The Fullness of Christ’s Joy

Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that God anointed Christ with the oil of gladness above His fellows.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We can learn the character of Christ’s joy from this text. One thing we learn is the abundance of it — His joy is above His fellows — Jesus Christ has more joy than any other person.  “Jesus Christ is the happiest being in the universe.”[1]  Does that sound too trite to you?  If so, it is only the fault of our language and the way we use the word “happy.” To say that Jesus is the happiest being in the universe is anything but trite. More on that in a moment.

We also learn the fullness of Christ’s joy.  He has all the joy that can be had.  To apply our definition, He has a full and perfect satisfaction in Himself as the 2nd person of the Godhead, and a full and perfect delight in His own will as God.  Whenever the Bible speaks of fullness of joy, it is speaking of the joy that Christ has – a joy that the saints of God can look forward to someday when we finally enter into the joy of the Lord.

The truth is, Jesus Christ has an infinite capacity for joy.  There is no limit to His joy.  It would be impossible to limit His capacity for joy or His fullness of joy at all, ever. 

These three things – the abundant joy, the fullness of joy, and the infinite joy of Jesus Christ – all appear in our text. I want to point out just 2 more qualities of the joy of Jesus Christ. First, His joy is a contagious joy. You simply can’t be around Jesus Christ without catching some of His joy.  In His life, wherever He went He spread His joy to others.  This began even before His birth.  We see His mother Mary filled with joy at the announcement of His birth. 

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Luke 1:46-47)

We see John the Baptist leaping for joy in his mother’s womb. 

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. (Luke 1:41-44)

We see the joy of the people He healed.  When Jesus healed the 10 lepers, we recognize the sure signs of joy.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16)

The blind man Jesus healed along the road to Jericho couldn’t contain his joy.

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God. (Luke 18:43)

We can imagine the joy of Mary Magdalene who was delivered of 7 devils. 

But the joy of Jesus Christ was never put on display more vividly than when He, “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.”  Against the backdrop of supreme suffering, the joy of Christ shines brightest.  And here we come to the crux of the matter.

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It is easy to think that joy is reserved for people who never suffer anything. But the truth is, it is difficult to experience the depths of joy that God has for you until you experience the depths of pain and suffering that He has for you. There is a joy that is glib and carefree and knows no pain. I do not despise it, but I do not envy it either. I can assure you that Jesus Christ was not acquainted with this kind of glib joy. Listen to the way the Bible describes Him:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: (Isaiah 53:3)

As Jesus approached His finest hour, the point of His entire life, what He was anointed to do, the Bible tells us that He prayed in the garden, and this is what He said:

“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death:”

What do we see with Jesus Christ?  Was He “happy, happy, happy,” never sad, only happy?  Of course not. 

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Jesus experienced every kind of human pain: hunger, weariness, loneliness, sorrow, betrayal, loss, hatred, envy, malice. He had no place to lay down His head. He was forsaken, He was whipped, He was mocked, He was crucified. And yet, what do we see?  A vivid reminder that the joy of the Lord is indestructible.

What are we to make of this?  What does this tell us about joy? It tells us that even when you suffer, you can rejoice. Sorrow and pain and suffering might take a heavy toll on you, and you might wonder where joy went when you find yourself crushed by heartbreaking pain. You might wonder how suffering and sorrow can be consistent with joy. But here you have it, right from the pages of Scripture.

It was not – it is not inconsistent to say that Jesus is the happiest being in the universe, and to call Him a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. The truth is, this is how Jesus can say that in His presence is fullness of joy. Because the joy of Christ would be incomplete without suffering. Or rather, the joy of Christ would be invisible without it – we wouldn’t be able to see it, we wouldn’t be able to relate to it at all without that backdrop of pain and sorrow and suffering.

“For the joy that was set before him” Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame. Isn’t that wonderful?  Jesus experienced joy the way we do. And this makes it possible that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.”

As we consider the joy of Christ, we learn what our joy can be, and what it should be.  “My joy I give to you,” Jesus said.  The joy He gives is not trite, carefree, or superficial.  His joy, the joy He shares with us, is necessarily mingled with sorrow, with pain, with disappointment.  Fullness of joy cannot be experienced without a significant part of suffering and pain – at least not in this life.

When we enter into eternity – the joy of the Lord – God promises to wipe away all tears and to bring an end to all the pain and suffering that is present in this life. 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 25:8)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

In that day, we will experience fullness of joy the way God experiences it. But I find it very encouraging to know that when He entered our world, Jesus experienced joy the way we experience it – mingled with sorrow. And I find it even more encouraging to read that Jesus Christ “for the joy that was set before Him” endured the cross, despising the shame.

Against the backdrop of our suffering, joy can shine.  As we experience the joy of Jesus Christ, let us learn to rejoice, particularly in our suffering.  True joy is joy that overcomes – weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

[1] John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ in his chapter “The Indestructible Joy,” p. 36. As I have repeated throughout this series, Piper’s teaching on the subject of joy has shaped these articles in countless ways.  If you are familiar with his work, you will recognize his influence on my thinking here.  Please do not read this as an endorsement of all that he teaches, but please do understand that I highly recommend his teaching on the subject of joy.

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