looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was 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 endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (NKJV)
The writer has just gone through a whole list of “faith-worthies,” many of whom did great things or who suffered great things. But then, as it were, he shifts gears. While he does want his readers to know about these ancestors in faith, he doesn’t want their attention focused on them. There is someone else to whom they were to look, and so are we: Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
The word translated “author,” refers to a founder, author, prince or leader. I think the word “founder” gives the best idea here. Moses and the prophets didn’t “found” Christianity, in spite of those who look to them for guidance. They indeed laid the groundwork, as it were, foreshadowing and prophesying that One who would come and fulfill all those types and shadows. However, there is no pattern, no blueprint, for how we are to do things. There is no salvation in those OT things; there is salvation only in the One who came to fulfill them.
We don’t like that idea in this day of “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” We want to believe that “all roads lead to heaven,” that the pagan who worships nature or the woman who sacrifices her baby to a river or a person who follows a religion that denies and contradicts every teaching of Scripture, these are all “children of God.”
However, our Lord said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6. Later on, standing before the leaders of the nation, Peter affirmed this, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. And there is coming a time when this will be universally and unequivocally acknowledged. Men may have put Jesus on the Cross, may reject Him and ridicule His claims, even deny His existence and do all they can to stamp out every mention of Him in society, but Paul wrote that God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2:9-11.
Some believe that these verses in Philippians teach that everyone will eventually be saved, but that view contradicts Scripture, which teaches otherwise. The verses simply mean that there’s coming a time after it’s too late that unbelievers and skeptics will be forced to admit who Jesus is, that He was and is who He claimed to be. After all, they will stand before Him in judgment. But there will be no salvation for them, no “second chance” after death.
But there’s more in Hebrews 12:2: He is the “finisher” of our faith. A couple of things here. First, there is no word corresponding to “our” in the original language. Jesus is the Founder and “finisher” of faith. It’s common in our time to hear of “faith-based” works or organizations. It’s become a synonym for “religion.” However, there are many works and religious organizations that have nothing to do with Scripture. But there is only one “faith,” the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3, and the Lord Jesus was the One who revealed it. And He did that through the Scriptures.
Not only did He reveal it, but He “completed” it. That’s the meaning of the word translated, “finisher.” “Faith” isn’t about what men say or do. It’s about what He did. There’s nothing to be added to what He did. Some churches blasphemously teach that there are things which we must do in addition to what the Lord did on the Cross: we must be baptized, or we must offer the “unbloody sacrifice of the Mass,” or a host of other things. Or they falsely teach that they, too, have a revelation from God. They have their own prophet or founder. Or they teach that theirs is the only accepted group. Only with them is there truth and salvation. Several groups teach that. But there is only one Name that God will accept as Savior and Lord, and it’s not the name of some church or denomination or religious group. It is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one, no one, comes to God except through Him.
for the joy set before Him.
I’ve read at least one person who believed that it’s wrong to serve God for the sake of “reward.” Such an attitude is selfish, it is said; we should serve God simply because we love Him. And it’s true, we should serve God out of love; I doubt if any other motivation is acceptable to Him.
At the same time, though, it’s said of our Lord that He was anticipating a reward for His suffering: “the joy set before Him.” You see, His death wasn’t just some haphazard affair, with its outcome left to fallible and sinful men. Nor was it “a mistake,” as Schweitzer claimed. It was carefully planned in every detail well before Genesis 1:1. Cf. 1 Peter 1:20.
It was this hope, this expectation, that enabled our Lord to endure the cross, “despising the shame.” We’ve never seen a crucifixion. It was an awful and bloody thing. We’ve cleaned it up and sanitized it, with a cloth strategically covering His body. One branch of the church even boasts that there is no blood in their pictures. But in addition to the torture of the whipping He received before the Crucifixion, a whipping that often killed those who endured it, and the agony of the spikes which held Him to the Cross, He hung naked, open to the gaze of all who looked at Him.
We don’t think anything of nudity in our debased society, some even extol it, but back then it was a terrible thing, a thing of “shame.”
Our Lord “despised the shame” because He knew that this wasn’t the end of things. In some ways, rather, it was the beginning. A look at the future isn’t the purpose of this post; I’ve done that enough in other posts, but it was “the future” which enabled the Lord to “endure” the present.
And make no mistake; He “endured” the Cross. It was no walk in the park for Him. It was no little thing, this matter of crucifixion. Even though the Romans were concerned about “justice,” and there were some restrictions about who could suffer this or that treatment, there was no such thing as “criminal rights” in that day. There was no concern about “cruel and unusual punishment” like we have in our day, in which any punishment seems to be considered cruel and unusual. Some men took days to die on a cross. That’s why Pilate was so surprised when Nicodemus came to ask for the body, and why Pilate had a centurion verify Jesus’ death.
But beside the physical suffering, about which we might have some idea, there was also the suffering because He bore the weight of God’s wrath against sin, about which we have no idea, no standard of comparison. We read of no outcry when they whipped Him, or when they drove the spikes into His wrists and feet. We read of no response to the ridicule of the leadership as they scoffed at Him, and mocked His claims. It was only His treatment by the Father that forced an anguished cry from His lips,
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!”
Ah, that goes far beyond any mere human experience.
We think we know so much with our “Drs. of Theology,” and our arguments over various doctrines and teachings. I’ve done a lot of that in this blog. And I’m not against “education.” I just wish it was more about the Bible itself, reading the Scripture itself and seeing what it says, and less about what men say that the Bible says. But when it comes to the Cross, we likely know even less about the sufferings of our Savior than a newborn infant knows of the suffering of his mother in bringing him to birth. I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to understand anything of that suffering.
That suffering was tempered by the fact that His suffering wasn’t the end of things. It was not in vain. It was not “meaningless”. There was “joy” beyond. Joy that will last for an eternity….
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning, Psalm 30:5.