Joy is the serious business of heaven -C. S. Lewis link
"I am a lowly worm."
I saw this in a comment section of a Calvinista leaning blog site. I wanted to reach out and reassure her that she was deeply beloved by a Jesus who takes joy in her. I knew my comment would not be appreciated so I held my tongue. I kept hoping that someone would tell her she is the joy of Jesus but, sadly, the acceptance of her comment is a sign of the circles that she is spinning in.
So, today I write this reflection for her and for all of you who believe that you are lower than low and that God is eternally miffed at you. You see, I know all of us bear the burden of guilt at times and wonder, deep down inside, " Am I really forgiven? Am I really loved?"
I am here to tell you that you are joyfully loved and that Jesus thought Good Friday was worth it.
Is Good Friday only about sin salvation?
This is not the week for being savvy and sophisticated. This is the week for being simple. Sin and salvation. Death and resurrection. Let every preacher preach this gospel and every congregation hold fast to this word (1 Cor. 15:1-2).
Sin and salvation…Isn't there anything more?
if your core message for this week is something other than “Christ died for our sins,” you’re doing Christianity wrong. If you want to preach about gender equality or social justice or progressive dispensationalism or the extra Calvinisticum, do it a different week. This week is about a substitute for our sin and an empty tomb for our justification.
Let’s not trade the glories of the cross for a mess of religious niceties, spiritual ambiguities, and moral uplift. It’s time to tell the old, old story once again–the story of sin atoned for, wrath appeased, heaven secured, and death conquered. No gimmicks, no trinkets, no goofy skits and video clips.
No moral uplift? Really? Many people get the sin and wrath part. So many people who visit our site are beaten down, worn out with a sinking feeling that maybe God really can't stand them.
Why did Jesus endure the Cross?
I want to thank my pastor who was the first one I have ever heard address joy in connection with the Cross. From Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
My pastor looked out at all of us and said "You are that joy!" I sat stunned and my mind starting going in all sorts of directions. Jesus scorned the shame of the Cross because He looked forward to the joy He has in his relationship with us. We are worth it to Him. We are not worms. We are His joy.
Does God need us?
I have heard this question raised many a time, just recently by one commenter followed by the tedious rejoinder "He has no need of us. He is fully complete in His Triune Self." I believe we are using the wrong words. There is a difference between *need* and *want.*
- Did God *need* to create the universe in all of its infinite beauty?
- Did God *need* to create all the strange, wonderful, beautiful and diverse animals of this world?
- Did God *need* to create my silly pug dogs who make me laugh and my bluebirds who bless me with their multiple babies?
- Did God need to create chocolate, all kinds of music, poetry, the smell of freshly cut grass and honeysuckle and so many beautiful flowers?
God wants us.
God wanted to create a breathtaking universe. He wanted to revel in His beautiful animals, the gorgeous mountains, the nebulas, black holes, and things far beyond our imagination.
More than anything He wanted to be in a joyous relationship with us and He demonstrated that to us on the night He was betrayed. Knowing precisely what would be happening, did He ditch his disciples and go pray by Himself? Good gracious, NO! Fully knowing their weakness, He still wanted His friends with Him.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
It gets even better.
During His ministry, He wanted to continue to relate to the people He loved who had already gone on to heaven. Surely you know the story of the Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-5 (NIV)
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Think about it. He brought his friends along and let them see Elijah and Moses. Even the Father had something to say about this.
Jesus' ministry involved a joyful friendship with His disciples who were just as sinful and messed up as the rest of us. Yet Jesus found joy in His time with them.
Jesus, on the Cross, communicated with John, the one He especially loved, and He made sure Mary was taken care of. It was His joy to love them during his suffering.
He did not *need* the presence of John and Mary. He wanted him there. He valued His friends and family that even on the Cross, He made sure to care for His mother. John 19:25-27 NIV.
Are these the acts of Savior who views us as worms?
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Jesus, after the Resurrection, went and hung out with His friends once again
Think about it. Was Jesus' appearance to the disciples and others just a perfunctory "See, I'm alive, you ungrateful worms? Now, I am getting back to heaven and away from all of your wretched sinners." " No, in some respects it was a bit like a huge road trip and party. He rejoiced as they rejoiced. He wanted to be with them.
Here is a chronological list of his appearances from Community in Mission. I have not listed all of them from the post but you get the idea. He wanted to be with His friends. (For the women out there, He appeared first to the women and allowed them to be the first to declare His resurrection.)
