Friday, March 21, 2008

My Easter Preparation - Friday

Today... the crucifixion.

We saw yesterday that Jesus was so sorrowful that He almost died. As He looked forward to today, the day of torture, the day of crucifixion, the day of separation from God, the day of agonizing death, how terrible and dreadful this day must have been.

But as I sit here this morning and consider what that day must have been like and Scriptures I've read and studied through the years comes into my mind, the emotion I think of is not misery or dread, or even sorrow. The emotion I think of is joy. I've never really thought about this before, but I believe Jesus was focused on joy. I don't mean to say that the day was joyful. No, it was a horrible day, but I believe Jesus was focused on joy. Let me show you the verses that God reminded me of this morning.

First, we must read of the details of the crucifixion. Read these verses very slowly and carefully. Ask the Lord to help you imagine what this must have been like.

Read Luke 23:33-47.

One thing that stands out to me in these verses is the first thing Jesus said as they began to crucify Him. Read Luke 23:34 again. Something that can be seen in the original language of this verse that cannot be seen in English is that the tense of the verb, 'said,' is such that we know that Jesus didn't just say this once, but He said it repeatedly. I imagine that every time the hammer came down on the nail, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them." Each time they pierced through His skin and flesh He said, "Father, forgive them." When they raised the cross in the air and His muscles began to tear against the nails He said, "Father, forgive them." Never once did He lash out at those who were crucifying Him. (And He could have.) No wonder we read in Luke 23:47 that even the leader of the soldiers was praising Jesus by the time the crucifixion was complete.

Let's read a partial description of the crucifixion in the book of Psalms.

Read Psalms 22:14-18.

It was a terrible day. So where is the joy? As I walked downstairs to my study this morning wondering what crucifixion verses I would focus on for my quiet time today, what came to mind was Hebrews 12:2.

Hebrews 12:2 NKJ looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Let's really focus on this verse for a while.

First, notice it is a verse about the crucifixion. It speaks of the cross as something that had to be endured. It mentions the shame that Jesus experienced in the crucifixion. This shame could have been several things (and it was probably a little of all of them). It could refer to the shame of hanging unclothed and vulnerable on a wooden cross. It could refer to the shame of being condemned to die with common thieves. It could refer to the shame of being exposed to the world during such a terrible and painful time. It most likely refers to the shame before God of bearing the reproach of all of the sin of the world, past, present, and future.

But notice what Jesus was focusing on. What was His motivation? What was set before Him? JOY!

What was this joy? Was it the joy of sitting at the right hand of the Father? No. That was Jesus' rightful place. He did not have to die on a cross to do that. If that were His goal, He could have skipped the crucifixion. No, the crucifixion was not about Jesus gaining the right or privilege of sitting at the right hand of the Father. Jesus has always had that right and privilege and had He refused to be crucified, He would still have that right and privilege.

So, what was it? What joy?

It was the joy of providing forgiveness to you and me. It was the joy of providing a way for us to be saved. It was the joy of being able to restore fellowship with us! Jesus loves me so much, that He endured the cross, despising the shame, and thought, "This terrible crucifixion is worth it for the joy of being able to bless and have fellowship with Noel Dear."

The more I think about that, the more it overwhelms me. Jesus didn't go to the cross because He had to. He didn't go because it was 'the right thing to do.' He didn't die that terrible death because it was required of Him. No, He did it because of the joy of being able to save me. He did it because He wanted to. He did it because He thought I was worth it. He did it!

Think about that a while. Meditate on Hebrews 12:2. Go beyond just focusing on the pain and agony of the crucifixion. Ask God to help you see the joy that Jesus focused on.

I don't want to turn this into another Sunday sermon, but after you have thoroughly thought and prayed through Hebrews 12:2 a few times, think through these questions and comments...

- Does Jesus value His fellowship with me more than I value my fellowship with Him?

- Jesus did so much so He could have fellowship with me, yet I let the smallest inconveniences keep me from spending time with Him.

- Jesus focused on the joy of fellowshiping with me during the awful crucifixion. What is my attitude when I serve Him? What is my attitude when I am called on to make sacrifices for Him?

- Why would saving me be such a joy for Jesus? Why was that worth it?

Pastor Noel