The Life of Christ: Jesus Disintegrated
Hebrews 12:2 and John 19
We finally come to the central event of world history and of the scope of biblical revelation, the death of Jesus Christ, the enteral Son of God.
Today we will gain our narrative from John 18 and 19, but the bulk of our time will center around a simple phrase in the middle of Hebrews 12:2. I know it is a strange book and passage to go to as we remember Jesus’ death, but it will offer a very unique and powerful perspective on the cross that the gospel accounts touch in more subtle ways. You may take some time to refresh your memory of the context by starting in Hebrews 11. Through this litany of men and women of faith, the author builds his argument towards the application of Hebrews 12:1-3. Our passage focuses on Jesus’ death with these words:
“…who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…”
There are several important elements to this very revealing phrase: joy, enduring, despising and shame. Each of these words and their relationship to each other reveal the meaning of the statement.
What “joy” was set before Jesus if not the delight of redeeming mankind from the prison of sin? This simple statement reveals that Jesus willingly offered His life as a substitute for anyone who places their faith in Him, because of joy. Jesus delights in you.
Speaking of His people in Jerusalem, God says through the prophet Zephaniah, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love [ or He will renew you in His love], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” (3:17)
David says of himself what is true of all of God’s people in Psalm 18, “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (18:16-19)
And simply in Psalm 149:4, “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”
It is for this relational joy, set before the eternal Son of God, that He endured the shame and humiliation of the cross. This shame must be connected to Jesus’ identification with sin - “He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Shame, like sin, breaks and disintegrates relationship. It separates us from God and others, as Jesus was Himself separated from God when He assumed our sin. It was this shame and disintegration that He despised.
Despised, in the original Greek term, means to “consider something not important enough to be the object of concern when evaluated against something else of greater value.” Isn’t that wonderful. To Jesus, the joy set before Him - our redemption - was far greater than the catastrophic shame of separation from the Father. He really does love us.
Shame is the emotion of disintegration. It is so subtle yet destructive, it has to be one of the Devil’s favorite weapons. Shame is, in many ways, part of the story we inherited from Adam and Eve, our first parents. At one time, they were in the garden of Eden, with God, and “were naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Then, once the Devil, the serpent of old, sowed doubt and rebellion in their hearts, all at once they hid from God in fear and began blaming each other. This is what shame does. It terrorizes our mind, infects our story, separates us from others and estranges us from God. Shame, in this way, is almost synonymous with sin although it is not. It is this “shame” that Jesus never felt in any way until He was on the cross. Only when He “became sin” did He feel the deep sting of separation from the Father - true disintegration of Triune community. But He embraced all of this willingly, for the joy set before Him.
All of this was in the heart of God before the foundation of the world. On the cross, by His death, Jesus intentionally embraced separation so that your shame could die. There is no greater, more beautiful or more meaningful story.
Add to all of this the first and last phrase of Hebrews 12:2 and the author provides not only tremendous application, but also hope.
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author [or pioneer] and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Family Discussion Questions:
- What specific parts of the story of Jesus’ death on the cross do you find most important?
- What parts of the story are the saddest for you? The most meaningful?
- Did Jesus really have to die? (HINT: Yes, because there must be a payment for sin. Parents: This is a great time to review the gospel)
- Just before Jesus died, He said “It is finished” from the cross. What did He mean?
- What do you think was the hardest part for Jesus? (Parents: Consider the abandonment of all the disciples, the rejection of the Jews, separation from His father - all besides the physical pain)
- Close your discussion with a prayer time of gratitude. Simply take a moment for each of you to thank Jesus, in prayer, for His willingness to die to set you free.
Small Group Discussion Questions:
- Discuss the middle phrase of Hebrews 12:2 - “who [that’s Jesus] for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” What was the “joy” that Jesus pursued?
- How did Jesus “despise the shame”? What shame specifically? What is shame?
- Scot made the case that shame disintegrates relationship, that it separates people from each other and from God. Where can you see this happening in Genesis 2-3?
- Jesus’ death [and resurrection] is the center of Christian faith. Why do you think so many people struggle accepting the good news of a dead savior?
- What was the purpose of Jesus’ death? What other biblical texts can you share with your group that clearly and succinctly explain it? (Example: Connect Isaiah 59:2 with Hebrews 9:22 and the end of Hebrews 2:9)
- Can you share the gospel message clearly in less than one minute? Let some volunteers in your group demonstrate.
- Beginning in John 18:28, through 19:15, discuss Jesus’ interaction with Pilate with your group. How many times does Pilate pronounce judgment on Jesus? What is his conclusion? Is this significant?
- How does John’s telling of Jesus’ crucifixion intersect the Passover? What is the significance?
- Discuss the remaining phrases in Hebrews 12:2 [the first and last]. How does this verse guide you to specific application? Where does it offer hope?
Posted in Sermon Notes