There’s a joy in the eyes of the One who calls us to carry a cross. Here stands before us the Man so poor and without splendor that though He was the Word from everlasting, He went unrecognized among men. Yet as He says to us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me,” we must not miss the joy in His eyes. We must not miss the unlike-any-other atmosphere about Him. For though He surely was the Man of sorrows, He is also the One with the oil of gladness above all His companions (Is. 53:3; Ps. 45:7) . And though His call to self-denial and consuming allegiance to Himself is more real and more piercingly literal than most of us have yet come to grips with, there is a dance in His eyes as He draws hard lines in the sand and gives the call to highest abandonment.
When He calls us to obey His commands, in the same breath He says, you will have fullness of joy (Jn. 15:10, 11). He says, “Come deny yourself” while also promising that in the losing of our life for His sake, we will find it (Lk. 9:23, 24; Matt. 10:39). He invites us to come to Him if we are weary and heavy laden and to take His yoke upon us, for it is beneath this yoke that we will enter true rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28 – 30).
As in the Song of Songs, He comes to us as the One leaping upon the mountains, the One descending from the heights of the Mountain City above and now dressed in servant’s rags (Song 2:8 -10; Jn. 16:28; Phil. 2:7). No man in heaven and earth has ever been more joyfully obedient to do the Father’s will. Leaving His Father’s house, and coming into the world He said, “Sacrifice and offering, you did not desire. In burnt offerings and sin offerings, you took no pleasure. Behold I come, in the scroll of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Your will” (Ps. 40: 6-8; Heb. 10:5 -7; Jn. 4:34). He says, “It was for the joy set before Me that I endured the Cross” (Heb. 12:2). Now He beckons us to arise and come with Him, to follow after Him, to bear our cross, and to joyfully run the course of the Father’s will together. He calls us to love Him more than father or mother, son or daughter, to leave our father and mother’s house and know the great desire of the King (Matt. 10:37; Ps. 45:10-11). The invitation to obey His commands is the same invitation to find fullness of life and joy.
There is joy in His eyes as He obeyed His Father’s commands, abiding continually in His love. Now He says, “Come, obey My commands and know My love.” As our eyes meet the eyes of this lowly One who is indeed the Lord, He urges, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden. Take My yoke upon you. You will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. You will know joy inexpressible. You will know joy full of glory. As you lay down your life, as you count all else as loss, You will gain ME – the excellence of knowing Me. Surely, it’s a great exchange!” (Jn. 15:10, Matt. 11:28 – 30; 1 Pet. 1:8; Phil. 3:8)
And with this contagious joy He beckons me to greatest abandonment, consuming allegiance to Himself. He calls me to “leap upon the mountains” of the Father’s will, of the Father’s great and most magnificent plan. The irresistible delight in His countenance draws me forward, leaving my fears trailing behind. Yes, the cost is high. It will cost me everything. Yes, the self-denial is real. It will cut to the deep of me. And so too, a resounding, YES! The joy is literal. The finding of life is actual. The eternal glory is unsurpassable. And the gain – Him – is incomparable (2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 3:8).
Surely, it’s a great exchange.