As we learn emotions from Jesus, not only does our blood start to boil (see Part 2) and our stomachs turn (see Part 3), he also shows our hearts how to beat with real joy. There is a stereotype floating around which says that Jesus and the faith he represents are about cold-hearted duty, doing the right thing at the expense of our happiness. There are enough grim-faced moralistic systems out that brandish the name of “Christianity” to keep the stereotype alive. But they have more in common with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant than with the kingdom of Jesus. The day after he stormed the Temple, Jesus returns to the same Temple courts to announce that his kingdom is like a big party, and everyone is invited; not a boarding school, not a boot camp, not a prison chain gang, but a party.[1] His entrance into the world was announced as “good tidings of great joy.” He came “eating and drinking,” and was accused of being “a glutton and a drunkard”[2] (a strange accusation if Jesus was a dull killjoy you’d avoid at a party). Princeton theologian, B.B. Warfield, spent his entire academic career studying the life of Jesus and concluded that, “If our Lord was ‘the Man of Sorrows,’ he was more profoundly still ‘the Man of Joy.’”[3] We need Warfield’s reminder, especially for anyone who has come to think of faith as an unhappy chore, while the world out there has all the fun.

When we get a real sense of Jesus’ joy, all of the hedonistic buzz-seeking of our culture seems lackluster and dull. As C.S. Lewis put it:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.[4]

Jesus was joyful, but not easily pleased. He did not settle for mud pies, and if we worship and become more like him, neither will we.

Where then did Jesus find his source of joy? Not where we are told to find it today. He never pursued the posh lifestyle of a business tycoon, rock star, or televangelist. He was homeless.[5] He didn’t stake his joy in winning everyone’s approval and becoming universally liked. John 6 ends with many people turning their backs and rejecting him. John 7 does not begin with, “And then Jesus threw a big pity party about why everyone didn’t like him.” He didn’t find joy by looking inside of himself either. Jesus found joy outside of himself, and in infinite abundance. His “heart was glad” and “his tongue rejoiced.” Why? Because the Father was “always before Him.”[6] Proverbs 8:30 shows us Jesus “rejoicing always” in the presence of the Father. The Father anoints His head with “the oil of gladness” in Hebrews 1:9. And it is that same joy—what David Brainerd called “the only soul-satisfying happiness”[7]—that Jesus prays for us to experience the way he does.[8]

This moves us to the deepest source of just sentiments. You can look at a waterfall with an unjust sentiment—“It’s ugly and I want to turn it toxic”—or with a just sentiment—“It’s sublime!” But there is more to it, another level, a way to feel a waterfall even more justly. Next to some cynic saying “It’s ugly” and next to Coleridge saying “It’s sublime,” picture Jonathan Edwards standing at the misty base of the falls. Listen to the kind of sentiments Edwards expresses:

The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature…[9]

It is just to have your feelings touch the sublimity of a waterfall; it still more just to feel something of the sublimity of God in the sublimity of the waterfall.

The Dutch-American philosopher, Cornelius Van Til, argued that our intellects can know things, and even know things truly, but we come to know things most truly when we know them in light of God’s existence. Extend Van Til’s point to our emotions: Our hearts can feel things, and even feel things truly, but we come to feel things most truly when we feel them in light of God’s existence. That is the light that pours down on everything when Jesus tears the roof off of the closed box of modernity. The whole world starts to look and feel different when it is seen and felt for what it really is—God’s world. People in the dark can grope around and describe what they feel. In the modern dark room we feel around and determine people’s shape and calculate their value from their size, their skin, their stature, their sex, the size of their wallet. The roof comes off, our eyes adjust, and we cup our open mouths. We have been surrounded by image-bearers of an infinitely valuable God the whole time, objects of divine affection—black, white, rich, poor, big, small, male, female—each one a masterpiece. Everyone starts to feel different. You start to feel different. Waterfalls start to feel different.

Jesus, teach us to enjoy the Father the way you did, and in Him to enjoy what is truly joyous in everything else!

Read Part 5: Authenticity.

[1] See Matthew 22:1-4.

[2] See Matthew 11:19. See Warfield, “The Emotions of Our Lord.”

[3] See Warfield, “The Emotions of Our Lord.”

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory *

[5] See Matthew 8:20.

[6] This description is found in Psalm 16, which Acts 2:25-31 applies to Jesus.

[7] David Brainerd, “Detached Papers,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, 440.

[8] See John 15:11; 16:24; cf. Matt. 13:44.

[9] Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative,” *.