Image called "Innocence" from artist, David Bowman
What is the one thing Jesus gave everything for?
He gave up his glory in heaven, shrinking himself down into a human body with skin and bones and blood (Phil 2). He gave up his wealth (2 Cor 8:9). He gave up his comfort, allowing himself to be tempted (Heb 4:15), to be mocked and to suffer (Is 53; Matt 27) - even to become sin (2 Cor 5:21) with all its disgust and shame and despair, its sadness and anger and fear. He was abused and betrayed, falsely accused and deserted (Mt 26-27). He hung before the public naked, unable to cover or protect himself, until he died (Mt 27). It cost him everything.
Why did he do it? Because his desire for something was greater than his fear of the cost. He was willing to pay everything for it. What did he want more than everything he had?
Would you believe it if I said the answer was YOU?
How can I say that? Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross for the JOY set before him. What is that joy? He already had the things we usually think create joy: a perfect loving relationship with his Father; glory, honor, and worship; riches; beauty. But he gave them up for this joy, so it must be something different than them. What did he gain by the cross? The one thing he gained was us: you, me, all of us. Eternity with us. THAT was his JOY.
Brain scientists say JOY is the experience of being relationally connected, and that we desire it more than anything else. In fact, the brain's ability to do almost anything else - including suffer well - is fueled most efficiently if driven by relational connection joy. That fits what scripture says of Jesus. The anticipation of unbroken relationship with us for eternity was the fuel that powered Jesus to and through his suffering and death. WE are what he wanted more than anything. WE are his prize, his reward. WE are his JOY.