Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

What is Joy?

Not the opposite of pain.

John 17:13

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

This verse is yet another purpose construction. The purpose (actually, a purpose) of Jesus’s teaching is joy.

“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, [for the purpose] that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”

Jesus mentioned joy earlier in this prayer.

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” — John 16:20

That passage, which goes on to compare the disciples’ coming anguish to the pain of childbirth, is about how pain and sorrow are replaced by joy. The pain doesn’t physically go away; it’s just overcome by something of greater significance.

But now Jesus is elevating joy from a thing to a purpose. Joy isn’t the ultimate purpose—that’s always God’s glory—but an immediate purpose.

Still, that’s surprising, and important. It’s in stark contrast to the frequent warnings that Christians should expect to be persecuted.

But how are Christians supposed to have joy in the presence of persecution? Persecution can get incredibly painful.

The answer is that joy is not the opposite of pain.

The joy of knowing God, and of knowing our place in the kingdom, overcomes the pain.

This final teaching about joy comes just moments before Jesus’s arrest. Judas is on the way with his band of unmerry men. These words will still be ringing in the disciples’ ears when everything (seemingly) starts to unravel.

As Jesus noted back in John 16:20, their joy won’t be coming immediately. As the analogy with childbirth illustrates, the joy comes after the labor is complete.

So it will be with the disciples. The coming trials will be trials. There will be pain, fear, and grief.

Then Easter morning will dawn.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Saturday DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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