Day Seven – The Agony and Joy of Jesus
Luke 22:39-46, Hebrews 12:2
by Pastor Billy Park
Holy Saturday. That’s what they call the day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Jesus is in the grave and the disciples have scattered and grieving without hope. What happened on this day we probably will only know in heaven. Did Jesus preach to the dead, or rescue the Old Testament saints, or go up to heaven before the Father, or all the above? Let’s make sure we get to heaven so we can find out for sure.
What I would like to direct your attention to are the two different emotions or attitudes of Jesus in going to the cross. Two emotions that seem contradictory, but both so clearly pointing to the deep pain and purpose of the cross.
In Luke’s gospel, as well as the other gospels, Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives, the mountain ridge adjacent to the east of Jerusalem, to pray with his disciples on the night before Jesus goes to the cross. Luke describes Jesus’ obedience, “not my will, but yours, be done”, and an angel’s strengthening, yet, Jesus is described as ‘being in agony…and his sweat became like great drops of blood…” (v. 44). Jesus did not want to go to cross. “Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me…” (v. 42). Why does Jesus say this? Was he afraid? Was he afraid to suffer and die? Was he afraid of the scorn of men? I don’t think so, what he knew was that he would bear the weight of sin of the whole world and that his Father would turn his face against him. He who knew no sin became sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and bore the wrath of God the Father. Wrath, not because God is mean, but because He is holy. Jesus was in agony about bearing the wrath of God.
Yet, Jesus bore the wrath of God, not only in agony, but in JOY. This is what Hebrews 12:2 claims, “looking to Jesus…who for the JOY that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” How could this be? How could Jesus be in agony and in joy?
Any mother could tell you. The agony of labor and the joy of birth is the common experience of all mothers. However, there are women who have late-term miscarriages and knowing their unborn child has died, they must still go through labor and delivery, but now without joy. Pain upon pain. This is what happened to my oldest sister about 30 years ago. No joy, just agony. It was one of the most painful times in our family’s history. It was also one of those moments when the importance of our faith in Christ really became evident. It was the message of the cross and resurrection, the promise of hope even in the midst of pain and death, that carried us through and made us stronger.
Jesus endured the agony of the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” He endured the cross for the sake of His sheep, the elect from all the world. He knew who he was dying for. He knew the agony he bore had a purpose – the glory of God in the salvation of His sheep from all the world. He bore the agony because of the joy set before him – the joy of welcoming and embracing sinners like us.