through the Cross to the coming joy, the joy of bringing salvation to those he loves” (134).  The joy that is under consideration as the motive for the cross is unselfish in every aspect. It is a joy that emanates from blessing another through one own suffering. It is the joy of loving another. Jesus endured the cross for the joy of love.

2.  It was a  joy of victory over evil. Burton Coffman states… The joy that was set before him was the joy of reversing, at last, the tragic defeat of humanity in the Paradise of Eden; the joy of knowing that Satan’s purpose of destroying man was foiled; the joy of “bringing many sons unto glory” (Heb 2:10); the joy of the saved entering heaven “with songs of everlasting joy upon their heads” (Isa 35:10); the joy of the herald angels’ “tidings of great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10); and such marvelous joy that, in truth, no vocabulary may describe it, no rhetoric suggest it, or finite mind fully conceive of it. Placed in the balances of consideration, and weighed against the epic sufferings our Lord passed through, that unspeakable joy overwhelmingly prevailed. (from Coffman’s Bible Commentary, Copyright © 1971-1993 by ACU Press, Abilene Christian University. All rights reserved.)

3.  It was the joy of obedience. Jesus endured the cross to obey the will of His Father. In the distressful prayer in the garden, He prayed. “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)  Jesus recognized the coming cross as a choice of obedience to the Father’s will, and as such He sought to obey above all else. Jesus’ words in the garden are the mantra of saving faith, “not my will, but your will be done”.  Those are the words of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, Peter and Paul. All of these who lived by faith before sought after and ecperienced a joy that was set before them. It was the joy of pleasing their Father in heaven. Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:9 –“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.”  In just a few more lines, the writer of Hebrews will close his book with this prayer;  Heb 13:20-21 – Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

III.   He has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – As with all those mentioned before, faith is coupled with a reward. The Father did not despise or overlook Jesus’ faithful choice. He has been exalted to the highest position of authority. This would tell us here that Jesus is more than just an example of faith to us; He is the object of our faith. It is in Him that we trust, and it is Him we obey.

A.  The position Of Jesus at God’s right hand intimates the complete work of Christ. In O.T. the high priest did not sit down when he went into the Holy of Holies, (no chair there) testifying to the preparatory and temporal nature of his work. But not so with Christ, who having accomplished all things is seated at God’s right hand.  This again may point to the nature of the joy mentioned in the text. The joy of a finished race.

Conclusion:   The Joy Set Before Us – Why do you endure?  What is the reason behind your faith?  Do you do it for the joy set before you?

  • The joy of pleasing the Father
  • The joy of finishing the race…  Do not grow weary.
  • There is another picture of joy that may be applicable to us – the joy of reaching heaven. We will sing and talk about heaven tonight.
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