We just finished the long season of Lent, forty days of contemplation, reflection, and confession, by remembering Jesus’ death and forgiveness on the cross. I think this is a season that we as a church do well (not perfectly). It seems easy for us to grasp the sombre nature of the season, to be intentional about practicing Lenten disciples which draw us deeper in relationship to our loving God.
What we don’t do so well is the season that follows Lent: Easter. Sure, we ‘get’ the day of Easter, the joy of that festive day with all its flowers and music and excitement. But Easter is actually a fifty day celebration in the church; we don’t just celebrate Easter on one day but for the next seven weeks! The weeks following Easter are a celebration of the Lord and Saviour of the world’s defeat of death. These fifty days correspond with the fifty days that the resurrected Jesus walked with his disciples revealing his glorified resurrected body while preparing them for the work ahead of carrying on the ministry of the Kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we now find ourselves in the midst of these fifty days of Easter, the words of Jesus echo in the background of our time of celebration. Multiple times during his last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus expresses his desire that their joy may be complete (John 15:11; 16:20, 22, 24; 17:13). After his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples “were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). The Easter season (and our whole lives as Christians) is meant to be a season of rejoicing; Easter is a season of joy!
But rejoicing doesn’t always come easy. How often do we grumble and complain instead of rejoicing in it? How often do we speak negative about someone or something instead finding positive things to say? I think we need to make a habit of practicing joy in all areas of our lives. However, as almost anyone can tell you, we all want joy but we don't all have joy.
That’s because joy is not something that we can pursue, it's not something that we can just fix our minds to. Sure, that works for a time—you can think positively trying to find the good in all circumstances (which in fact Paul encourages us to do in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice”) —but inevitably you will come up short, because joy in this case is tied to what you are doing instead of in who you are.
Why did the disciples have joy? Because they saw and believed in the Lord. It had nothing to do with them remaining positive; it had everything to do with their relationship with Jesus. Joy —real, lasting joy—is something we experience as we walk with the Lord each day. Eugene Peterson says, “Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.”
Do you want real, lasting joy—the joy that Jesus promised his disciples? It comes from being with Him in the Word, and prayer, and knowing Jesus is present with you through the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and life.
This Easter season may we be people of joy; people who rejoice in knowing our Saviour lives and that because he lives we have the fullness of life now and forever. Live in that full life Jesus has offered to you.
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Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.