A wonderful blogger friend of mine brought up a fascinating matter to me the other day. He had just read last week’s post, “Absorbing Joy from a Cheerful Savior.” He posed an insightful question about it: How does the concept of Jesus being cheerful, work with Isaiah’s description of Him as “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”? (Isa. 53:3, NKJV). This was such an excellent point of consideration that I decided to write about it.
I am going to start this one with an example from my own experience. As we think on the subject of acquaintance with sorrow, a friend I’ve had for many years comes to mind. He is one of the most joyful people in my world, although he has been through profound suffering in his life. In spite of all he has endured, he is the most cheerful person I have ever met. Everyone loves to be around him; he is always smiling and laughing. You see, I believe that the deepest kind of suffering, God-joy, and cheerfulness intermingle in a most amazing way.
This is how it was with Jesus, too. He faced adversities beyond what you and I will ever taste; yet His joy during His earthly life was the deepest kind of joy that there is. We know from Paul that sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive; the apostle testified that he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10, NKJV). Indeed, he wrote his most joyful epistle, Philippians, from prison. This letter of his manages to incorporate the words “joy” and “rejoice” sixteen times in just four chapters. Supernaturally, Paul was overflowing with spiritual gladness in the midst of real suffering.
So was Jesus. Hebrews speaks of Him, applying this Psalm: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Heb. 1:9, ESV). This tells us that He was considerably more joyful than the people that surrounded Him. If He was that much more joyful, it must have been markedly noticeable.
The Bible also teaches us that Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3, ESV). Just last week we talked about how God gets so happy about us that He bursts into loud singing. We find this imagery in Zephaniah 3:17: “He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (ESV).
The original language for “rejoice over you” literally means “to dance, skip, leap, and spin around in joy.” Strong’s elaborates: “to spin around (under the influence of any violent emotion).” Wow, now that is quite the demonstrative expression of God’s happy feelings about us! And Hebrews says that Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature. So if the Father literally leaps for joy over His love for us, then it gives us another inkling of Jesus’ expressive joy while here on the earth as well. After all, He came to reveal the Father to us.
This makes me wonder what His face was like when He “was filled by the Holy Spirit with rapturous joy” (Luke 10:21, Weymouth). How His countenance must have shone! Yes, Jesus was a markedly joyful person, in a wonderfully profound way, and He invites us to share His joy. “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11, NLT). Wow! Jesus’ own joy can be yours and mine!
None of this detracts, however, from the ferociously steep price of affliction and grief that He bore for us. By no means do we want to think of Him as someone who experienced life as all roses and no thorns. On the contrary! He endured sorrow and pain beyond what any human being ever has, or ever will. In His character, suffering and supernatural joy were intermingled in an achingly beautiful way. As we walk with Him, He will teach us to live this way, too.
I imagine that you are enduring some degree of suffering in your life right now. Life on Planet Earth just seems to come with plenty of it included. Looking unto Jesus’ example can give us great hope as we continue to push forward, walking hand in hand with our Master. Let’s follow in His footsteps. Even as we endure the daily challenges of our life here, let’s press into the supernatural joy that He has promised us. Let’s make space for it. Let’s receive from Him His very own joy until it overflows!
Do you believe that Jesus had a ready smile and chuckle during His life on earth? Or does it seem like He had a more serious face much of the time?
For more on the subject of joy and how the Father wants to generously produce it in our lives, check out my podcast series:
Starting here for iTunes: Joy That Super-Abounds
Starting here for Google Podcasts: Joy That Super-Abounds