Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-3

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  (NRSV)

The words “who for the joy set before him endured the cross” sound completely contradictory.  What kind of joy could possibly cause a person to willingly submit to the agony of a public execution?  This is joy we can not even imagine!  We don’t have a clue.  Well, maybe a few clues from those rare moments when God’s presence touched us and changed our perception of the spiritual world.

Paul, writing to the Corinthian Christians,  speaks of a spiritual wisdom the world can not grasp.  He said that no one has ever seen or heard or even imagined anything quite like what God has arranged for those who love him.  (1 Corinthians 2:9)  Paul notes that this hidden wisdom is not popular.  We know, for example, that those who choose peace rather than follow paths of violence or war are often rejected as unpatriotic and out of touch with reality.

As we follow Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we come to understand more and more that His kingdom is in this world but not of this world.  The fantasies of power, popularity, and security are seen for what they are.  Our improving spiritual vision helps us see the possibilities of more joy and hope than we ever dreamed possible.

C.S. Lewis writes, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because [they] cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory).

The joy that steadily drew Jesus to His cross continues to draw us to ours.