What Was The Joy That Was Set Before Jesus?
Hebrews 12:1,2 states: "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, 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 ancient world, those who trained themselves in athletics would put on weights so that they could build themselves up to gain more strength and endurance. They would then lay aside those weights so that they would be able to compete in the race for which they had been training. The Hebrews writer is using this cultural phenomenon to illustrate a point that the Christians are like those athletes who are running in a race. The race will be long and hard. Christians must keep the goal ahead of them so that they might endure it. They are to look at Jesus who ran His race and crossed the finish line. This is a great encouragement to the Christian that they can know they can make it too. Christians are to let go of the weights of sin (of the life of sin - 1 John 3:9) so that they can keep on running toward the goal.
What was the joy that was set before Jesus?
Crucifixion was one of the most terrible ways of execution to die in the ancient world. As a criminal, it would have been one of the most shameful and humiliating because the passersby would see the sign above you that stated your criminal act(s). Jesus knew the excruciating pain and suffering that He would have to endure, yet He knew it would only be for a limited time. He knew a time was coming when He would rise from the dead after three days and then in days ahead would be ascending back to heaven to sit at the right hand of God having completed the will of the Father (John 17:4,5; Hebrews 1:1,2). There was a deep and abiding sense of happiness that filled the heart of Jesus that could not be taken away from Him. He knew that in the midst of suffering, sadness, and affliction, that true joy can manifest its power when you set your heart to follow the will of God - even unto death (James 1:2-3; Revelation 2:10). True joy is not found in the earthly, sensual pleasures of this world but in obeying from the heart that form of doctrine found only in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 11:25; Romans 6:17).
When Christians go through suffering, trials, and temptations, may "those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24) so that they can see the joy that is set before them of reaching that heavenly goal.
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