For the Joy Set Before Him

This article is part of the Gentle and Lowly: A 14-Day Devotional series.

Day 3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:1–2

A compassionate doctor has traveled deep into the jungle to provide medical care to a primitive tribe afflicted with a contagious disease. He has had his medical equipment flown in. He has correctly diagnosed the problem, and the antibiotics are prepared and available.

He is independently wealthy and has no need of any kind of financial compensation. But as he seeks to provide care, the afflicted refuse. They want to take care of themselves. They want to heal on their own terms. Finally, a few brave young men step forward to receive the care being freely provided.

What does the doctor feel? Joy.

His joy increases to the degree that the sick come to him for help and healing. It’s the whole reason he came. How much more if the diseased are not strangers but his own family? So with us, and so with Christ.

Christ does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people.

Gentle and Lowly

Gentle and Lowly

Dane C. Ortlund

How does Jesus feel about his people amid all their sins and failures? This book takes readers into the depths of Christ’s very heart—a heart of tender love drawn to sinners and sufferers.

When you come to Christ for mercy and love and help in your anguish and perplexity and sinfulness, you are going with the flow of his own deepest wishes, not against them.

We tend to think that when we approach Jesus for help in our need and mercy amid our sins, we somehow detract from him, lessen him, impoverish him. As truly God, Christ cannot become any more full; he shares in his Father’s immortal, eternal, unchangeable fullness. Yet as truly man, Christ’s heart is not drained by our coming to him; his heart is filled up all the more by our coming to him.

To put it the other way around: when we hold back, lurking in the shadows, fearful and failing, we miss out not only on our own increased comfort but on Christ’s increased comfort. He lives for this. This is what he loves to do. His joy and ours rise and fall together.

Our unbelieving hearts tread cautiously here. Is it not presumptuous audacity to draw on the mercy of Christ in an unfiltered way? Shouldn’t we be measured and reasonable, careful not to pull too much on him?

Would a father with a suffocating child want his child to draw on the oxygen tank in a measured, reasonable way?

Jesus Christ is comforted when you draw from the riches of his atoning work.

Our trouble is that we do not take the Scripture seriously when it speaks of us as Christ’s body. Christ is the head; we are his own body parts. How does a head feel about his own flesh? The apostle Paul tells us: “He nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph. 5:29). And then Paul makes the explicit connection to Christ: “just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Eph. 5:29–30).

How do we care for a wounded body part? We nurse it, bandage it, protect it, give it time to heal. For that body part isn’t just a close friend; it is part of us. So with Christ and believers. We are part of him. This is why the risen Christ asks a persecutor of his people, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Jesus Christ is comforted when you draw from the riches of his atoning work, because his own body is getting healed.

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