Joyful Jesus?

This past Sunday was so enjoyable for me: Worshiping, eating, playing, listening to spontaneous music, talking, watching—all with my dear sisters and brothers of New Covenant Fellowship on a gorgeous day in a beautiful park.

It all reminded me how much it means to me that Jesus was a joyful person who enjoyed both God and his friends. Unfortunately, it also reminded me how strangely people often look at me when I make that comment. It seems clear that people are much more aware of “Jesus the man of sorrows” than they are of “Jesus the joyful person.”

But the writers of the New Testament knew Jesus as a person who experienced both of these realities deeply. They believed that Jesus experienced great joy and expected to experience the gift of still greater joy as the consequence of his faithfulness in serving God.In Luke 10:17-21 (21), Jesus tells his disciples, who are experiencing a “high” from being allowed to participate in healings and liberations, that they can be even “higher” about the reality that heaven (God) knows them and has them fully on God’s radar. Then Jesus himself is described in this manner:

That same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Jesus is enjoying the experience of seeing his friends beginning to “get it” about God’s real nature—involved and caring.

In John 15:9-17, Jesus is recorded as describing himself as a very joyful person: “11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Those words would ring pretty hollow to the early readers of John’s gospel if Jesus was not already known as a joyful human being who would only wish that his friends could know as much joy as he did in life. And, to be sure that we readers get the point, the writer quotes Jesus again in 17:13 as saying, “13But now I am coming to you Father, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”

Not to be outdone, the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus in a manner that indicates the stereotypes by which we often portray Jesus are just plain wrong. He was not a stoic altruist. He was not a depressive escapist. He was not someone who masochistically wanted to suffer and be shamed. He is described as a person whose entire life is oriented toward believing that the God of the universe wants to give us joy. And, the writer says it was this joyful view of reality and life that motivated Jesus to faithfully to go through the messy parts of our political and religious and social realities:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God  (Hebrews 12:1-2 and see 11:6 as well).

In short, enjoying yourself may be more Christ-like than you think!


Pastor Ron Simkins

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