The words on the pages are vivid. So excruciatingly vivid that you wish the plot would read differently. Emotions catch in your throat, and suddenly, you’re there – part of the story.
“Stop!” you scream as soldiers viciously beat Jesus. But the brutal slapping, mocking and whipping continues. You clap your hands over your ears, desperate to shut out the pounding of the nails and the agony of Jesus’ screams as they tear through His flesh. When you look up, you see Jesus hanging on a wooden cross – bloody. Unrecognizably bloody.
Six long agonizing hours pass until He finally bows His head and dies.
“No!” You drop to your knees in devastating grief. “Why?!”
The scene fades, but the emotion continues. As you read on, a different kind of tears stream down your face. Tears of amazement. Tears of indebtedness. After years of not understanding the gospel message, you finally get it. “You suffered all of that …” you whisper as the reality sinks in. “For me?”
What would inspire such an act of amazing, incomprehensible love?
Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) helps answer this question: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame …”
It’s easy to understand that Jesus looked forward to defeating Satan by His death and resurrection and returning to live with His Father in heaven. Yet as magnificent as these incentives were, I believe we (each one of us) were a big part of the joy that was set before Him.
It’s impossible to comprehend the love God has for us. Our heavenly Father knew that if Jesus had not died and risen from the grave, we would’ve suffered the unbearable consequences of our sins – from the moment we were born all the way through eternity. Had Jesus not borne the punishment for our sins, life and death for us would be unimaginably, horrifically different.
Picture a life in which we were never free of the control sin has over us. Or one in which we lived without ever experiencing unconditional love. Or a life empty of hope because we wouldn’t have the assurance of eternity with our Savior.
Thankfully, we don’t have to envision these scenarios. Our Savior, “for the joy that was set before him,” chose to endure the cross – even before we knew we needed Him to.
Sheryl H. Boldt is the author of the blog, www.TodayCanBeDifferent.net. You can reach her at SherylHBoldt@gmail.com.