Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
It’s been such a long time since I’ve written to offer a reflection on the day’s reading! If you’re interested in a REALLY good book about the person we call, Jesus the Christ, I suggest a book titled, “Jesus Before Christianity,” by Albert Nolan. There is a link to it on Amazon.com below if you are interested, or you can just click on the picture. You can get it for less than a dollar! In his book, Albert Nolan said the defining characteristic of Jesus was his joy. He was joyful and his joy brought joy to others–even amidst their struggles in life. You might even know people like this yourself. Somehow, just being in their presence seems to make the day a little brighter, your happiness even happier, or your sorrow a little less difficult to bear. I’ve got a good friend like this myself. He lives next a door over from ours, and I know that no matter what project I’m working on, no matter what difficulty I’m facing, no matter what I’m going through he’s going to go through it with me…and it makes my difficulty a little easier to bear. (He also usually brings a couple of adult beverages!) 🙂
In Jesus’ time (as in ours, albeit in different ways) there was much suffering, sadness, and brokenness. Life under Roman occupation was incredibly difficult. Not only were the Jews oppressed by the Romans, but many Jews blamed the occupation on the sinfulness of God’s people. They were busy pointing the finger at everyone around them for all their troubles. So not only was there occupation from without, but on top of there was blame, guilt, and oppression from within! This is what made Jesus so much different from other leaders in his day, according to Nolan. Jesus’ relationship with God the Father–his absolute certainty of his Father’s love for him liberated him from the guilt and suffering of those around him. Liberated by the Father’s love, he brought joy and life and peace, and most importantly, forgiveness and liberation to others that he met.
Jesus lifted the burden and weight sin and guilt from all those he met. Anyone who was willing to repent and believe in the Gospel could enter into the Kingdom and begin experiencing this newness of life right then and there. They could return home to the Father’s love regardless of their wrongdoing, have their sins absolutely forgiven and forgotten and once again experience joy, life, and peace from being made whole again through union with the Father through Jesus Christ.
The distinguishing characteristic, then, of a disciple of Jesus, one who has been healed and forgiven by God, is that same joy that was had by Jesus himself. Jesus was joyful in spite of pain because he knew who he was–God’s own Son. And so we become as adopted children of God through Jesus Christ. Is any wonder Jesus taught his disciples to call God “Father” when he taught them to pray? The disciple of Jesus has joy because he too has been made aware of his great dignity, amazing worth, and how much he is loved by God. This doesn’t make the disciple a perfect person all of a sudden, but it does make it possible to be a person that is perfect in joy, because he has been perfectly loved and perfectly healed by a God who is willing to perfectly love in spite of our sinfulness.
As you continue through this Easter season, remember that we are an Easter people. We are a risen people. We are a forgiven people. And there are so many people around us who could use some loving, some forgiveness, and some joy! Don’t be afraid to bright the joy and the love of Christ to your family, your workplace, and our world. We need it!