Jesus Fruit: What To Do With The Joy - Luke 24:26-48 (Wednesday Night Reflection)
Have you ever had one of those “pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming” moments? You know, those times where what you just discovered or what you were just told was too good to be true. We have those events in our lives from time to time…those events that fill us with a kind of disbelieving joy…For the guys, maybe it was that moment as a teenager when you asked that great looking girl out and she said, “yes,” or maybe it was years later when you asked, “Will you marry me?” and, for some odd reason, she said, “yes.” Gals, maybe it was that day when your husband or boyfriend (depending on whether you are married or not) actually remembered your birthday or anniversary and actually gave you a gift that was more than an afterthought from Dollar General. A newly married couple may experience at the reception or the next morning…new parents may experience it right after the delivery…it may be a job offer or a promotion…it might have been how E.J. Nettles felt when he weighed in the 400 lb Marlin at Big Rock last week.
That’s the feeling the disciples likely had as they were gathered together that evening. They had just heard the report of the two men who had encountered the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Some disciples may still have been questioning the two brothers while others may have just tuned them out and attributed their report to fatigue or drunkenness. Yet, then, it happened. He appeared. Jesus stood there among them…despite the locked doors and locked windows, Jesus was standing right there. They may not have noticed at first as they were carrying on their conversations about the day’s events, but then they heard Jesus speak these words… “Peace be with you.” The Scriptures report, and I imagine that it would have been the same for any of us, that those words of peace had the exact opposite effect on the disciples…they were startled and afraid…they thought they were seeing a ghost.
Jesus continued, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” They looked, and they saw…they saw the nail holes, they noticed the scars and then they were filled with that disbelieving joy…that “pinch-me” or “can’t believe it” kind of joy…Their savior, their teacher, their friend was back amongst them….
We are in our third week of examining what it means to bear “Jesus Fruit,” the Fruit of the Spirit. WE began by noting that it is not sufficient to bear just one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit, but that we are, in a sense, to be a “Fruit Salad.” Last week we examined love…as Christians we are to exhibit love…love for God, love for his creation, and love for one another. This week we move to our aspect of Jesus Fruit, Joy…
What is “joy”? According to Oxford Dictionaries, “joy” is “A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Great pleasure and happiness[i]…
After love, people should be able to look at us as Christians and see great happiness or pleasure in our lives. The Scriptures suggest constantly that we should be filled with joy and be rejoicing people.
From Psalm 32:11 – “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” To Psalm 68:3 – “But let the righteous be joyful; let them exult before God; let them be jubilant with joy.” To Isaiah 29:19 – “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.” To Luke 6:22-23 – “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” To John 15:10-11 – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my life, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” These are just a few of the references that we should be joyful people and if you add to those the expectation or command to rejoice, such as Paul’s commands to the Romans to “rejoice in hope,” to the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always,” and to the Thessalonians to “rejoice always,” we will find at least 393 references to joy and rejoicing throughout God’s Word.
My question is, if we are supposed to be a rejoicing and joyful people, why is it that so many of us do not appear to be so. So often we look so sad, as my grandfather used to put it, “that someone must have licked all the red off our candy.” We walk around so glum that we look like we have just lost our best friend. Some of us, though, don’t walk around sad and depressed…some of us walk around like we have a chip on our shoulder that we just dare someone to knock off. We give the appearance that if someone was to speak to us or just walk around us the wrong way, we might bite their head off. Do we need any more clichés to point out that while we are supposed to be a joy-filled people that we sometimes come across as depressed and bitter?
Some might say, “I don’t have anything to be joyful about. I lost my job. My retirement investments just nosedived. My girlfriend broke up with me. My dog ran off. My car broke down. My house is filled with smoke damage from a grease fire on the stove. And the doctor just told me that I have a chronic illness. How am I supposed to be joyful When all of that is going on? Where am I supposed to find joy?”
The joy comes from knowing the risen Savior. The joy comes from knowing that no matter what is going on with us and where it seems to be going, that God’s love still surrounds us. It is from knowing that nothing in all of creation—not unemployment, not dwindling pensions, not lost relationships, not runaway pets, not broken cars or smoke-filled homes, not illness, and not even death can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is God who walks with us through these tough times…God who will sustain us…God who will hold our hand and even carry us if need be, if we simply trust in Him. God has claimed victory over anything that would try to hurt us in this world. The love of God is our source of joy…a love that loves us despite who we are and where we are and what we have done…that is why we can be a joy-filled people. Jesus promised us that we would go through difficult times…he promised that we would be persecuted and killed…he promised that times would be tough…but He also promised that He would be with us through it all. Think of those times in your life where it seemed to be the darkest and remember how you felt when someone, a family member or a friend, came along side of you…and how that friend/family member’s presence seemed to light the load and make your day a bit brighter…Well, our greatest friend, or biggest brother, our Father, comes alongside of us every day, whether times are good or times are bad…there is our source of joy.
What do we do with this joy…we have to express it…we have to share it…all through the writing of this sermon…like “Jesus Loves Me” of last week, a song I learned as a child has played through my head… “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”. Y’all know the song…from clapping your hands, to stopping your feet, to shouting “Amen,” it all comes down to showing the joy within us… “if you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it….” What are we supposed to do with the joy…we are supposed to express it…we are supposed to share it…we are supposed to turn it loose on those around us…
This is the joy we have from abiding in the vine of Christ…the joy we have in Christ because of the salvation He has brought us and the assurance that He will never leave us, should fill us so completely that when we show it, when we let it loose, it should blow those around us away. It should fill them with joy as well.
Why? My brothers and sisters, it is just like the joy a couple shares when they tell others about their newborn child…or a fiancée has when she shows off her engagement ring or phones her friends about the engagement…or whenever we share the joy of what has happened to it…it makes it that much better. So too it is with the joy of our relationship with Christ…as John says in his first letter, he writes about the good news of Christ and of the love of God so that his joy may be complete. If we keep our joy bottled up within us, it dies, and is unfinished…it is only when we share that joy that our joy is complete…it is fully what God designed it to be. It is when we share that joy that we bring hope into a world that is filled with depression…it is a light shining in the darkness…the light of Christ…the love of Christ…the joy of Christ filling the world.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.