For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12: 2, 3 NIV)
Jesus never asks us to do something he has not done himself. As I meditated on endurance, this scripture came to mind. Many translations use the phrase “despising the shame” which I’ve never really understood. I guess I always thought it meant “despising the fact that shame was heaped on him.” Today I discovered the word in Greek, kataphreneo, also means “to disdain or hold in contempt.”
Jesus came to restore us to the Father, but also to show us how to be human. I wonder if his struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26) was about facing the final rejection on earth. In an honour/shame culture, crucifixion was not only excruciatingly painful physically, but deeply painful emotionally. It was the worst possible fate because it was the ultimate symbol of rejection, designed to publicly dishonour.
Jesus was rejected by the people he was going to save. The disciples closest to him failed him when they fell asleep at the moment he wanted their understanding and support most. Crucifixion was the opposite of a good death. It was a shameful death and brought dishonour on his family and friends as well as exposing him to the cruel taunts of onlookers.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, satan waved in his face the tempting prospect of physical comfort of bread, then recognition if he proved his identity, and then honour and recognition from the kingdoms of the world if he set up a test for Father God. (Matthew 4)
Jesus often prefaced important statements to the crowds, “Verily, verily!” (“I’m telling you the truth!” in language more familiar to us now.) How he must have longed for acceptance and to be heard and understood. Laying down his God privileges and living as a human who did only what he saw his Father doing, Jesus endured deep emotional torment. He endured because he chose a higher value, to obey God the Father even in the middle of shame, rejection and dishonour. He overcame shame by holding shame itself in contempt.
That last night he wrestled shame to the ground. He held in disdain shame’s history of breaking the strongest men. I wonder if he held in the contempt the very contempt that caused him so much anxiety that he sweat blood.
Jesus’ higher value was checed, God’s lovingkindness, beauty, favour and mercy that endures forever. The battle over temptation to choose another way other than God the Father’s way was won when he said, “Nevertheless, not my will but Your will, Father,” and laid down his life. He broke the power sin has over us.
Jesus Christ was perfectly surrendered to the Father’s plan of salvation. He remained sinless. Walking deliberately to the way of the cross, his endurance was motivated and strengthened by the joy of what he would accomplish for you and for me.
There is no greater love.