August 2, 2016

Joy ... and Severity

Last week I wrote about the joy of Henry Erskine, above whose head the sky was always blue. He strikes me as a very Christ-like figure, as have one or two other men I have known who seemed to walk in the same sort of perpetual happiness in the Lord.

I don’t know that the personality of their joy would look precisely the same as that of Jesus – for our personalities are all a little different, even when reshaped into Christ's image. And Jesus, of course, was His own human being, just like we are. So that His joy (like yours and mine) would have told on His face and in His voice in His own unique way, not precisely the same as any other human. I don’t know, in other words, if Christ’s joy was worn always in a broad smile, or if it sounded in a constant whistle of psalm tunes, or if it shone more in His voice than in His face, or what have you. But I know that “the fruit of the Spirit is … joy”, and therefore I know that Christ possessed this gladness in God more fully and more perfectly than any man who ever lived!

One instance when we can probably safely presume that Christ’s joy perhaps burst forth onto the surface was in His attendance at the wedding feast in John 2. Nearly everybody loves a wedding, right? Because it presents us with such a heightened reason for rejoicing, and such a perfect set of circumstances for doing so. The food, the drink, the dancing, and so on. Jewish weddings included some of these same delightful trappings of rejoicing. And here is the Lord Jesus Christ … wait for it … at just such a party! And surely He wasn’t standing alone in the corner, miserable as He observed the gladness all around Him. I know John 2 doesn’t say it specifically, but I think it is safe to assume that Jesus was happy at this wedding – glad to join in these earthly pleasures because He was completely glad in the Lord! And, to add to that impression, one thing we do know is that it was Jesus who provided some of the drinks for the party!

And while, yes, I realize that the most important thing in John 2:1-11 is the miracle that Christ performed (and what that miracle says about who He is) … it is not insignificant to notice, secondarily, that the miracle took place in the midst of a celebration – one into which Jesus entered, and to which He contributed greatly by His turning water into wine “which makes man’s hearts glad” (Psalm 104:15).

And yet read on in John chapter 2, and you will find that the very next event John records is Jesus’ clearing of the temple at the feast of the Passover – turning over tables, dumping out cash registers, and chasing both man and beast out of the temple courts with a whip (John 2:13-22)! The same man who had recently been seen at a wedding feast, and who had even provided the finest vintage for the meal!

Which goes to show that joy in the Lord and severity with sin are not mutually exclusive. We mustn’t think, because a person is (like Jesus) blood earnest about cutting off the hand that sins, that he is somehow a humbug! Nor must we think, because a person (like Jesus) is able to enjoy the gifts of God, and to be genuinely happy in the Lord, that she must not really be a serious kind of Christian!

“There is a time for every event under heaven …
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

And, while there is a time to be consumed with zeal for God’s house, there is also a time to bring wine to a wedding feast! And vice versa, if you are wired the other way around! And Jesus gets the balance exactly right every time! And we will do well to learn from Him both godly joy, and godly severity … and the appropriate times and places for both! And we will also do well, since we are all so prone to fall off the horse in one direction or another (even with Jesus as our example) … we will also do well to trust, for our righteousness before God, in this Jesus who always did it right … and whose record is credited to our account if we believe in His name!

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