The Nazarene could hunger and the Nazarene could cry
And he could laugh with all the fullness of his heart
The Nazarene by Michael Card
Jesus the Nazarene, fully God and fully man, knew the whole spectrum of human emotions. But I had imagined Jesus to be a man who was sad and sombre most of the time. Or perhaps just a stoic man. I wondered, when were the times he laughed or smiled? Maybe it’s because I felt that Jesus, witnessing the cruel and ugly effects of sin or knowing that he was going to suffer a terrible death on the Cross, could never have been happy.
But certainly Jesus couldn’t have been such a gloomy character. No, he wasn’t. In fact, his joy was mentioned in the gospels: “… Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit…” (Luke 10:21a). Wasn’t Jesus always filled with the Spirit? Wasn’t he joyful when he ought to rejoice? What was he joyful in?
He shared in the pleasure of the Father. Jesus was pleased in what pleased His Father. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Luke 10:21b).
He remained in his Father’s love (John 15:9-11). “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13).
And even when we read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son in John 15, the finder in each parable has the same response, i.e. the joy in finding what was lost. And Jesus knew that joy of finding those who were lost.
He taught his disciples what joy is and where it could be found. Surely his joy is not so out of reach.
I’ve been reading John Piper’s When I don’t desire God at all (How to fight for Joy), and Piper’s argument is that joy matters because God commands it. Deut 28:47-48 has God telling the Israelites, ‘Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you’.
I guess I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Christians abiding in Jesus must exhibit joy. I mean, isn’t joy the second element of the fruit of the Spirit?
A Christianity which does not make you happy is not worthy of the name. But as long as you are just moral you will never be happy; you will never know the joy of the Holy Spirit. But the kingdom of God, the faith of the New Testament, is vibrant with joy. Look at the people on the day of Pentecost… That is Christianity.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God
Joy is a gift from because the Holy Spirit is a gift. If joy is a gift, then one must ask the Giver, but when the Giver gives, the recipient must be willing to accept the gift as well.