Who But For The Joy Set Before Him…

The key to walking in the valley of the shadow of death is to fix your vision on the answer of the future.  We must, therefore, have a vision of the future that is based on the reality of God’s plan.  The instance we know what the future holds the present begins to be meaningless.  Where we are has nothing to do with where we are going except that it is a starting point.  The promise is for where we are going—the promise is not for where we are.

When we understand God’s plan for our life we can endure anything to achieve the plan.  I am not talking about having a small glimpse of the plan.  Jesus had so strong a vision of the redemption He was bringing that He was willing to be tortured and killed, in the most painful way possible, in order to bring the vision to pass.  There was no way to get to redemption without the pain and agony of the valley of the shadow of death.  Even death for Jesus was merely a shadow.  The vision was to conquer death once and for all.  To conquer death He had come under the shadow of death.  If He didn’t face the shadow and come under its sway, it was impossible to be able to achieve the vision. 

It is the same for us.  We must be willing to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  We must be willing to endure the shame.

Diamonds are born out of pain.  While we all want to be a diamond, few of us are willing to live under the pressure that must come to crush the impurities out of the coal, in this case our souls.  Once the impurities are gone, the diamond has to be discovered and cut.  Few raw diamonds have great value.  Their true value comes from the cutting and shaping of the stone.  No part of the process is painless.  There is a loss of everything to get to the place of gain.

Diamonds are made against their will, with no input from the coal itself—other than the raw materials sacrificed. Perhaps it is a better comparison to look to athletes.  Every athlete has a choice.  He can work harder and become better.  He can walk away and remain as he is.  Those who pay the greatest price achieve the greatest gain.  In other words, the more pain, the more gain.  It is a simple formula, a rule that is engrained in the stone of physical laws that guide the path of a man.  So too with the Christian, the person seeking to be considered a person of faith, a person of whom the world is not worthy.  We are all faced with choices.  We all have the option of paying a greater price or settling for what we have here and now.  What makes all the difference in a person is whether they settle or whether they strive to become better.  Or, in the case of the Christian world, more like Jesus.

There was a saying popular in the Christian community in the last century—“What Would Jesus Do?”  The trouble with the statement is that true to our nature we did not want to know what Jesus did to become the diamond He was, we want to know what Jesus would do as the diamond to sparkle in front of the world.  Like true fallen creatures, it was about evaluating the life of Jesus through the rose colored glasses of most favored nation status.  We are after all, the new Israel, God’s chosen people.

Unfortunately for us, to be more like Jesus we need to understand the pivotal point of His being.  Sure He was the Son of God, sent to redeem us from sin.  Sure He lived a life without sin.  Sure He performed miracles, healing the blind, deaf, lame, even raising the dead.  Sure He was a great teacher, a philosopher.  Sure He radically changed the world as we know it.  Those facts are really without dispute in the Christian world.

Those facts are not, however, the core of His being.  The miracles and everything else are what radiates out from Jesus because of the core of His being.  And so, we are back where we began, wanting to know what would Jesus do without truly understanding the driving core behind how Jesus became who he was.

The key to understanding Jesus is to finally understand how He became the diamond He was born to be.  It is found in the book of Hebrews when the writer tells us that Jesus “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,…”  It was not magic that made Jesus the driving force of history.  It was not only that He was the Son of God.  It is seen when He went to the Garden of Gethsemane and asked God to find another way.

We have all gone to the Garden and asked God for another way.  Most of us have begged for another way.  And then, even if God did not show another way, like water, we chose the easiest path anyway.  At the end of the path we found that life still goes on.  Good things still happen.  What we miss is that we did not end up in the perfect place of faith that makes us a hero of the faith.  We do not end up in the place where we become people of whom the world is not worthy.

The core of Jesus, where the mystery lies, is found in His response to God’s refusal to let Him choose the easiest path.  Rather, Jesus ended His plea for a better way with the understanding that He would do what God wanted rather than what He wanted.  In thirty-three short years, certainly not much time for a being who was here from before the beginning of the world, Jesus had learned to be a man and long for the things a man longs for.  He had learned to long for a long life.  He had learned to long for no pain.  He had learned to long for Himself rather than God.

We all fight these same fights.  The difference in us and Jesus is that He quickly, in a matter of hours, laid aside those longings and returned to do God’s will.  And therein is the secret to the core of Jesus.

Jesus went to the grave believing that He would be raised up and brought into the place of the vision.  The only assurance He had was the promise of His father.  There was no precedent for this event—never before had someone been raised from the dead.  That is of course other than Lazarus, but then Jesus had been the intervening act in that moment.

If these things were not so He would not have been in the valley of the shadow of death.  He would have been a player in a drama with a guaranteed ending.  It was not this way.  It was true because God had called it to be—Jesus had to accept it in faith.  It was guaranteed because it was the vision, the calling God had given Him.

Like the heroes of Hebrews 11, Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death without seeing the fulfillment of his faithful vision.  The men and women of Hebrews 11 went through the valley of the shadow of death, and then died without ever seeing the fulfillment of their faith.  Yet, they died faithful.  That does not compute in our modern minds.  How can a life be faithful that does not achieve the goals we have in life?

That is the mystery of the Gospel and of the God of the universe we serve.  What is not is treated as though it is and often what is is treated as if it were not.  Now, that is a miracle worth serving.


1 Response to “Who But For The Joy Set Before Him…”

  1. 1 Who But For The Joy Set Before Him… Trackback on 1 March 2008 at 3:17 am

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