by David Chadwell

I want to focus our thinking by reading Hebrews 12:1-3.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

  1. In modern America, in the church, we have taken much of the brutality and violence out of Jesus' crucifixion.
    1. Crucifixion was a common method for executing people who were not Roman citizens.
      1. Jesus and the two thieves who were crucified on the same occasion were only three of hundreds of first century Jews crucified by the Romans.
      2. Nor was this method of execution used by the Romans only with Jewish people--it was a common means of execution by the Roman troops.
      3. It was a very violent, brutal, cruel way to die.
    2. Twentieth and twenty-first century Christians have removed much of the violent brutality and cruelty from Jesus' crucifixion.
      1. We tend to be much more comfortably focusing on artist's renditions of the crucifixion which are "pretty" but not violent or cruel.
      2. We know Jesus suffered when he died, but we much prefer to focus on his enormous love rather than his real suffering.
      3. Many of us are just plain shocked when we are confronted with the violence and cruelty of Jesus' execution.
      4. It was a brutal execution witnessed by a crowd of onlookers, much like the crowds that witnessed hangings in our western movement.
      5. It was a contemptible, disgraceful way to die--the intent was to disgrace the execution victim by destroying his humanity in death.

  2. A question I asked myself for many years was this: "How did Jesus do it?"
    1. He made no physical attempt to avoid it when he knew before the event it would occur.
      1. In fact, he consciously did the things he knew would lead to crucifixion.
      2. He knew it was coming.
      3. He knew it would involve enormous suffering.
      4. Yet, he did not run, did not hide, did not defend himself.
      5. How is it possible to do that when you are not guilty of anything?
    2. The "how" is addressed at least twice in New Testament writings.
      1. One is given in 1 Peter 2:23.
        And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.
        1. As Jesus endured enormous injustice in his death, he used his strength to focus on being [in suffering!] the person God wanted him to be.
        2. He did not have the strength [nor do we!] to focus in suffering on the injustice and on being the person God wanted him to be.
        3. So he entrusted the injustices to God to let God care for them.
        4. He just focused on being the person God wanted him to be--he did not let injustice distract him!
        5. That is one of the "hows!"
    3. The other "how" is given in the reading we shared at the beginning (Hebrews 12:1-3).
      1. That "how" was this: he was motivated to endure the cross and despise the shame for the sake of the joy in front of him.
      2. Our reaction is, "Joy? What joy? What possibly could be worth going through that experience?"

  3. For a moment, I want you to focus on joy.
    1. "What joys did Jesus know that were ahead of him that made the experience of crucifixion endurable?"
      1. I am certain I do not know all of them.
      2. I am confident that they included:
        1. Being the means through which God's promise made much more than a thousand years earlier was kept.
        2. The resurrection.
        3. Being enthroned by God on God's right hand (kingly language).
        4. Being made Lord of lord's and King of kings by God Himself.
        5. Interceding for every man or woman who trusts him and his death.
    2. Here are my questions to us.
      1. If Jesus found joy in being our ransom by giving his blood for our redemption, do we find joy in being ransomed?
      2. If Jesus found joy in becoming our Savior, do we find joy in being saved?
      3. If Jesus found joy in making our forgiveness a permanent reality, do we find joy in being forgiven?
      4. If Jesus found joy in the right to intercede for us, do we find joy in realizing that is what he does for us every day of our lives?

How do we respond to this great gift provided in the brutality of his execution? Surely, in many ways. Yet, one of those ways that must not be absent is with joy! Our joy to be alive in Christ must be real and must be expressed! How do you express this joy?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 February 2004

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