Jesus: Sorrowful but Always Rejoicing
Much has been made of the fact that Jesus is never said to have smiled or laughed. Linked to the description of the Servant as a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grieft’ it has furnished a basis for the idea that Jesus’ life was unremittingly joyless and stressful.
But this is a serious over-simplification.
Apart from all else, a joyless life would have been a sinful life.
Would Jesus have been guilty of the anxiety he forbade in others (Matthew 6:25)?
Would he have fallen short of Paul’s attainment as one who had learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil 4:11)?
Or of the precept to rejoice always (Phil 4:4)?
Could he have been filled with the Spirit and yet not have known the Spirit’s joy (Gal 5:22)?
Could he have given rest and relief to others (Matt 11:28) while remaining depressed and disconsolate himself?
. . . There are clear and specific statements in the New Testament to the effect that Jesus experienced deep, habitual joy.
In Luke 10:21, for example, he is described as ‘full of joy through the Holy Spirit’ (the verb used is ēgalliasato, from agalliaomai, to ‘exult or be overjoyed’).
In John 15:11 he refers to his own joy: ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’ This clearly implies that the joy Jesus shares with his disciples is, in the first instance, his own. The immediate context makes plan that it was based on his sense of the Father’s love and approbation, and, beyond that, on his obedience to the Father’s commands. There is a similar reference in John 17:13, ‘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.’
. . . He rejoiced, doubtless, in the being of his Father, meditating on him as an object of wonder and admiration; in his Father’s love, approbation and constant help and presence; in the beauties and glories of his Father’s creation; in doing his Father’s will, promoting his glory and saving his people; in the friendship, company, and conversation of those the Father had given to be with him; and in anticipating his return to the glory he had with the Father ‘before the world began’ (Jn. 17:5).
Such joy was an indispensable element in the psychology of his obedience. He served not as a slave but as a Son.
—Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ, Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1998), p. 171.