I. Mary, lingering at the tomb weeps and is fearful. Peering into the tomb she sees this time two angels who wonder why she weeps. Jesus then approaches her from behind. Not looking directly at Jesus, she supposes him to be the gardener. Then he calls her by name, and Mary, recognizing his voice, turns and sees him. Filled with joy she clings to him. (APPEARANCE 1) (Jn 20:16)
J. Jesus sends her back to the apostles with the news to prepare them for his appearance later that day. (Jn 20:17)
K. The other women have departed the apostles and are on their way possibly back home. Jesus then appears to them (Mt 28:9) after he had dispatched Mary. He also sends them back to the apostles with the news that he had risen and that he would see them. (APPEARANCE 2)
II. The Afternoon and evening of day one.
A. Later that Day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus are pondering what they have heard about rumors of his resurrection. Jesus comes up behind them but they are prevented from recognizing him. First Jesus breaks open the word for them, then sits at table with them and celebrates the Eucharist whereupon their eyes are opened and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. (APPEARANCE 3) (Lk 24:13-30)
B. The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem and went to the Eleven. At first the eleven disbelieved them just as they had the women (Mk 16:13). Nevertheless they continue to relate what they had experienced. At some point Peter drew apart from the others (perhaps for a walk?) And the Lord appeared to Peter (APPEARANCE 4)(Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5) who informed the other ten who then believed. Thus the disciples from Emmaus (still lingering with the apostles) were now told (perhaps by way of apology) that it was in indeed true that Jesus had risen (Lk 24:34).
C. Almost at the same moment Jesus appears to the small gathering of apostles and the two disciples from Emmaus. (APPEARANCE 5) Thomas was absent (although the Lucan text describes the appearance as to “the eleven” this is probably just a euphemism for “the apostles” as a group) They are startled but Jesus reassures them and opens the scriptures to them (Lk 24:36ff).
D. There is some debate as to whether he appeared to them a second time that night. The Johannine account has significantly different data about the appearance on the first Sunday evening from the Lucan account. Is it merely different data about the same account or is it a wholly separate appearance? It is not possible to say. Nevertheless since the data is so different we can call it (APPEARANCE 6) (Jn 20:19ff) though it is likely synonymous with appearance 5.
III. Interlude –
A. There is no biblical data that Jesus appeared to them during the week that followed. The next account of the resurrection says, “Eight days later” namely the following Sunday.
B. We do know that the apostles surely exclaimed to Thomas that they had seen the Lord but he refused to believe it. (Jn 20:24)
C. Were the apostles nervous that Jesus had not appeared again each day? Again we do not know, the data is simply silent as to what happened during this interlude.
IV. One week later, Sunday two.
A. Jesus appears once again (APPEARANCE 7) to the apostles gathered. This time Thomas is with them. He calls Thomas to faith who now confesses Jesus to be Lord and God. (Jn 20:24-29)
V. Interlude 2
A. The time frame of the next appearance is somewhat vague. John merely says “After this.” Likely it is a matter of days or a week at best. The scene is at the Sea of Galilee. Not all the Twelve are present. They have gone fishing, and Jesus summons them from the lakeside. They come to shore and see him (APPEARANCE 8 ) . Peter has a poignant discussion with Jesus in this appearance and is commissioned to tend the flock of Christ (Jn 21).
B. The Appearance to the 500. Of all the appearances you might think that this one would have been recorded in some detail since it was the most widely experienced appearance. Many accounts, it seems, would have existed and at least one would have made its way into the scriptures. Yet there is no account of it, other than it did in fact happen. Paul records the fact of this appearance: 1 Cor 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (APPEARANCE 9) Where did this take place. What was it like. What was the reaction? We simply do not know. Proof once again that the Bible is not a history book in the conventional sense. Rather it is a highly selective telling of what took place, not a complete account. The Bible makes no pretenses to be something it is not. It is quite clear that it is a selective book: (Jn 20:30).
C. The Appearance to James. Here again we do not have a description of this appearance only a remark by Paul that it did in fact happen: 1 Cor 15:7 Then he appeared to James. (APPEARANCE 10) The time frame is not clear. Only that it happened after the appearance to the five hundred and before the final appearance to the apostles.
VII. The rest of the forty days.
A. Jesus certainly had other on-going appearances with the disciples. Luke attests to this in Acts when he writes: Acts 1:3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
B. During this time there is perhaps the one appearance we can attribute to this time period as recorded by Matthew (Mt 28:16ff) and Mark (Mk 16:14ff). It takes place an “a mountaintop in Galilee.” Mark adds that they were reclining at table. For these notes this appearance (time frame uncertain) is referred to as (APPEARANCE 11) It is here that he give the great commission
I hope that I am getting through to you. If you feel crushed down by sermons that emphasize your failures, pastors that pound you over the head with each and every thing that you mess up and do wrong, remember this. 2000 years ago, it was taken care of. It is done. It is finished and you can get on with the joy of your relationship with Jesus. Never forget that His relationship with you is why Good Friday occurred.
So, tonight as you sit and contemplate sin and salvation, do not forget about joy, the reason He endured the Cross.
The following is probably one of my favorite songs ever. It sums up this post quite nicely.