As many times as I have looked for it, melancholy, self-pity, moping and complaining just do not seem to be a part of Jesus’ game.
Sure, he weeps with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. And he sweat drops of blood in the garden at the Mount of Olives before his arrest, too. Jesus was also that same person who wept for Jerusalem as he entered it: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city who kills her prophets, would that I could spread my wings around you but you were unwilling. Sure, Jesus had plenty of moments that were sad, serious and soul-searching. That is unavoidable. It is natural for all of us to feel down sometimes but Jesus presents to us a way of life that is completely different. He was happy.
It all started before we started. God was really happy at his position of God, three-in-one. That was the best job around and he got to do it constantly. And he liked it a lot. The Father loved the Son and delighted in him. The Son loved the Father and delighted in his will. The Spirit loved the Son and used his energy to express his joy in the presence of Father and Son.
Jonathan Edwards goes so far as to say that the reason God created the world in the first place was because he could no longer contain his love for himself. He wanted to create robins, spaniels, oak trees and blue whales to praise him in their various voices. Then he created Adam and Eve. Male and female were in his image and his likeness. The happiness of God was off to a terrific start. The earth was humming the Maker’s song and do you know what? None of this distracted God from loving himself first.
That may seem selfish until we realize that he absolutely has to love himself first. For our Father to delight in you he first has to delight in his Son and his Spirit. God has to love us after himself, right? How else could we make sense out of a chapter like Ezekiel 36 when, amidst the institution of the new covenant, God calls attention again and again to the fact that this whole salvation thing is for his name’s sake? God must be for God before he can possibly be for me.
So when Jesus came to us, even as the Man of Sorrows, he came seeking the fulfillment of his own joy. Nothing would make him happier than to buy back Adam’s sons from our treacherous turning against his Father. He would have to endure pain, rejection, sadness, temptation, hunger, thirst, loneliness for his love to come across but it turns out he was more than willing to endure this pain for the simple fact that there was a full joy for him on the other side of the cross.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that it is much easier to write a serious column for the Times than to draw a silly cartoon for the same publication. His point was that we all too often see seriousness as a spiritual gift, when in fact, all that may show is our willingness to be God. If we are unhappy with what God has given us, what other conclusion can we draw than to say we are striving to take his place on the throne?
Can you imagine anyone being as intentional about joy and happiness as Jesus? He did not faintly wish he would have a season of happiness; he pursued it with all he possessed. And that is a lot, considering this man Jesus was God.
And the command of the gospel is a simple today as it was yesterday. This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be full.
If we want the joy our God offers us by being for us in the man Jesus, we have to be for one another.