Different Faces of Joy
by Mary Alice McGinnis
Last weekend I got to hang out and spend the night with my eight-year-old grandson. I was so excited to spend time with him. His mom (my daughter) was going to a birthday party for herself and one of her friends, and his dad was away for the weekend. So my grandson and I would have some wonderful one-on-one time together. However, when she was leaving for the party, my grandson started to cry. “Why can’t I go with you? I am going to miss you mom.”
I tried to assure him that we would do some fun things together, and she would be back before he knew it. But he insisted, “I just don’t understand why I can’t go too.”
To say that he was less than happy about her leaving would be an understatement. As my daughter left, she hugged him tight one last time and reassured him, “Remember how much I love you. I will be back soon.”
Today’s reading in Luke 24, we find the disciples in a similar situation. After following Jesus for three years, His disciples had visions of what life would be like now that their beloved Master, the Messiah Himself, was here. But their hopes were dashed, and their hearts crushed with despair as they watched the Savior betrayed, arrested, brutally whipped, striped and beaten, mocked, and sentence to the grueling death by crucifixion. All the while they too abandon him.
The Resurrected Jesus had appeared to them several times in the 40 days after that glorious first Easter. The women at the tomb, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the disciples still hiding behind closed doors.
Luke 24:40-42 says, “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement.”
After the deep darkness, pain, shame, and despair of Good Friday, they just could not bring themselves to believe it. Jesus rising from the dead was more amazement than they could bear. It was more joy than they would allow their hearts to embrace for fear of it seeming too good to be true.
Have you ever felt that kind of joy? That kind of exhilarating joy that takes your breath away, and in the next moment you fear the worst. Maybe it will all be tragically taken away and my vulnerable heart will be crushed.
In today’s reading, Jesus is speaking to the disciples before He physically leaves them once again. As He prepares them for his ascension to His Throne at the Right Hand of the Father, He reminds them once again that all these things took place JUST AS HE HAD TOLD THEM. Every page of the scripture pointed to these very things that had happened – Moses and the law, the prophets, and the Psalms.
I love these words – “Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”
Jesus sends them out to be His messenger – witnesses of all these things. And He promises them, even though He is physically ascending, His power would be poured out upon them – through the Holy Spirit. They were invited into the plan God had been unfolding since the creation of the world. That God would buy us back, redeem us, and grant us undeserved and cleansing forgiveness.
As Jesus rises to take His seat on the throne, He blesses them. These are not just well wishes, but the endowment of His protection, His provision, His power. Charles Surgeon said, “No power in heaven, or earth, or hell, that can reverse the blessing which He gives.”
And this time their response?
“Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”
Jesus, as You unfold the truth of the scriptures, may by heart burn inside me, just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Lord, forgive me when You show me the joyous truth of the gospel, and my joy causes me to doubt it. Instead, Lord Jesus, clothe me with Your Holy Spirit power from on high. Help me embrace the inexpressible joy of Your salvation. Let this uncontainable joy be expressed in worshipping You with all I do and say - with all of my life.