The staff of The Western Journal is working a reduced schedule over Easter weekend to allow our employees the opportunity for rest and worship with their families if they so choose. We are re-publishing this article as a service to our readers, who reacted strongly to it when it first ran.
A version of this article previously appeared on the desiringGod.org website on April 20, 2014.
Like children scattering around a yard for Easter eggs, you and I are on a hunt.
We all hunt. Our thirsty souls rummage through every nook and cranny of this world, in search of shiny pleasures and saccharine delights.
Every such joy seeker, in pursuit of treasures that will not fade or rust or break or be stolen, must pay careful attention to Easter — not with a nod-off-through-the-sermon kind of attention, but with a real, earnest, eager attention riveted on Christ. If we miss the significance of the resurrection, we scamper past the greatest joy in the universe.
The Joy of Jesus
As the dark shadows stalked the soon-to-be crucified Christ, he turned his attention to joy. Throughout this Holy Week of his crucifixion, Jesus had foreshadowed his death for his disciples who struggled to make sense of it all.
He addressed their concerns directly in John 16:19-24:
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
We rewind Holy Week to hear Jesus forecast the changes to come in his resurrection. He wanted his disciples to anticipate Easter Sunday as the cataclysmic dawning of true joy.
And here’s what it all means for joy seekers.
A Blood-Bought Joy
Jesus spoke of this joy as he faced the torture of Good Friday. He faced denial, faced betrayal, faced beatings, faced splinters and nails and spears — he could not stop talking about joy! Only joy would keep him going. Joy was on his mind, joy was on his tongue, and joy was drawing him, not away from suffering, but into it (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus went to the cross for joy: to buy joy, create joy, and offer joy.
As the world celebrated the savage killing of God, out of this sea of foaming rebel hostility emerged a blood-bought, inextinguishable joy.
An Unbreakable Joy
If the killing of the Author of life could not extinguish this joy Jesus speaks about, nothing can — and nothing ever will. No opposition from the world, no opposition to the gospel, and no cultural despising of Christ will overcome the resurrection joy of Jesus.
As we have seen this week, the unquenchable joy of Easter was birthed in the greatest trauma and tragedy and evil the world has ever unleashed — the murder of the Son of God. Death, the Devil, demons, and the coordinated rebellion of mankind all allied together cannot stymie this joy. Persecutors cannot steal this joy away. No power, no event, no enemy, can sequester the resurrection joy of Jesus Christ that burst out of the tomb with him.
Worldly joys are brittle in comparison. Sickness and poverty crumble joy, and the long process of aging and dying slowly strips life of all its worldly pleasures (Ecclesiastes 12:1–8). Death recedes all our joys, save one. Only one joy cannot be thwarted by death, because only one joy was purchased by blood.
A Newborn Joy
The resurrection joy of Jesus escapes the clutches of death because it’s the joy of the new creation, a joy broken free from the evil of this fallen world.
And this makes Easter breathtaking. As Jonathan Edwards boldly declared: “The resurrection of Christ is the most joyful event that ever came to pass.” And rightly did Charles Spurgeon say: “No man shall ever take from me the joy that Christ rose from the dead.” The resurrection is the most joy-filled divine event in biblical history worthy of our eternal adulation and awe and wonder.
But it’s more than a breathtaking historical spectacle.
Jesus employed a common birthing analogy to introduce a radical cosmic birth. His death was the birth pangs of a new creation; his resurrection was the arrival of a new creation into history. In his resurrection, Jesus set in motion an unstoppable chain reaction that will one day culminate in the resurrection of the dead and the renovation of all creation.
Here’s the point: In the long history of joy in this fallen world, after ages of unsatisfied appetites and hunger pangs in the hearts of men and women and children, the resurrection of Christ marks a crescendo.
Never has joy found greater expression on earth. In John 15:11, Jesus offered his disciples “full joy,” an invitation only possible from within the final stage in cosmic history. Such a stage was born on Easter morning.
Jesus wants his disciples to thirst for a post-resurrection joy as the arrival of a newly amplified joy, a long-awaited and long-anticipated joy, a never before fully seen or experienced joy in human history. The resurrection of Christ will bring the most spectacularly joy-filled event because it ignites an eternally abiding and forever unconquerable joy.
The Old Testament foretold of this joy, the birth of Christ announced this joy, Holy Week seemed to extinguish this joy, but the resurrection of Christ is the point in history when the unassailable torch of God’s joy emerged from the sea of foaming rebel hostility, rose up and lit the summit of an Olympic torch of joy that will burn for all eternity.
A Joy for the Asking
But as magnificently as this joy entered the world in this defining moment in cosmic history, this joy presses close to us. So Jesus taught his disciples to ask and seek for more of this joy.
This is the open invitation of the Messianic age.
And this joy makes sense of the logic of John’s Gospel. Jesus said he must die and go to the Father, and would leave his joy with the disciples. Once he was with the Father, Jesus sent the Spirit to dwell in them (another unmistakable sign of the new creation). United to Christ, the disciples would now pray by the Spirit, to the Father, through the Son.
Easter reshapes prayer, spirituality, and joy. With this inauguration of a new creation, the disciples became adopted sons who could pray to a Father who is eager to pour out spiritual flourishing upon them in every way, leading to a full and satisfying joy which nobody can take away.
Which is great news for the disciples.
Inexpressible Joy for You
But Jesus’s bold resurrection joy promised to the disciples in John 16:19–24 is now offered to you and me. We are promised the same “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
In Christ, God delights to pour out this resurrection joy into your life, a joy that fills, and a joy that cannot be stolen from you. What do we do? We simply ask our gracious Father for more of it!
The Easter joy Jesus foretold has arrived, and it’s deeply personal. The resurrection is both a cosmic event, and it comes intimately close, reminding us of God’s work in our lives. “The point of Easter is that God is in the process of clearing this world of all heartbreak” (John Piper). Therefore, “Christ’s resurrection not only gives you hope for the future; it gives you hope to handle your scars right now” (Tim Keller).
Such a restoring and reviving joy was purchased for you and me in the resurrection of Christ.
Feast and Celebrate
Easter is for stark contradictions.
If Christ is still dead, death reigns, and all our joys are vain. So hoard every plastic Easter egg you find, because whatever you find inside is all the joy you have to grab. Or, as Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
But if death is dead, and if the dead are raised — if Christ is risen from the dead! — brothers and sisters, let us feast and celebrate, for the dawning light of our inextinguishable and inexhaustible eternal pleasures have broken into the darkness, offering us a life of joy in Christ that cannot fade or rust or be stolen away!
Today, delight in the resurrection joy of Christ, pray it bigger in your life and treasure it for all eternity.
Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is senior writer for Desiring God and author of “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You” (2017), “John Newton on the Christian Life” (2015), and “Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books” (2011). He hosts the “Ask Pastor John” podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.
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