John 17:13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
We gain wonderful knowledge in this out loud prayer of Jesus and because of this knowledge we can take joy. God never intended for Christians to be prudes, to be uptight or to be joyless. If we are to be Christ-like, then we should be joyful. Jesus was a joyful. If you were to walk up to a non-believer and ask if Jesus was a joyful person, there is a good chance they would say He was not. Yet in Jesus’ time of ministry on earth, He was invited to dine with people, invited to weddings and parties and wherever He went a crowd would assemble around Him. That doesn’t happen with angry and dour people and certainly we would not deny that Jesus manifested the fruits of the Spirit, of which one is Joy.
Galatians 5:22–23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
All these things ring true for Jesus, but unbelievers identify Jesus with believers, after all Paul wrote that we are Christ’s ambassadors. I think any impression that Jesus was not joyful can be attributed to an unfortunate interaction with a Christian who was not joyful.
Jesus’ joy sprung out of His intimate relationship with His Father and the Spirit and from His awareness of God’s purposes … All things we see in this John 17 prayer. These are things Christians have as well through the many promises of God and through the work Jesus did on the cross, His resurrection and His ascension to heaven where He lives to make intercession for us. Do I think that all Christians should be joyful? Yes, given the many reasons such as: God’s deliverance, God’s goodness, the rightness of God’s precepts, God’s presence, salvation, God’s words, God’s generosity, and God’s love, grace and mercy … not an exhaustive list but a good list of things we in no way deserve yet we receive when we submit our lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But if we stop there, we are only looking at one part of what Jesus said in verse 13 … because it is “that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” So I think we need to answer the question, “What is Jesus’ joy?”
Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Psalm 40:8 (NKJV) I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”
The joy of Jesus was absolute self-surrender to the will of His Father, and self-sacrifice, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.
Have you allowed Jesus Christ to introduce you to His joy? It is found in taking on the attitude of Christ, even as Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus … “ In other words, have the same attitude that Jesus had. That means being unconcerned with title, serving others in humility, self sacrifice, obeying God, never complaining, and sharing the love of God both in word and deed. All those things are from Philippians 2 and Paul wrapped it up with this:
Philippians 2:17-18 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
Yes, there are things more important than the latest movie, the latest music, television, the Big Game and the latest Christian living book that tells you to walk in circles or chant God’s names … Or whatever it might be that is hindering you or delaying you from serving, sacrifice, obedience or loving God and loving others … Keeping you from (as Paul wrote in Philippians 2) … living “clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Unlike the majority of Christian Living books on the shelves of today’s bookstores, the Word of God will never return void and so these very things that Jesus is praying in John 17 are being worked out in you and in me as we study the Bible …. and that is something we can take great joy in together.