χαρά…supreme delight…supernal gladness…joy. It is something we are called into. It is something we are called to pursue or even let pursue us. The Christian life is not about happiness they say…it is about joy. This pedagogy usually is given after one expresses deep sorrow or a sense of absence. Well, you’re not meant to be happy. It is about joy…dreadful joy. Not happiness. Happiness turns up more or less where you’d expect it to- a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is as notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeaths it. It is mysterious and fleeting and yet it is the mark of one called into the Presence. The gospels mention joy often. Maybe they can show a weary pilgrim the way.
Do not fear Zechariah, your prayer has been answered…your wife will bear a son and you will have joy and gladness. Many will rejoice over his birth because it points to an even greater birth. In fact, your son will leap in the womb for joy over that greater birth. Be joyous over the agony of that birth. He will pave the way for that one who will give men joy. His joy will be complete because he is a friend of the bridegroom who is coming to prepare his bride. He will be happy to daily decrease so that he might increase. When the wise men came from the east, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy over seeing a star. It was not about the star. It was about who the star was leading them to. It was about the one who put the star there for guidance. Do not be fooled. It was not about the journey but the destination…at least this time. Many a supernatural things happened around that mysterious birth, the incarnation of God. Scared…broken…and sinful stood Mary and her husband. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” Yes…great joy for all the people. But, not all the people. Not Herod. Not Pilate. Not Judas. What fear and anguish one birth caused the men who loved darkness to it’s dire end. He will speak for men…for their joy.
He spoke alright. He spoke about the joy. Blessed are you when you’re hated…excluded…spurned…reviled for his namesake. Rejoice over that and even leap for joy. That’s right…jump up in the air like a fool in joy over the pain of turning the other cheek, of being hated with the truest of hate. Those hating you may have even had a taste of that joy. Some may be the rocky ground that received the word of life with joy only to give up when someone hates them…when someone persecutes them. They return the favor of losing their joy by trying to help you lose yours. What givers! What takers of joy! But, do not let them rob you of too much. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Let them strike you good. The treasure is waiting in that field. With dirty knees and blood seeping down your broken brow, you’ll feel the ecstasy in your heart of knowing the treasure is in that field hidden waiting for you. He is waiting for you.
People grumbled alright. The Pharisees and scribes grumbled over his ministry of mercy. He did not hold back his love or his joy. Tax collectors and sinners were coming near to him for joy and ohh how they did not deserve any good from God! Yet, there is rejoicing in heaven whenever one of these undeserving vagabonds repents compared with the over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. God does not rejoice over self-righteousness but he is extremely happy over a dirty, ruthlessly selfish whore turning to his Son’s worth. What does that mean? It apparently means that both God and all the heavenly beings, including the angels, rejoice greatly over one who sees the infinite worth of God and runs to it in joy. He celebrates with infinite and eternal intensity the beauty of who He is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Talk about comfort knowing he is a happy being. God is not a killjoy. He rejoices so you can rejoice. He rejoices with angels and, after you’ve worked diligently for the joy of others and heaven’s joy over the crown of lost bodies and souls you take with you into glory, he will say “well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” That is right. Enter into the joy that I have within myself.
Converted men always talk of glory while heeding daily joy. There is a lot of talk of glory without talking about the glory of abiding. You will not hear that “well done” without daily desire to remain, to dwell, to abide, to live, to commune. Yea there are conditions for unconditional love. He spoke boldly about those conditions. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Wait…complete joy. There apparently is complete joy in following the rules and regulations laid down by a Jewish rabbi who happens to run the cosmos. When his people’s hearts condemn them and the way begins to get dreary as they’re obedient, he will complete their joy. The joy of obedience. His sacrificial joy of obedience. He would sacrifice for their joy, for his joy.
The disciples would weep on that day. The dawn of the darkest day would temporarily shatter their hopes and dreams of beating the hell out of the Romans all the way out of Israel. The world would rejoice and they would be sorrowful. But, their sorrow would turn into joy. And make no mistake, when their sorrow turned into joy over seeing him again, no one would be able to take their joy away. Once the third day dawned, joy would become a precious commodity that could not rust, mold, or be stolen. And that untouchable joy will be unscathed because technically it will not be their own joy. Immanuel spoke those things in the world that they may have his joy fulfilled in themselves. It is his joy. He is the Creator and Sustainer of their joy. He will fight for their joy. Christ’s love so wishes our joy that it is ruthless against everything in us that diminishes our joy. He fights for our joy because it is his own joy.
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. They ran to tell his disciples that he was not dead. They ran to tell the disciples that their hopes were not dashed. They ran to tell the disciples that it all still has a purpose and they should not wait around aimlessly moping. He did not come to them immediately but waited. He walked with two fellows on a road conversing about hope and expectations. Eventually the two cynics had their eyes opened and hearts changed about the matter. As they ran in joy to the others and began telling what they saw or who they saw, he appeared. They could not believe their eyes. After showing them his hands and feet, they disbelieved for joy and were marveling. They could not believe it. Yet, there was again joy. They disbelieved it for joy. They were too astonished to believe it. I am too astonished to believe it. How does he break the astonishment of his motley crew? By sharing a meal. It was him once again, yet again eating with them. He was sharing a table with them. He was sharing joy with them.
Matt. 2:10, 13:20,44, 25:21,23, 28:8; Mark 4:16; Luke 1:14,44, 2:10, 6:23, 8:13, 10:17, 15:7,10, 24:41,52; John 3:29, 15:11, 16:20-24, 17:13