The dark scenes of Christ being in anguish and His sweat “like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk 22:44) in the Garden of Gethsemane, His gruesome torcher at the hands of Roman soldiers, and His agonizing, six hour crucifixion on Calvary are tenderly felt in the hearts and minds of every Christian. We realize it was all suffered and done for us. For me. He died for me. We honor and commemorate His sacrifice each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper; the fruit of the vine representing his blood shed for us and the bread representing his body given in our stead.
The intensity of what He knew and dreaded going through was so great that “an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him” (Lk 22:43) just before he was arrested in the Garden. And yet, finishing their meal before heading out to pray in the Garden, Jesus spoke candidly with the apostles about His impending death in chapters 15 and 16, which John recorded. Jesus always seemed to say astounding things, but His words in chapter 15, verses 9-14, when seen in light of what He was getting ready to go through are, to me, the most astonishing of all. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that MY JOY MAY BE COMPLETE IN YOU and THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
Yes, despite His dread and anxiety about what He knew would happen in just a few short hours, He was still filled with JOY. His joy was grounded in love, the state He always had by being obedient to and at one with the Father. But it didn’t stop there. His ultimate joy would only be made complete when He brought us into the same oneness with the Father and Himself and He shared this joy with us. That is the reason He said He would, “lay down His life for His friends.” His impending death would ultimately bring Him joy because He would be sharing the resultant benefit of His death, burial, and resurrection with His “friends” – and that benefit was SALVATION.
John had walked and talked and seen Jesus and knew He was the Son of God (1 John 1:1-2). John said in verse 3 of I John that he proclaimed the Truth so that we could have fellowship with Christ. Fellowship with Him creates “joy complete” (verse 4). Why? What makes fellowship with Christ the Son and God the Father so joyful? For that answer we need to turn to 1 John 5:13-15, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that YOU MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” The promises of fellowship now and eternal life with the Godhead creates within the hearts of all believers “complete joy.” Further down in verse 20 of chapter 5, John reiterates this by saying, “We KNOW also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may KNOW Him who is true – even in His Son Jesus Christ (fellowship). He is the true God and eternal life.” Christ said it this way in the Gospel of John 17:1-4 as He prayed just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify You. For you granted Him authority over all people, that HE MIGHT GIVE ETERNAL LIFE: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave Me to do.” Finally, back in 1 John chapter 2, verses 24- 25, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, YOU WILL REMAIN IN THE SON AND IN THE FATHER (fellowship). And this is what He promised us – EVEN ETERNAL LIFE.”
During this time of social distancing when even church gatherings have been shutdown, no one can take away my joy for it has been made complete!!