Jesus has been called the Man of Sorrows—in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:3). Does a careful reading of the New Testament reveal anything about His joys? Let us study His Person, His words, and His ways.
The Joy of Sinlessness
Of this joy you and I know nothing. The one fact, common to us all, is that we have sinned. We have all come to the hour of rest with the burden and shame of sin weighing down our hearts. We have all awakened in the morning with the gnawing of remorse. We have all felt a hot blush at the recollection of iniquities. We all still know how, at times, impulses of rebellion rise within us. And at all these times our joy is quenched.
But when we have known ourselves purged from our iniquities, when we have cast out some lurking sin, when we have overcome and have put some temptation under our feet, then we have known the ministry of angels, and we have stood at the edge of Christ’s joy.
But how poorly do these experiences compare with Christ’s joy in His unspotted righteousness! Think of a conscience which had no accusing voice; of a spirit which had no burden of personal guilt; of a heart that never hungered after shameful wrong. Think of a soul that lived in the unclouded sunshine of the presence of God—so that no tears of shame for sin ever stained His cheek, and no broken, penitent prayer was ever on His lips. Now try to conceive the deep joy of a sinlessness like that. The happy, laughing innocence of a child, compared to it, is but a world of shadows broken by light. He could say, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).
The Joy of Service and Sacrifice
It is in the hour of consecration to holy service, in the days of heroic self-denial, in the doing of the deed in which life itself is laid down that we experience true joy. When Jesus tells His disciples how their service and sacrifice, wrought out in sorrow, will yield them joy, He has no higher image than a mother’s joy in her sacrifice for her child. “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).
Has not your own experience brought this home to you? When you have accepted the burdens of your home; when you have gone to the help of the needy, the sick, the poor, and the dying; when you made that sacrifice that left its mark on your life, you found a wellspring of joy which has been a solace for almost every sorrow. Think, then, what must have been Christ’s joy in His holy service, in His great sacrifice. In every deed by which He made the children glad, or wiped away the tears of those who mourned, or healed the sick who were brought to Him; in every step forward towards His goal, He entered into His deep delight in spiritual things.
In one way, the day of the cross is the darkest, saddest, most tragic in the world’s history. Yet it was the day of Christ’s highest joy. As He went up the way of weeping—spent, forsaken, marked for death—women of Jerusalem lamented Him. He turned and looked upon them, and the triumph-song broke from His lips, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me” (Luke 23:28). He was going to the deed which crowned His life; He was accomplishing the purpose of His heart; He was on the threshold of His highest service and sacrifice, and His joy was almost full.
If you have ever felt the deep joy of making some poor heart glad; if you have known the leaping of the spirit when some abandoned life has been saved from shame; if you have known the thrill when you have led some child to Christ, you can begin to realize what must have been the spiritual delight of the Son of God in that day when He died to set His people free.
The source of Christ’s joy, I suggest, was His deep delight in the spiritual attainments of others. It is renewed today when He sees our faces turned toward Him; when He sees us laying aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies and evil speaking; when He sees us overcoming by faith. This is “the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2) for which He endured the cross and despised the shame.
Making His Joys Ours
God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), and ennobles all the pure joys of earth. But He continually tells us that these are not the highest joys possible to the spirit of a man. The highest joy—the joy He would have remain in you—is a deep delight in spiritual things.
As guilty, sin-stained people, we cannot have the joy of sinlessness. But we can possess the joy which corresponds to it—the joy of pardon, of peace with God. We can have the joy of service and sacrifice, of complete surrender to His will. The world around us is stretching out its withered hands to be healed, its empty hearts to be filled. We can have that purest, holiest joy, into which no subtle selfishness enters, by ministering to the spiritual well-being of others.
As we enter into this joy of Jesus we shall find it quenching all desire for worldly and degrading pleasures, preparing us for solemn hours of trial, satisfying our spirits in the years when all other delights may fade, and fitting us for that hour of awakening in His presence. It is a blessing which makes rich and adds no sorrow, a foretaste of the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore.
—W. M. Clow, adapted.