What might have been uppermost in Jesus’ mind the morning after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Surely his thoughts were already swirling around the inevitable suffering just days away. Perhaps the emotional anguish that peaked in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-44) was already starting to build.
How did he maintain the presence of mind to continue teaching his disciples and the crowds, telling parables, and answering the religious leaders’ trick questions?
Then, as the Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, and the horrors of the crucifixion took place, how did he endure, much less maintain his calm and resolute demeanor?
The writer to the Hebrews reveals at least part of the answer: Jesus kept his focus on “the joy set before him” (12:2).
What might that joy have included?
- Returning to heaven. No doubt he could vividly see in his mind the splendor and bliss of his home that he’d given up some thirty-three years before.
- Returning to his Father. Jesus looked forward to being glorified with God, reveling in the glory he had enjoyed with the Father before the world began (John 17:5).
- Commanding angels, authorities and powers subjected to him (1 Peter 3:22). This privilege was not a self-aggrandizing end in itself. It was a means of aiding and rescuing his people–us (Acts 5:31).
- Becoming our mediator and saving us from the natural consequence of our sin: eternal death (Hebrews 7:25).
- Offering glory to God for the work he had faithfully and perfectly completed on earth (John 17:4).
These joys were set before Jesus. They provided sublime assurance of what was to come.
These joys helped to sustain him through horrific agony—agony that was swallowed up in anticipated and certain victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).
We, too, can fix our attention on the joy set before us. And just what do we have to look forward to?
- Discovering heaven as our splendorous, blissful home.
- Residing in the realm of our perfect Heavenly Father, the King of the universe.
- Ruling with Jesus, at the right hand of God, as joint heirs of the kingdom (Romans 8:17, Revelation 20:6).
- Offering glory and honor to the Lord (Revelation 4:11). I imagine a grand choir made up of all of us–millions of voices, singing heart-stirring melodies with intricate harmonies. I see our arms raised toward the throne, reaching out in holy reverence toward our awesome King.
Years ago, a talented singer named Helen Lemmel (1863-1961) enjoyed the fulfilling life of a concert soloist, sharing her faith through song in many churches throughout the Midwest. For a number of years Helen ministered with evangelist, Billy Sunday, singing and song-writing for his crusades. (She composed over 500 poems and hymns in her lifetime.)
Suddenly in midlife Helen began to go blind, her husband left her, and other heartaches enveloped her as well. Through it all, however, the singer/composer maintained her faith and joy—all ninety-seven years of her life.
One of her best-known songs, perhaps, is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (1918), written in the midst of her trials. You might recognize the chorus:
(“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”)
Peace, determination, and strength result from focus—focus that’s riveted on Jesus and the joy set before us.