2 as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
lit., “to think down upon or against anyone” (kata, “down,” phren, “the mind”), hence signifies “to think slightly of, to despise,” Matt. 6:24; 18:10; Luke 16:13; Rom. 2:4; 1 Cor. 11:22; 1 Tim. 4:12; 6:2; Heb. 12:2; 2 Pet. 2:10.
In Jesus’ case, keeping in mind “the joy that was set before him,” the high rewards awaiting him, helped him to keep walking in the truth. This “joy that was set before him” outweighed by far the temporary discouragements or distractions that he had to face.
Keeping in mind the reward can help us to endure, just as it did Jesus. (Revelation 22:12) To illustrate, think of a traveler walking along a difficult mountain path. He becomes weary and discouraged. Each step is an effort, and the path seems endless. Then he comes to the top of a rise and sees in the distance the town he is heading for. Suddenly the going seems a little easier. A clear view of his destination helps him to forget his tiredness. A Christian will similarly find it easier to keep walking in the truth if he keeps his destination clearly in mind.
What was “the joy that was set before [Jesus]” for which “he endured a torture stake”? It was the joy of seeing what his ministry would accomplish—including the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, the vindication of God’s sovereignty, and the ransoming of the human family from death. Jesus also looked ahead to the reward of ruling as King and serving as High Priest to the benefit of mankind.
In order to maintain his integrity to Jehovah, Jesus underwent the most dishonorable execution possible. “He endured a torture stake, despising shame.” (Heb. 12:2) Jesus’ enemies slapped him, spat on him, stripped him, flogged him, impaled him, and reviled him. (Mark 14:65; 15:29-32) Yet, Jesus despised the shame that they attempted to heap on him. How? He refused to shrink from such treatment. Jesus knew that he lost no dignity in Jehovah’s eyes, and he certainly sought no glory from men. Even though Jesus died the death of a slave, Jehovah dignified him by resurrecting him and giving him the most honorable place next to Him. At Philippians 2:8-11, we read: “[Christ Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus was not insensitive to the feelings of disgrace that accompanied his execution. Possible dishonor to his Father resulting from Jesus’ being condemned for blasphemy was a matter of concern to God’s Son. Jesus asked Jehovah to spare him such indignity. “Remove this cup from me,” he prayed. But Jesus submitted to God’s will. (Mark 14:36) Still, Jesus withstood the pressures brought to bear on him and despised the shame. After all, such shame would be felt only by those who fully accepted the values common to his day. Jesus clearly did not.
Jesus’ disciples were also arrested and flogged. Such treatment dishonored them in the eyes of many. They were looked down upon and despised. Yet, they were not deterred. True disciples resisted the pressure of public opinion and despised shame. (Matt. 10:17; Acts 5:40; 2 Cor. 11:23-25) They knew that they were to ‘pick up their torture stakes and follow Jesus continually.’—Luke 9:23, 26.
What about us today? Things the world considers foolish, weak, and ignoble, God views as wise, powerful, and honorable. (1 Cor. 1:25-28) Would it not be foolish and shortsighted for us to be influenced entirely by public opinion?
These joys caused all rebuffs and indignities to pale into insignificance. Imitating Jesus, we will be able to face difficult situations, as well as enjoy the favorable ones, in preaching the good news. Always sustaining us is the joy of anticipating the new system of things and what Jehovah has in store for us, as we appreciate presently having a measure of health and strength that we can use in his service.
We, too, by looking ahead to the reward of eternal life with its associate blessings, can maintain faithfulness under trial. Like a prize just beyond the finish line, this reward can stimulate us to run the race for life with endurance, dismissing any wrong desires that could wreck our faith.
If we try to glorify ourselves, particularly by hiding things, or by presenting a false front, this is clearly wrong and of no value in the long run. Far better is it to be concerned with the way God views us. Jesus himself said: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens.”—Matt. 5:11, 12.
Jesus had this experience, particularly after he was arrested. The religious leaders took him for trial and tried to besmirch his reputation by means of false witnesses. Afterward he was laughed at and ridiculed. A crown of thorns was forced onto his head, and a purple robe was put on him in derision of the fact that he was a King. (Mark 14:55-65; 15:17-20) Then, while Jesus was dying, the gloating rulers stood around the torture stake mocking him. Even the way he died was viewed by the Jews as very shameful. (Luke 23:32-38; Gal. 3:13) In all of this, did Jesus try to defend his reputation or save face? No. Rather, the Scriptures tell us that he ‘despised shame.’ (Heb. 12:2) Far more important in his eyes was the glorifying of his Father’s name. (John 17:4, 11) And for this fine course of conduct, Christ’s reward was indeed great in the heavens. What an outstanding example for us today!—1 Pet. 2:21, 22.