I've been listening to a song called King of Kings, and in it is a line that slays me every time. It says, "For even in Your suffering, You saw to the other side. Knowing this was our salvation, Jesus, for our sake You died."
The idea of seeing to the other side is one that resonates in a season where we're all still in the middle of a tunnel, with no hint of light shining in from the other end. The practice of writing these blogs each night, even when it feels like there's nothing new to say, is a practice of trying to see to the other side.
But I don't just like the lyrics because they resonate. I also like them because they remind me of a set of verses in Hebrews that I wrote about a million years ago, in an era of waiting and hoping and trusting and making stupid decisions and asking forgiveness and starting the whole process over, over and over. So, in an effort to be faithful to the hard task of writing each night but also give myself grace to go eat a row of Oreos with my husband, I am borrowing parts of a (now heavily edited and hopefully deeply improved) essay I wrote back then about "the joy set before" Jesus in Hebrews 12.
"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."
Christ, who wrote and alone perfected truth and faith and all good things, submitted himself to death on the cross for the joy set before Him. That joy? Us.
As Christ submitted himself to the basest form of death, it was His vision of us, of our appointment to meet with and know Him, that gave Him the desire to persevere. In His moments of suffering on the cross, Jesus saw that the salvation of the world, planned from the very beginning of time, was finally at hand. When He said, “It is finished,” He meant not only His life, but our fruitless striving for salvation we could never reach on our own. The joy set before Him was the ability to give us salvation and to fulfill His Father’s promise to once again set the world right.
Christ bravely and calmly endured the cross. He did not flee the unjust punishment being brought down upon Him. The cross, at the time, was an execution saved for criminals or political enemies of the state, but Christ "scorned its shame." He didn't concern Himself with the disgrace inherent in His manner of execution, because He loves us. It's that simple. He saw to the other side, and we were there - so He stayed put.
In the Time of Coronavirus, this is what I should be focusing on - the same Christ who remained and bravely bore hostility against His own physical person. The word for hostility in this context is “antilogia" - against the word (and against the Word.) Christ literally bore open rebellion and opposition against Himself just for the “joy set before Him.” That thought should revive our hearts when they feel too heavy to keep beating.
When I get lost in my own head, in my fears about this season, in my frustration about its limits, I can turn my eyes from myself and onto Christ. I have the strength to do it because I can think of what Christ bore, of how He emptied the grave of its power for my sake. If in the midst of that pain He could see the other side, I have to believe that the other side is coming.
We'll get there. Let's keep going.