Pastor Ron E. Thompson: The Joy of the Cross
At this time of the year, during the season of Lent, and leading to Easter, we often read articles and hear messages about the sufferings of Christ upon the cross. Words cannot articulate the horrible suffering that Christ endured because of our sins. There must have been a certain aloneness that He experienced there. Most of His disciples had forsaken Him and escaped in fear. And at that moment of sacrificial death, He was forsaken of God and called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’” (Matt. 27:46 NLT). And do not forget the shame of the cross. Jesus was crucified naked, a public reaction to
His enemies’ contempt for a common criminal. Our minds simply cannot comprehend the horror of Calvary as it held the body of the sinless Savior!
The writer in Hebrews 12:2 makes a strange statement that seems to contradict all I have just written: “ keeping our eyes on Jesus,] the source and perfecterof 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.” Does this mean that someone could endure the pain, loneliness, and agony and experience a joy in doing so? Our text says yes! Let me at share at least three joys that led Christ to the cross,
- The Joy of Exalting God: In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed: “Father, the time is here. Give your Son glory so that your Son can give you glory” (John 17:1 GW). To exalt means to make known. Jesus came to this earth to make known the character and purpose of God. Here He prays that His coming would be manifested as the Son of God in the miracle of resurrection, and God would be revealed by Christ’s death on the cross. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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” (2:8-11; Rev. 5:13 ESV). The serpent in Eden had misrepresented God’s character so it was time to set the record straight. Humanity today sees God as revengeful instead of loving and giving them new life and purpose. Are you glorifying God and telling other what He really like?
- The Joy of Executing God’s Will: “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’” (John 4:33 NKLV). From youth until death, Jesus was always about His Father’s business. From Calvary He cried “It is finished” meaning mission accomplished – Satan defeated – what joy!
In John 15, Jesus talked about fruit-bearing, obedience, and continuing in faithfulness. His purpose was that His joy might be in His children and their joy might be full. That chorus, “There Is Joy in Serving Jesus” says it all. Many of God’s children today are not joyful because they are out of God’s will and living for self. How about you, beloved?
- The Joy of Evangelizing with God: In Luke 15, Jesus taught some parables about three lost things: sheep, coin, and a prodigal son. The common element in them is the joy over finding that which was lost. Jesus endured the cross to experience the joy of freeing you and me from the slavery of sin, giving us eternal life from our spiritual death, and opening our eyes from our blindness to spiritual truth. If you know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you can pray like Hannah of old, “My heart finds joy in the Lord.My head is lifted to the Lord.My mouth mocks my enemies. I rejoice because you saved me” (I Samuel 2:1 GW). Hymn writers have created multitudes of songs about the joy in knowing Jesus. There is also joy in serving Jesus as we walk along the way, joy that fills the heart with praises, every hour, and every day. Part of that joy is in sharing our faith. Scripture reminds us that “Those who plant in tearswill harvest with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5 NLT)). The angels share such joy over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).
Before joy could be realized, there had to be the cross with its agony, sacrifice, and death. I Peter 4:13 NKJV states, “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” Glorifying God, doing His will, and reaching has its price. Do you have this joy today? Lord, restore unto us the joy of our salvation!