It is easy to read a passage and go right past an important thought without catching the Holy Spirit’s intent. This is a major reason those of us who have been studying for years are still discovering new truths.
It is also the reason I do not mark up my Bible. When your Bible has underlines, highlights and notes, all you see when you return to a passage is the same points you marked the last time, or wrote. It is difficult to see or think anything else.
Such a verse is Heb 12:1-3, “Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We often jump right to the cross and to our need to look to him for an example without considering his motivation.
“Who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising shame”
What was “the joy set before him,” Jesus, that made the cross worthwhile? Years ago, I did a Lord’s Supper talk in which I stated the following position.
First, it cannot be Heaven, or returning to the Father. He had those before he came. If that were his goal, he need not have become incarnate in the first place. Or, as late as the betrayal night, he said that he could ask the Father and receive deliverance by legions of angels. No, the cross was not necessary for returning to the Father, neither was any form of death.
So what one thing did the cross gain? He endured the cross for us. We are the “Joy set before him”; the goal that kept him nailed there instead of crying out for the angels of deliverance. Considering him doing so is our motivation for perseverance, per vs 3. We see this more easily if we think about it in abstract terms--he endured for the church, his bride, his body. Otherwise, we must face things inside us that we hope no one else ever finds out, not even our spouses. We know that it is a joke to think that we personally could ever be a joy to the Lord sufficient for such a sacrifice.
But it is true, that is the Holy Spirit’s meaning. You, with all the warts, blemishes and faults that you have not overcome with grace yet (because you have not applied yourself to grace with sufficient devotion), YOU are so great a joy to Jesus that he died that shameful death willingly and with the joy of anticipation of having you for his friend. He is not ashamed to call you “family” (Heb 2:11).
If that is true for you, then I can hope that it is for me too, though, having known better for so long and having not gotten any better than this keeps me doubting.
Let us then “not wax weary fainting in [our] souls”.