Joy is written on the wreaths outside our homes, and painted on the ornaments adorning our trees. It’s playing through the speakers at the mall, and even worn on ugly Christmas sweaters. But the joy we focus on this third week of Advent is not the advertised emotion of the season; rather it is the joy that comes only from truly knowing Christ. As 1 Peter 1:8–9 reminds us, we are filled with joy upon our belief in Christ: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (NIV).
Let’s look again at the encounters from this week through that lens of true joy.
jesus the joyful servant
When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, we saw Him take the stature of a servant. Is it possible that the joy we find in Christ can lead to serving others? Think about a time when you served someone else. How did it make you feel? Probably tired! But did it lead to joy? 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” God’s grace, given to us, overwhelms with joy and produces a desire to serve so that others might experience the grace of God.
pilate, the reluctant official
For Pilate, we saw his great confusion of truth. Jesus Himself is the way, the truth and the life! (John 14:6). And the truth liberates, allowing for the fullness and freedom of Christ—and the joy he gives—to be experienced. Through this encounter, we also have insight into Jesus’ confidence in God the Father’s will for Him; He did not offer a defense when He was wrongly accused. Why would He do that? We are quick to defend ourselves if wrongly accused. Could it be for the joy that was set before Him? Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus joyfully endured the cross because he knew his sacrifice would bring life to so many who would believe in Him.
the thief remembered
Imagine the torment, anguish, heartache, guilt and despair of hanging on a cross, suffering the consequences of an act of lawlessness you had committed. For most of us, that is a far-fetched reality. But the thief knew hat his life was lost. Now imagine that Jesus frees you from the chains of death and gives you heaven to look forward to. If anything could bring joy in the circumstance of a crucifixion, it would be that! Surely the thief who expressed belief in Jesus and asked to be remembered felt the most joy of his life, even as it ended.
the disciples rejoicing
The disciples experienced great despondency, believing their friend, mentor, and King was gone. Picture their confusion surrounding His empty tomb. Now imagine Him appearing before them! Alive! Their King had risen from the dead! What greater joy could there have been for the disciples than to embrace their friend? He had risen, just as He said he would! The disciples rejoiced as they realized the man in the room with them was in fact, Jesus. Their rejoicing fueled their purpose—God’s purpose for them, that we see in Matthew 28: to go and tell.
Oh, God, would You help us to become more like Jesus as we wait for His triumphant return! May those around us in our homes, in our workplaces, in our churches, in our communities, encounter You through the way in which we joyfully live! And, “May the God of hope fill [us] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).