Monday, February 22, 2010

The Full Measure of Jesus' Joy

(A hummingbird, at "the cove" in La Jolla.)

Jesus, in John 17:13, prays "[Father] I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they [Jesus' disciples] may have the full measure of my joy within them." What does Jesus mean by "the full measure of my joy?"

The source of Jesus' joy comes from his obedience to the will of the Father. The joy of Jesus lies in dwelling in the Trinitarian perichoretic union (what I am referring to as "The Big Dance"). In this union the Father, Son, and Spirit are in a loving, joy-filled unity about plans and values. Out of this unity flows, inexorably, "obedience." When you love the Mission the living out of the Mission is a no-brainer. It's not true that from obedience comes love. It is always true that from love comes obedience.

For example, let's say you love Breyer's ice cream. Which, BTW, you probably do. Along comes me, and I issue this command to you: "I command you to eat Breyer's ice cream." You say, "OK." And it is your great joy to do this. Because from love flows joyful obedience. To accomplish the command, even to envisage the accomplishing of the command, brings joy.

Jesus once gave this conditional statement: "If you love me, you will keep my commands." As an analogy to explain, consider this conditional statement: If it rains, the ground gets wet. But of course. Always. Necessarily. In the same way if you love Jesus, you will keep his commands. Of course.

Jesus loves the Father in a unitive way; therefore Jesus keeps the commands of the Father. Because he and the Father are "one." They are of one heart and one mind. With this in mind New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger writes: “Jesus holds up his desire for his followers that they experience ‘the full measure of my joy,’ which is predicated upon remaining in the Father’s love and continued obedience to Jesus.” (Kostenberger, The Gospel of John, 495)

What this means for you and I is that we are promised the full joy of Jesus as we lovingly abide in him. To be where Jesus is, to follow after Jesus, to do the things Jesus does and even greater things than he did on earth - that’s when the joy-thing happens. And nothing can steal this joy from us. Not even suffering. The reality of the joy of the Lord is not a function of one's life circumstances. This joy can be known in the midst of the world’s hostility. Remember that Paul writes the most about “joy” when he is in prison. For Paul there was nothing that could separate him from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:38-39)

Or, consider Jesus. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) "Joy" and "enduring the shameful cross" seem to be mutually exclusive things. Yet the claim is that they are not. The ups-and-downs of life do not serve to allow or disallow the experience of joy. "Joy" comes from the Jesus-connection, like a branch connected to a vine. Jesus has joy as he faces the suffering that is to come because his joy is not about the elimination of pain but doing the will of the Father.

My greatest joy-filled moments increasingly have to do with participating in the redemptive activity of Jesus. The "commands" of Jesus are life-giving. I have found that the cost of discipleship is far less than the cost of non-discpleship.