". . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter 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).
There are so many good results that come from pondering the Lord's death each first day of the week. I have often marveled at how all of our individual needs are met at the foot of the cross, whatever they may be on a given Sunday. Only God's wisdom could have contrived a practice that helps us in so many ways all at once.
But think with me about what Hebrews 12:2 says about our Lord's suffering. How was it that Jesus mustered the strength to get through His trial and crucifixion in such a steadfast way? It was, this text says, "for the joy that was set before him." In other words, it was not by pretending the ordeal was pleasant, but by looking beyond the pain, that He was able to keep going when it might have been tempting to give up. Of the many character traits Jesus demonstrated in His last hours, this is one of the most encouraging for us in our own lives: Jesus made the decision to keep going. Called upon to endure, He endured.
And lest we forget, it was a decision on Jesus' part that led Him to do what He did. His perseverance was not easy or automatic due to His divine powers -- it was a choice that He made. It was, to put it simply, an act of obedience on His part. "Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).
And making the choice to endure is the point of our text back in Hebrews 12. In v.1, the writer had said, "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." And then in v.2, it is Jesus who is the example of endurance. More than anyone else's example, it is "looking to Jesus" that gives us the courage to keep going. Jesus is the One whose character we need to emulate. Tempted to quit, it is Jesus we need to think of.
Lately, it has been a joy for me to meditate on this particular aspect of Jesus' example when I partake of the Lord's Supper. This response to the Supper is an "invigorating" response. Yes, the Supper warms us with gratitude for Jesus' love, touches us with sympathy for His suffering, reassures us of our peace in His mercy, and calms our nerves in the midst of all our uncertainties. But no less important, the Lord's Supper energizes us, stiffens our courage, and sends us back into the world with a greater determination to endure. The joy is coming. The day of rest awaits us. The victory celebration is being prepared. But in the meantime, Jesus' endurance of suffering shows us how to . . . continue.