Jesus makes two remarkable statements in front of his disciples during their time in the upper room right before he is arrested and crucified:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13)
So first of all, what was it that Jesus told them so that his joy would be in them and their joy would be complete? He said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10) One of the things that brought Jesus joy was obeying his Father’s command and the enjoyment of his Father’s love. Do you remember ever basking in your parents’ love for you, or in the love of a friend or spouse? But you will certainly remember being out of sorts with a parent, friend or spouse and how joyless that was.
We find great joy in the very thing that defines how God relates and what we were made for in His image — LOVE. Love has a way of transforming the cold, damp condition of our heart into a bright and burning ember of excitement. And in our relationship with God it is obedience that most easily awakens us to the fact of how much He loves us.
In John 17 Jesus prays for his disciples and acknowledges that they have obeyed God. He asks the Father to keep them in unity and to protect them from their enemies. These are the things he is praying in front of them so that they will have the full measure of his joy in them.
Though we may say that the source of Jesus’ joy was his obedience to the Father, there is another passage that gives us another perspective.
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said…” (Luke 10:21). What follows is a voicing of joyful worship on Jesus’ lips. From the perspective of our responsibility, obedience brings joy as we bask in the Father’s love for us. From the standpoint of God’s inner working in our lives, it is the Holy Spirit who is the source of our joy and causes us to erupt in worship.
Just as Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and walking in obedience to the Father, so we too can be full of the Holy Spirit and walk in obedience, and so experience the deep, deep joy of Jesus in all its fullness. This is what Jesus wants for us. This is his legacy to us.
When you come to him today, ask him to teach you his joy.