that they may have my joy

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John 17:13

His Fifth Prayer

This is the last of this series of devotionals on the great high priestly prayer of Jesus. It is recorded in John 17, and today we find ourselves looking at verse 13, where Jesus prayed for joy for His followers. Not just any joy but the joy that Jesus, himself enjoyed in His relationship with the Father.

John 17:13 (NKJV)

13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

Joy is a keyword in all of John’s writings. It’s like he had an insight into this part of Jesus’ nature and considered it significant enough that he included joy as motivation when describing a number of Jesus’ sayings, our reference verse being the last of them. Here are three verses out of quite a long list:-

John 15:11 (NKJV)

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 16:24 (NKJV)

24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

1 John 1:4 (NKJV)

And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

At this point, we might ask the question, what is Bible joy? Is it happiness? Well, that may be involved but in my research Bible ‘joy’ is something quite a little bit different. I have selected some reference passages from Robert Dean’s entry on ‘joy’ in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary to help us get a handle on just what the biblical authors meant when they used the word ‘joy’.

“Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word “hedonism,” the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4 HCSB).”[1]

“Luke 15 is the most famous biblical reference to God’s joy. The Pharisees and scribes had criticized Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them. Then Jesus told three parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. The explicit theme of each parable is joy over one sinner who repents.”[2]

“The book of Acts tells how joy continued to characterize those who followed Jesus. After Philip preached in Samaria, the people believed and “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). After the work of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia, “the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 HCSB). Paul and Barnabas reported such conversions to other believers, “and they created great joy among all the brothers” (Acts 15:3). After the conversion of the Philippian jailer, he “rejoiced because he had believed God with his entire household” (Acts 16:34).”[3]

“Joy in the Lord enables people to enjoy all that God has given. They rejoice in family (Prov. 5:18), food (1 Tim. 4:3–5), celebrations (Deut. 16:13–15), fellowship (Phil. 4:1). They share with other believers the joys and sorrows of life: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15 HCSB).”[4]

The Last Word from Bob Gass

Finally, Jesus prayed that we would experience His joy. Listen: “That they may have a full measure of My joy within them” (John 17:13, NIV). Listen again: “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). Your joy comes from within. Paul was often in jail, but jail was never in Paul, so he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). You say, “How’s that possible?” Because threats are not facts to those who are informed! He said, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

The other day I tried to recall the Christians I knew when I was growing up. Some of them were wonderful, but others were anti-social, censorious, brooding, pickled, withdrawn, intense, and “mule-like” of countenance. I’m sure their experience with God was real, but it did nothing for me. David said, “They looked unto Him and were radiant” (Psalms 34:5). Adoniram Judson, the 19th Century missionary to Burma, was known for his great joy. When he arrived there in 1812, he didn’t know the language, but that didn’t stop him. He approached a Burmese man and gave him a big hug! The man went home and reported to his family that he had seen an angel. The joy of Christ was so radiant on Judson’s countenance that the people of Burma called him “Mr. Glory-Face.”

Now that’s the kind of joy Jesus wants you to have—and to exhibit to others![5]

[1] Robert J. Dean, “Joy,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 956–957.

[2] Ibid, 957.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Bob Gass, A Fresh Word For Today: 365 Insights For Daily Living (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 261.

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