Hebrews 12:2 says “Jesus…for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Some attempt to interprete the “joy set before him” as being his own glory or sitting on heaven’s throne of glory. However this misses the mark entirely. Isaiah states, “A child is born, a Son is given.” It is the child who is born. The Son is not born–the Son eternally existed. Christ chose to take on human skin and move into our earthly neighborhood for the purpose of rescue, redemption and reconciliation. That being said, the “joy set before him” can’t be going back to heaven’s throne. He came from heaven! Why would “he endure the cross” to only go back to heaven’s throne? Rather the “the joy set before him” is best understood as being the knowledge that it would be through his self-sacrifice that a path of reconciliation would be afforded to you and I–and all sinners. Christ knew that his death would be a channel of blessing for a condemned humanity.
A few scriptures bear out that Christ’s joy should be seen in terms of knowing that salvation and freedom would come to those in the world who repent. In Luke 15 we find the religious Pharisee crowd to be offended and disgusted that Jesus would open his heart and life to the dredges of society, charging, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
In response Jesus shares 3 parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In each parable the central point is joy–in particular God’s joy over sinner’s who are lost being reconciled to Him. One of the most precious statements in all of scripture is found within the context of these 3 parables. “I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance” (Lk. 15:7).
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” The connection can’t be missed!