This is an excerpt from chapter 16 of The School of Christ, "Kneel at the Cross":
The expectation of the cross is a constant burden on Jesus. He vividly describes his inner turmoil: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”(Luke 12:49-50). As the time approaches, he muses aloud: “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name”(John 12:27-28). Jesus is troubled, yet determined.
The night he is arrested, he takes Peter, James, and John with him, and “began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death’”(Mark 14:33-34). The cross is so daunting to Jesus that he must pray—and pray with his closest friends. “And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’”(Mark 14:36). Jesus wrestles in prayer, longing for a way to escape this fate. He knows what God can do and asks him to find another way to accomplish his will. Yet ultimately Jesus submits himself to his Father, and says bluntly to Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”(John 19:11). Hard as it is, Jesus perseveres and is ready to suffer for the Father’s will.
As we kneel at the cross, we watch Jesus suffer so much. We watch him—bleeding everywhere, stripped of clothing, humiliated and shamed by all. We know that he is innocent. We know that he holds the power to end this charade forever. We know that he is suffering for the very people who thoughtlessly mock him. We cannot help but sit in wonder at such fierce determination to finish the great work God has planned from the foundation of the world.
But the turn from the cross to my own life is disheartening. I do not see such determination in myself about anything—except perhaps my desire to do what I want. I am notorious for unfinished projects, well-meaning conversations, and good ideas that come to nothing. Jesus teaches me that there are a few things worth doing very, very well—with all of my being. He shows me that I need reliance on God and his will to accomplish them. He shows me that I must learn the discipline and patience I need in every area of my life—in my family, my stewardship, my Bible study, my speech. But most of all, I must follow the example of the cross in following Christ through hardship and pain.
The Hebrew writer gives a clue as to how Jesus achieves such determination. “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”(Heb 12:2). By keeping his mind on the “joy that was set before him,” Jesus finds strength to endure the cross. If we want the prize bad enough, we summon the necessary determination to win it. But notice that Jesus’ focus is consistently on the glory he will bring to God, not the suffering he is currently enduring. Likewise I must maintain focus on the blessings of determination: spiritual growth, healthy relationships, integrity, and ultimately eternal life with my God. This is the “joy that is set before me” that emboldens me to endure my minor obstacles in hope of future glory. As I kneel at the cross, I grow more determined.