51. Hiking in Hebrews: The Joy Set Before Us

 

 We’re at another pinnacle on our hike. From contemplating the heroes of yore, we’re called to look even higher:

 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him, who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb.12:2-3)

 

Fix our eyes on Jesus! There are so many ways to contemplate him: his words, his love, his convictions, his ministry, his relationships, his priorities, his ancestry, his temptations, his miracles, his sorrows, his relationship with the Father…the list goes on. But here we focus on this breathtaking description: Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

 

Some versions translate these words a bit differently, describing Jesus as the pioneer and finisher of our faith. I love both metaphors.

 

As a writer, I love thinking of Jesus as the author of this great love-and-redemption story, the purpose and meaning behind every aspect of creation. The Book of What Would Be was written before anything came into existence. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was not a mistake, a Plan B, or in any way a triumph of evil over good. Quite the opposite! God’s plan to redeem us through the death of Jesus was in the mind of God from all eternity. YOU and I were in the mind of God from all eternity. Your life and mine, the decisions we’d make, the path we’d choose, the faith we’d embrace or reject, were all part of this story. But none of it could be accomplished without Jesus’ sacrifice of himself. As Author and Pioneer, Jesus came to fulfill everything that He and the Father had planned for us, everything required to bring us into a relationship with God.

 

In writing circles, writers often identify as being either Plotters or  Pantsers. Plotters have a clear outline in mind before they start writing; they know where the story is headed, and how it’s going to progress from Page One to the final chapter. Pantsers, on the other hand, let the story unfold as they write; their characters advance the story as it moves from general concept to completion. (The term ‘pantser’ expresses the idea of writing from the seat of your pants.)

 

God is not a Pantser. He knew exactly where mankind was heading from the moment Adam and Eve questioned God’s goodness and fell for Satan’s lies. He knew exactly how He would remedy sin and its deadly consequences, and  when, where, and how His salvation story would unfold. He knew Jesus would be tempted in every way, but would not sin, and that his perfect human life would be the substitute for our abysmal failures. He knew Judas would betray, Peter would deny, and Thomas would doubt. He knew the Resurrection would shatter every last vestige of death—and Satan’s– power. He knew every detail of every step in His perfect plan. Yet He never overrules our personal freedom: every person who participates in the redemption story operates from his or her own free will, granted to us from birth.

 

Too many people don’t get this. They view Jesus’ death as a tragic mistake, thinking Jesus’ life was cut short, his ministry aborted, his plans foiled, all at the hands of those who betrayed and condemned him. What could he have accomplished with another 30 years? They view the Cross as an after-plan, a revision to what God originally intended. Nothing could be further from the truth: every aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice went exactly as planned.

 

I also love thinking of Jesus as Pioneer. If I could time travel, I’d love to experience being a pioneer in the Pacific Northwest, though I’m sure the reality was far more brutal than my romanticized imaginings.  Still, I love the idea of being among the first newcomers to behold this region’s stupendous mountains, lakes, and rivers. And to thrill, as a pioneer in search of a homestead, at not knowing what lies ahead, but being endlessly dazzled by new vistas.

 

As the pioneer of our faith, Jesus was the first (and only) person to live a sinless life. He did this  by utterly relying on the Father. He shows us it can be done. He also shows us how intensely we’ll be attacked by the devil when we’re truly trying to do God’s will. Jesus pushed through his wilderness alone, scorned, attacked, and misunderstood, despite his perfect example. His earthly life, his wilderness journey, tested every aspect of his heart, mind, soul, and strength—and he prevailed.

 

Let’s fix our eyes on that.

He’s also the perfecter, or finisher, of our faith. As a recovering and exhausted perfectionist, I love that he’s my perfecter: all that I can’t and haven’t done right, let alone perfectly, has been gifted to me through him. He’s taken the rough, hand-drawn, childish picture I’ve drawn and turned it into a masterpiece. He’s superimposed his perfection over my weaknesses. He’s also provided everything I need to finish my journey strong. If I fail to avail myself of his supernatural support and guidance, the fault is mine, not his.  I know he’s cheering me on, along with that great cloud of witnesses who’ve run the race before us.

 

Jesus needed powerful motivation to complete his mission, especially when it came to enduring the cross. In the Garden, we see him weeping and petitioning God to remove the cup of suffering he had to drink. But it could only be removed at the cost of our salvation—a price he wouldn’t pay. He found his motivation in one thing: the joy set before him. The joy of being in heaven with God the Father, along with his redeemed children, his bride, the church. What sustained him through immeasurable heartbreak, indignity, and torture  was the sheer joy of sharing his and the Father’s love with his rescued ones. For eternity!

 

Most of us know these things, but it’s good to be reminded. Even if we’ve been Christians for decades, as I have, our tendency is to drift away from the deep convictions that keep us on track. Without these reminders, we readily wallow in excuses, distractions, and worldly thinking that dull our hearts. Fixing our eyes on Jesus refocuses our hearts. Let’s meditate on God’s amazing love story, perfectly plotted in the mind and heart of our Creator. We’re the objects of His perfect love and desire! And God placed us, along with Jesus, at the  heart of His story–with profound intention, not as an afterthought.

 

 

 

 

 

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