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Jesus’s Pursuit of Joy

John Piper

[Look] 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 12:2)

Does the example of Jesus contradict the principle of Christian Hedonism? Namely, that love is the way of joy and that one should choose it for that very reason, lest one be found begrudging obedience to the Almighty or chafing under the privilege of being a channel of grace or belittling the promised reward.

Hebrews 12:2 seems to say fairly clearly that Jesus did not contradict this principle.

The greatest labor of love that ever happened was possible because Jesus pursued the greatest imaginable joy, namely, the joy of being exalted to God’s right hand in the assembly of a redeemed people: “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross!”

In saying this, the writer means to give Jesus as another example, along with the saints of Hebrews 11, of those who are so eager for and confident in the joy God offers that they reject the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (11:25) and choose ill-treatment in order to be aligned with God’s will.

It is not unbiblical, therefore, to say that what sustained Christ in the dark hours of Gethsemane was the hope of joy beyond the cross. This does not diminish the reality and greatness of his love for us, because the joy in which he hoped was the joy of leading many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

His joy is in our redemption, which redounds to God’s glory. To abandon the cross and thus to abandon us and the Father’s will was a prospect so horrible in Christ’s mind that he repulsed it and embraced death.