For the joy that was set before him, [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
The path that leads to joy is a hard road. It’s hard for us, and it was hard for Jesus. It cost him his life. It may cost us ours. “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross.” First the agony of the cross, then the ecstasy of heaven. There was no other way.
The joy set before him had many levels. It was the joy of reunion with his Father: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). It was the joy of triumph over sin: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). It was the joy of divine rights restored: “[He] is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). It was the joy of being surrounded with praise by all the people for whom he died: “There will be . . . joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”—not to mention millions (Luke 15:7).
Now what about us? Has he entered into joy and left us for misery? No. Before he died, he made the connection between his joy and ours. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). He knew what his joy would be, and he said, “My joy will be in you.” We who have trusted in him will rejoice with as much of the joy of Jesus as finite creatures can experience.
But the road will be hard. Jesus warned us, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). “A disciple is not above his teacher. . . . If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:24-25). “Some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:16-17). That’s the path Jesus walked, and that’s the road to joy—his joy triumphant in us, and our joy full.
In the same way that the hope of joy enabled Christ to endure the cross, our hope of joy empowers us to suffer with him. Jesus prepared us for this very thing when he said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Our reward will be to enjoy God with the very joy that the Son of God has in his Father.
If Jesus had not willingly died, neither he nor we could be forever glad. He would have been disobedient. We would have perished in our sins. His joy and ours were acquired at the cross. Now we follow him in the path of love. We reckon “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Now we bear reproach with him. But then there will be undiminished joy. Any risk required by love we will endure. Not with heroic might, but in the strength of hope that “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.