For the Joy Set before Him Endured the Cross
A few years back, I was sitting in a Good Friday Service. We were singing a sad song and the mood was quiet and still. Everyone reverent, reminding themselves of what took place on a night like that so long ago.
They were remembering Jesus' suffering at the hands of mankind. How he was beaten, mocked and led away to die for the sins of world. Everyone around me wore an expression of sadness, but in my heart I couldn't join in with their grief and sorrow at thinking of Jesus being crucified. My heart rejoiced knowing that my savior had died in my stead.
It seemed almost wrong to feel this way looking around at the congregation that had come together to remember this monumental occasion. The heavy cloak of sadness surrounded the group, but I felt differently and wondered why they were sad and remorseful? Wasn't the cross a victory? Without the sacrifice Jesus provided, wouldn't we all still be condemned by sin? Was it selfish for me to feel this way, to rejoice at his suffering and celebrate his death instead of mourning it?
The Lord spoke something into my spirit that night that I will forever remember. He told me to celebrate his death and not be sorry and grieve. It was the price He was willing to pay so that we could be reconciled with the Father. He reminded me of a verse in Hebrews, something he spoke to reassure us that His victory on the cross was the reason he came in human form, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" ( Hebrews 12:2 ). I wasn't alone in rejoicing in this event. Jesus also rejoiced knowing what was accomplished and done. While on earth, Jesus considered the joy of the cross before him. He ignored the shame of dying a criminal's death and set out to defeat sin and death once for all so we could stand before Him completely righteous. The pure bliss of knowing that he would rescue us, bringing us into relationship with the Father was far greater than the pain and agony he was about to suffer that night. What a marvelous thing to rejoice in.
During an intimate moment with His disciples before he was betrayed and led away to die, He shared the Passover supper with them. What a privilege it is to have their accounts of this wonderful experience. As they were reclining at the table Jesus told them that He desired to eat Passover with them because he would not eat it again until it's fulfillment in the kingdom of God.
He was the Passover Lamb and everything that the Old Testament described and looked forward to, was going to be accomplished on that night. The lamb was given to be a sin substitute for the people. It was a sacrifice for a covering of sin, but until Jesus laid down His perfect life, sin still separated us from God. When Jesus took the bread, He broke it and said, "This is my body given for you". He took our sin on himself and suffered for us so that we could we could be made righteous ( II Corinthians 5:21 ). His body was broken so that ours could be made whole.
In the same way, he took the cup and announced that this cup symbolized the New Covenant, ratified in blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins once for all. His blood poured on the mercy seat in heaven would satisfy God's wrath forever. He knew he would enter the more perfect tabernacle in Heaven and offer his unblemished blood before God securing our eternal redemption ( Hebrews 9:11-12 ). The blood would be the guarantee of the New Covenant that he was ushering in with His death. He encouraged His disciples to partake in the cup knowing that it would be fulfilled that night in the Kingdom. For the agony he was about to undergo, it was nothing compared to the joy of saving us.
As I think back on that Good Friday, I will never been the same. I rejoice in the marvelous work that Jesus did over two thousand years ago. I praise Him that is was perfect and complete and there is nothing I can do to add or subtract from it. He is seated in heaven right now because this work is done. I am thankful that all I needed to do is accept this gift and believe in Him to save me. I will take communion tonight reflecting on what was accomplished that wonderful night so long ago. Instead of sorrow, may you celebrate his death today rejoicing that the price has been paid for you to fellowship in the kingdom of God now and forever, amen!