Daily Devotion - Wednesday, March 23, 2016

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  
- Hebrews 12:1-2

We are in the middle of Holy Week--the middle of our symbolic journey with Jesus to the Cross and the Tomb.  The cheering crowds of Palm Sunday are behind us, the solemnity of Maundy Thursday and the sorrow of Good Friday awaits us.  So, for the moment we can take a breath, and consider what Jesus might have been thinking and feeling in that same moment.  

The writer of Hebrews, our lectionary text for today, has an interesting take.  He writes, that Jesus endured the cross "for the sake of the joy that was set before him..."  When I read this passage, I had to admit that I had never really noticed that line before: "for the sake of the joy that was set before him..."  

It begs the question: How great and intense must the joy have been before Jesus to give him the strength to endure the cross?  

I was in a worship service earlier this week, and, during a time of reflection and prayer,  the praise and worship band played the Michael W. Smith song "Above All."  The words of the chorus brought tears to my eyes:  Crucified/Laid behind a stone/You lived to die/Rejected and alone/Like a rose/Trampled on the ground/You took the fall/And thought of me/Above all.  

I know intellectually that the joy before Jesus, as he contemplated the passion that he would endure, was for the reconciliation, restoration and resurrection of all of Creation.  But it breaks my heart to also think about the joy before him of my own reconciliation, restoration and resurrection.  

Even the mere possibility that the joy of my salvation would give Jesus strength is overwhelming to me. 

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of difficult stories.  There are a lot of hurting people in my life, in my ministry, in my faith community and beyond.  I know that many of those hurting people are wondering why they are hurting.  I don't have a lot of good answers to those kinds of questions, to be honest.  

Because God doesn't coerce love, we have free will, and because we have free will (and everyone else does, too) bad things happen.  I don't believe that God causes all things, but I do believe God is present in all things.  

And I believe the God who is present in all things was fully present as Jesus embraced suffering for the sake of the joy that was before him--the joy of the restoration, reconciliation and resurrection of you, me, and all of Creation.   

Today, may you feel the joy of your salvation--joy that motivated the Savior to step forward into suffering for your sake, and for the sake of the world.  May this joy fill you with hope and the strength to endure the challenges and trials of life.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen.  



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