Text: Heb.12:2 "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."
Looking to Jesus
The writer to the Hebrews urges his writers to focus their attention upon the Lord Jesus Christ. This morning I want us to consider three of the things that he particularly emphasises:
He endured the cross
He despised the shame
For the joy set before Him
He endured the cross
The first and very simple thing I want to say here is that Jesus was crucified and His crucifixion was the expression of what our writer goes on to write about in v.3.
Again urges his readers to consider Jesus but this time the immediate human reason behind his crucifixion is brought to the fore: He "endured from sinners such hostility against Himself".
Twice in two verses the word endure is employed. The word means to bear patiently, to put up with. It means to suffer something painful and prolonged.
Thus Jesus' crucifixion was the climax of a hostility towards Him that had been steadily developing from the earliest days of His ministry. Jesus had exercised His ministry over a three year period and over that time opposition had grown harsher amongst His enemies, a large number of those who initially followed Him had turned away from Him and one of His chosen band of apostles, one of the 12, Judas, had sold Him to His enemies for the paltry price of 30 pieces of silver – the price of a common slave!
Jesus had patiently "put up" with this hostility and He was going now to have to "put up" the extreme manifestation of that hostility as expressed in crucifixion.
Make no doubt about it "endure" is a good word! Crucifixion was a cruel method of execution designed to make death a long drawn excruciatingly painful affair. Yet, while we must not overlook the pain of the physical suffering neither must we focus overly upon this – the Scriptures are reticent and do not give the kind of detail Hollywood might wish for. There is a suffering that is much more difficult to portray but which was much more significant in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus. It was the spiritual pain of what it meant to be our sin bearer. Remember the cry that was wrought from His lips:
Ps.22:1 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?"
To His enemies and His executioners crucifixion would put an end once and for all to this troublesome and tiresome preacher from Nazareth. Little did they understand the purpose Christ's death occupied in the divine plan of salvation!
Heb.2:10 " For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering."
Despising the shame
Shame is a commonly used word in the Bible with more than 140 references. The word employed here suggests ignominy and disgrace – the opinion of others is most definitely to the fore.
Jesus knows that He is accomplishing His Father's will and so what others think of Him is of little consequence – this is how He despised the shame of the cross.
And the cross was indeed something highly shocking. This punishment was reserved for the worst of criminals. Roman citizens were never crucified as the punishment was deemed to be too demeaning.
For the Jew it equated to being cursed by God – because that is what is said of all who were hung on a tree.
Let's take a brief look at some verses which address this question:
Ps.22:4-7 "In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;"
Ps.69:19-21 "You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonour; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink."
Is.53:3 "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
Mt.27:31,39 " And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him… And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads"
Phil.2:8 "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Yet in passing this way Jesus was on the way to being rewarded with glory and honour! Paul continues as he writes to the Philippians:
Phil.2:9-11 "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The writer to the Hebrews also knew that such shame and disgrace was the path the Saviour had to tread in order to be the Saviour of the World:
Heb.2:9 "But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."
And this truth was already known to the prophets of the OT:
Is.49:6-7 "he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: "Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." "
For the Joy that was set before Him
In what might this joy consist? What joyous prospect could have motivated our Lord Jesus to such an extent that He might endure the cross while despising the shame associated with the spectacle of such an execution?
Briefly I want to suggest to you the following four factors.
The joy of obedience to God and His word
Ps.1:1-2 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."
Is.11:3 "And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD."
For Jesus to accomplish His Father's will was His bread, the mainstay of His life. With every fibre of His being He longed to obey the voice of His Father not being in the slightest doubt as to the thorough goodness, purity and appropriateness of this word. He knew that in all things the LORD did well – His obedience was no reluctant obedience! In many places in the book of Psalms joy is the appropriate response to God's ways. Jesus was looking for His Father's approval – what a joy to know that as He died He could cry out "It is finished" He had left nothing undone that ought to have been done!!
The joy of accomplishing His Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhh His people's redemption.
The task the Father had given Him had not been an easy one to accomplish but looking forward in His mind's eye to contemplate those whom He would save from everlasting damnation and bring safely home to His Father's house in which there are many rooms, He was strengthened to continue. Just think of it at the prospect of saving you and me and the rest of His people He was filled with joy!
Ps.126:5-6 "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."
A NT parable talks in similar tones of the man bringing home on his shoulders the sheep that had got lost:
Lk.15:5-6 "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’"
Again the OT prophets already knew of this:
Is.53:10-11 "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."
The joy of possessing His people
Having save His people our Lord does not leave us alone but the pictures the Bible employs speak rather of the joys of marriage! The bridegroom possessing his bride!!
Ps.147:11 "but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."
Ps.149:4 "For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation."
Is.64:4-5 "You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."
Zeph.3:17 "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."
The joy of fruit-bearing
Becoming the Saviour of His people and bringing them into union with Himself Jesus would enable them to bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
In Jn.15 Jesus tells His disciples that He is the vine and that they are the branches – the condition of fruitbearing is that the branches abide or continue in Him. The passage specifically links this teaching that Jesus gives with the idea of joy. He has told them this that His joy might be in them!!
In bearing much fruit not only do His disciples demonstrate clearly that they do in fact belong to Him but also the Father is glorified.
Fruit is referred to frequently in the NT as being produced in the Christian life: see, for example, Rom.7:4 "Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God."
Let's close with just one more reference that speaks of the quality of fruit that will be produced in the life of the Christian in faith union with His Lord.
Rom.6:22 "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."
May God be praised that our LORD Jesus Christ did indeed endure the cross despising the shame! Let us rejoice that He is mightily rewarded. And let us press on that we leave Him no reason for not being satisfied with the results of His labours.
To God be the glory.