Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
If there is one thing that this world needs more of it is joy. More times than not the news is depressing; money gets tight so you start obsessing; and our culture is going down the drain so you are distressing.
Yes, joy seems hard to come by these days. It’s easy to become disheartened and worried. We ask, “Where has all the joy gone?” Far too many and far too often we are walking around with glum faces, seeing only the dark and dreary places. It’s like the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow titled The Rainy Day:
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Perhaps the words of this poem are fitting for you. You know or have known what it is to wake up each day saying, My life is cold, and dark, and dreary. Of course, you would rather it not be, but unrest returns day after day. You are heartbroken by the harshness of life, and lament the unfairness it brings, not to mention the inevitable and impending death of your mortal body. It leaves you looking for some hope and longing for some joy.
What you need is some Good News. In fact, you need some pure unadulterated 200 proof Gospel Good News! In the Gospel there is a compelling story that brings mountains of joy and oceans of hope: Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
The heart of Christian astonishment is the mind-boggling goodness of the Good News. It’s the understanding that joy in life comes from Christ’s presence in your life. This means joy is far more than the fleeting and arbitrary moments of happiness. Happiness is nice, but happiness comes and goes. Joy, however, is lasting and capable of being present when you are anything but happy. Even in suffering, as miserable as it can be, (and believe you me I know it can get pretty miserable), joy can still be found.
So amid all of the days that are cold, and dark, and dreary, you and I want some JOY. We want something that when you hear it you can’t but help respond with exuberant jubilation. So lets test this thought. You want joy? You want hope? You want astonishment? Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
There is something utterly invigorating about the joy of the resurrected Christ. No, He doesn’t promise you a rose garden, but there is something immensely powerful about a Savior who walks through death, comes back to life, walks right to up to you, baptizes you in his name, wraps the arms of His Holy Spirit around you and says, “I know you. I know you inside and out. I’ve laid down my life for you. These things I’ve said to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full.”
Yes, the resurrected Jesus is on the loose, running wild, pouring out His Holy Spirit, speaking His Word of grace, baptizing babies and adults, forgiving sins, speaking hope, bringing joy, and feeding the spiritually hungry with His presence under bread and wine. And He’s come for you today.
That’s the Gospel! It’s the Good News. Jesus loves you day in and day out. Amid every failure, flop, and fault of your life, you live under a banner that says, “It is Finished!” Christ has conquered. He shed His blood. He’s paid your price. He forgives your sins.
So look to Jesus, say the scriptures, look to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2).
Where has all the joy gone? It’s in Christ and He brings it to you this day. He invites you to revel in His love and rest in His affection. This is the astonishing goodness of the Gospel. It renews your mind. It restores your soul! Amen? Amen!
“Amen!” We say it often and regularly. But have we paused to take in what it means? Amen is a word of solemn assent given to the words spoken in a congregation. It puts the exclamation point on our prayers and gives closure to our praises. Amen closes the doxology. It frames the liturgy—beginning and end. It’s often the joy bursting out of the mouth at the sound of God’s goodness and the hope of Christ’s forgiveness.
True, LCMS Lutherans usually just smile as loud as we can rather than let the joy of an “Amen” fill the air. Nonetheless, we do say our Amens. The Small Catechism reminds us that when we say “Amen” we are saying, yes, yes, it shall be so! Thus, the Amen is the bold concluding affirmation of God’s promise that in Christ it shall be so!
In fact, Jesus Himself uses the word. He uses “Amen” to vest a statement with special authority. “Amen, Amen I say unto you…” “Truly, truly I say to you…” He actually says it just before the Gospel text for today in John 14.
Yet, “Amen” is often said with difficulty, in tears, and amid hardship. But even so, it still carries with it the recognition that, come what may, be it darkness, disease, or death, joy is there in the middle of that mess by the power and presence of the living Christ. So when you hear the Good News, and your soul stirs inside because the pure unadulterated 200 proof goodness of Jesus Christ just washed over you, you can’t help but say “Amen!”
Most of the time we just say it internally because saying it out loud might distract the preacher or draw attention to yourself. As I have said before, don’t you know you can’t interrupt a preacher when you say “Amen!” It’s merely the affirmation that the Good News is the Good News; that there is JOY to be had in it! No preacher is going to stop that.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” If you are looking for joy, look to Jesus. Stop looking in mirrors, walking the mall, or counting your money to find JOY. If you want joy, look to Jesus. He puts joy in your soul so that your joy may be full; that your cup runs over; and your spirit takes flight.
The third and final stanza of that poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a helpful reminder of the hope that still lies behind those dreary and weary days:
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Jesus knows this. He experienced it. The darkness of Good Friday was especially thick and heavy for Him. Yet, that’s why He’s your Savior. He bore the cross and shed His blood for you in the darkness of that day. But then He walked out of the tomb alive to come and get you.
Behind the darkness of your days the Son (of God) is still shinning. He’s the one who made you, redeems you, saves you and stops at nothing to love you wholly and completely.
You see, Jesus is enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. And He’s come for you today. Where has all the joy gone? It’s in Jesus. Look to Him!
Jesus is the best friend you’ll ever have. He won’t back down. He won’t give up. He’s the greatest phenomenon that’s ever crossed the horizon of this world.
He’s God's Son. He’s the sinner’s Savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands second to none. Amen? Amen!
He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He is the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He is the supreme problem for skeptics. He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology. (S.M. Lockridge).
He’s the miracle of the age. He is the superlative of everything good you choose to call Him; And today He’s come for you!
You want JOY? Jesus gives it! He’s the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient Savior. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted. He stands by the tried. He shines light into your dark days and He’s come for you today!
He forgives sinners and He discharges debtors. He sympathizes and He saves. He strengthens and He sustains. He guards and He guides. Jesus brings JOY!
He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He heals the sick. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He beautifies the meek. And He’s come for you today.
You want joy? Jesus brings it. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t stop His love. You can’t out live Him, and you can’t live without Him. Even on the rainy days there is JOY in Jesus, and He brings it to you!
The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him.
Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him, and the grave couldn’t hold Him. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Where has all the joy gone? Jesus Christ brings it in abundance! “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
This JOY He gives to you here and now. It will remain forever. In fact, it will be forever and ever—in His kingdom, in His glory, forever and ever. And when you get through with all the “forevers”—just as Jesus teaches in the Lord’s prayer, “for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever—then comes, AMEN!