Christ’s death on the cross was an amazing act of sacrificial love. But was it joyful? Why does Hebrews 12 say that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him” (v. 2)? Pastor and theology professor Geoff Holsclaw explained that in this verse joy refers to the fact that Christ was able to share with us, as believers, the delight experienced eternally within the Trinity. Through Him, we experience the joy that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in one another’s presence.
Because of this, Jesus was willing to endure the physical and spiritual agony of crucifixion: “He endured the cross, scorning its shame.” The cross in Jesus’ day was not a religious symbol, but a tool for executing criminals. God’s purpose for the crucifixion was thus a well-hidden mystery. If “the rulers of this age,” both human and demonic, had understood, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). When Jesus died on the cross, they thought He’d failed and they’d won, but the reverse was true!
On the cross, Jesus accomplished our salvation. That’s why He’s called the “pioneer and perfecter of faith” (v. 2). “Pioneer” has also been translated as “founder” (ESV), “author” (NKJV), and “source” (CSB). All variations of this title affirm that He is the “beginning and the firstborn from among the dead” (Col. 1:18). Jesus lived a perfect life and perfectly accomplished His mission from the Father. Therefore, He’s the perfect model for us (v. 3). Based on what He did, we should live our own lives with persevering faith, as others before us have done (v. 1). We must throw off sin and lesser priorities and fix our eyes on Jesus. Because He lives, we do not grow weary or lose heart. Because He did not fail, our victory is assured!
>> If you haven’t already memorized Hebrews 12:1–3, why not learn this powerful passage by heart today? Memorizing Scripture is an important spiritual discipline. As Psalm 119:11 says: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”