In Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, as Jesus was hanging on the cross and dying, he had vivid flash backs. There is no biblical evidence for these flashbacks; but Hebrews 12.2 tells us a bit about the psychological state of our savior as he was dying.
What was in the mind of Jesus as he approached the cross? The answer to this question contains a wonderful spiritual exercise that will help you cope with the most difficult of circumstances.
Let me make the following observations.
- Jesus focused on the joy of doing God’s will and future blessings. The words for the joy set before him show us that utmost in Jesus mind was the joy of what was set before him. Surely this included the completion of the work of reconciliation that he had come to do. Jesus came to accomplish salvation for our eternal benefit and for the glory of his Father in heaven. Jesus had the joy of knowing that he would completely obey and delight his Father. He had the joy of knowing that he would purchase his people for his own possession. His joy is the joy of heaven over every sinner that repents and returns to the Father.
As Jesus faced death on the cross, he focused on the joy that was set before him. In doing so,
- Jesus endured the cross. This shows us that Jesus’ death on the cross was central to his coming to earth. His death at Calvary explains his birth at Bethlehem. Jesus came to die, to offer his life as a ransom for sinners. He did not have to come and he did not have to die. It was in his power, if he chose, not to suffer at all. But for our sakes, he was crucified. He became a curse for us, as it is written, cursed is any man hung on a tree. Jesus endured the cross for sinners like you and like me.
- Jesus despised the shame. The crucifixion was hideous. Gibson’s movie was intended to shock his audience to grasp the agony and horror of the crucifixion. The reviews say that it is over 2 hours of unrelenting violence and horror. Crucifixion was the highest form of torture and lowest depth of humiliation. But Jesus hung on the cross for over 3 hours; prior to this he agonized in Gethsemane, was cruelly arrested, mocked and abused. He suffered the entire night before he was crucified. The shame of crucifixion goes far beyond the pain. It was regarded as so shameful that a Roman citizen could not be crucified. The cross shows us that Jesus faced the depths of human degradation. Consequently, there is no person, no matter how depraved or debased in sin, that is beyond the reach of Christ to pardon. It is vital to recognize that the shame of the cross goes far beyond the pain of the cross. Added to the pain and shame of crucifixion was the shame of human depravity. Others have been crucified; but only Jesus shouldered the intense shame of sin in all of its foulness and degradation. It was despicable to him. But he did it for us. He despised the shame. Finally,
- Jesus reaped the rewards: He is seated at the right hand of God. Jesus did not remain on the cross. He died on the cross; his dead body was placed in a grave. He remained dead for three days and then he arose from the grave, was seen by his followers and finally ascended into heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of the Father. Because of his sufferings, he received the glory of the resurrection.
How do you respond to Jesus?
- Focus on future blessings: Do God’s will for the joy before you
- Endure the cross: compare your suffering to Christ’s
- Despise the shame of sin. Shame goes far beyond the pain
- Reap the rewards: If we share in Christ’s sufferings, we will also share in his glory. Suffering always comes before glory.
Christian, recognize this. Faith has a future focus! Look to Jesus, not only as your savior, but see him as an example for handling hardships.
Look to Jesus and be forgiven. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus endured intense agony and shame for sinners. He died to purchase forgiveness for all who will come to him. Come to him now. And then live for him by following his example.