The Joy of the Cross
In last Sunday’s sermon, the “Joy of Persecution”, we discussed oxymorons, which are words or phrases that contradicts itself…like “joy” and “persecution”. Well, today’s message, “The Joy of the Cross”, is another oxymoron. How can there be joy associated with an instrument of death?
As adults, it’s hard for us to make that connection. To link joy and happiness, with torture, suffering, and agony. It’s hard for us grown-ups to do that. But maybe that’s the problem… we’re grown-up. We’re looking at this through the eyes of experience. Didn’t Jesus say that we must change and become like a child if we want to enter the kingdom of Heaven? Children have a unique way of looking at things. They can make the difficult…seem simple.
I read about a little boy who asked, “Grandpa, how old are you?” Jokingly, his grandpa said, “Why, I’m not sure.” To which his grandson replied, “Well, just look in your underwear. Mine says I’m 4 to 6.” Let’s stand and read from God’s Word regarding the Joy of the Cross.
“..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.” (Hebrews 12:2)
In Paul’s day…the cross represented the worst way to die…people feared the cross:
- First used in 500 BC by Persian King Darius to crucified over 3,000 objectors to his rule.
- Romans wanted world domination, so they needed a big army and ‘weapon of torture’.
In Galatians 5:11, Paul says the cross is offensive. Why? Because it is a reminder of the worst crime man has ever committed.
Beloved, it’s true that Jesus went to the cross reluctantly but also joyfully. In the garden, His prayer showed reluctance but not unwillingness. Why was He reluctant? Because He knew the terrible price, He’d have to pay to purchase our salvation. And that terrible price wasn’t the pain and suffering of the cross but the separation from His Father…for the first and only time!
He knew that on the cross all the sins of the world would be placed upon Him and when that happened, His fellowship with His Father would be broken. In that awful moment He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” We can barely imagine the horror of that moment, as God’s Son took upon Himself the death and the Hell…that we deserved.
But He also went to the cross joyfully. Because He loves us, He knew that the only way we could be saved, was by His sacrifice upon the cross. We read that “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” Now what joy could the cross bring to Christ? I find there are three “Joys of the Cross”.
First, is the “Joy of Saving Souls”. Jesus went the cross to experience the joy of saving us from sin…from an eternity with Satan in the Lake of Fire.
- We were slaves to sin, and He set us free.
- We were guilty, and He cleansed us.
- We were helpless, and He rescued us.
- We were hopeless, and He gave us life.
Second, is the “Joy of Serving God”. Let me ask, could Jesus have escaped the cross? Well, Satan thought so. That’s why he offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would just fall down and worship him. But Jesus rejects him and reminds the Devil of something that he couldn’t do, which was to “…worship the LORD your God and Him only you shall serve.”
Satan chose not to worship nor serve God…that’s what go him booted out of Heaven. He could not do what Jesus was doing. In truth, when you’re obedient to God’s will…Satan can’t do that! There’s the power you need to resist temptation, but it’s only found in the midst of serving God.
But Jesus rejected the temptations and went to the cross because there was no other way to save us. In doing so, He fulfilled God’s plan for His life. The Bible says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18)
Think about it, Jesus’ first recorded words were as a 12 yr old boy, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) And from the cross, His last words were, “It is finished.” He had served His Father and had done His will.
Lastly, is the “Joy of Glorifying God”. Just before His arrest in the garden, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1). To glorify means to “make known.” So, Jesus came to the earth to “make known” to everyone exactly who their Heavenly Father really is.
Jesus wanted to show…that there was another way…a better way…than listening to the lies of Satan. He wanted everyone to know that the serpent in the Garden of Eden had lied about who His Father really was. Since the beginning of time, Satan has lied about the nature and character of God…until Jesus came to set the record straight and bring glory to His Father.
In all of Jesus’ ways, He honored God. Through-out the suffering and pain of the cross…He honored God. In everyday and in every way…He honored God. Do we bring glory to God through our hardships? Through our trials…through our daily lives?
I heard a story about an old farmer who had lived a long and very sinful life. But after losing his wife, he accepted Christ. But his old shameful memories kept haunting him. He knew God had forgiven him…but Satan kept hounding him…tearing him down…and questioning his salvation.
One day as he was plowing the fields, the old doubts came back…and he’d had enough of Satan and his lies. Getting off the tractor, he went behind the barn, drove a spike into the wall…went to a briar bush and fashioned a crown of thorns and hung it on the spike. Then he dropped to his knees and confessed all of sins. Then he went back to plowing.
From that day on, whenever his guilt returned, he’d go behind the barn, point to the nail and the crown of thorns and shout, “Satan, there are my sins! They’ve been paid for and I’ve been forgiven!” This morning, have your sins been forgiven?