2 [Look] to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
To be crucified was a gruesome affair. Heavy nails pounded through some of the most sensitive parts of the human body; the slow, painful process of suffocation. It was not uncommon for blood, vomit and even urine to pool at the foot of these deadly instruments. A word – excruciating - was invented just to describe the horror of crucifixion.
And it was this fate of crucifixion which God the Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ endured. And endured is precisely the right word. Upon that awful tree Jesus did not ‘unplug’ from consciousness as some have suggested, nor did he only ‘appear’ to be suffering. He felt every stabbing pain, every movement; every breath meant another shoot of agony. The sharp thorns from the sarcastic crown cut his scalp to ribbons, the blood dripping into his eyes. He felt every glob of spit and heard every mocking voice.
But it was the voice he could not hear that hurt the most. His Father, the One who affirmed him at his baptism (Matt. 3:13-17), the One with whom he continually communed (Luke 5:16; 6:12), was silent (Mark 15:34). Jesus was abandoned, forsaken, and in a very real sense, he became sin (2 Cor. 5:21). And he endured it all. But why?
Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross for “the joy that was set before him.” What ‘joy’ could there possibly have been at Calvary for Jesus? What would he obtain on the far side of the cross, which he did not have on the near side? Was it the approval of God the Father? He already had that (Matt. 3:17). Was it the kingship of the universe? No, that was his already too (Col. 1:16). So what was it?
It was you. Jesus was dying to save you (Luke 5:32; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:14; 1 Pet. 3:18). On the cross, Jesus drank our cup of separation. It was not his abandonment, it was ours. It was not his forsakenness, it was ours. He endured our penalty. He paid our price. He died our death. And he did it in order that he might give us life. Jesus endured the cross in order to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). Stop and reflect this Good Friday. Take time away from tents and traffic and chocolate and come to the cross in wonder, in faith, in worship.
“Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, love so divine, demands my soul, demands my all.” – When I Survey the Wondrous Cross