The Joy of Following Jesus

John 17 contains Jesus’s longest prayer, known as the high priestly prayer, which He prays after the upper room discourse, after telling the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled because He is going away and they cannot come.

Jesus prays this prayer with the agony of the cross before Him. We are reminded by Jesus that no matter the fearful circumstance, we can always turn to the Father in prayer.

Jesus’s prayer in John 17:13-19 focuses on the inner disposition of the Christian, the true disciple, asking for His joy to be made full. Jesus helps His disciples to understand the beautiful reality of the joy in following Him.

The Joy that Jesus Alone Gives

Our joy is not based on circumstances or occasions of this world but in Jesus alone (John 17:13). Jesus comes to the Father in prayer because of hardship and loss. The cross is close, and the disciples will soon lose Him. Despite this ‘fiery ordeal (1 Peter 4:12),’ Jesus desires for His disciples to have His joy which transcends the current circumstances and to remain joyful in the sovereign work of God (1 Peter 4:19).

The joy of Jesus (John 15:10-11) is when a true disciple abides in Him by keeping His commandments and doing the will of the Father. Jesus’s joy is found in the cheerful obedience of His disciples for the glory of God.

We need to pray to have Jesus’s joy, allowing us to praise God regardless of the trials and tragedies that happen in life. We need to pray for that joy which appears in the hardest moments, revealing our faith and trust in the Father to a world in rebellion.

Jesus prays for us to be made full of the joy that comes from Him alone and that we would be kept from the evil one while in a world that hates us even as they hated Him (John 17:13-15).

Modeling joyful obedience to the Father, Jesus stays on mission regardless of the circumstances. The joy of Jesus, not activism, is the tool God uses to help us flourish in this morally rebellious world we have been sent into.

Jesus alone is the basis of our joy. He gives us the Spirit of God who produces fruit in our lives. Our joy is made full as we abide in Him and bear much fruit (John 15:5, 10-11).

Jesus tells the disciples of His resurrection, that they will see Him again (John 16:16). Though the disciples would grieve, joy would come (John 16:20-21). We can be encouraged that no matter the difficulty of this life, we can have joy because of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of eternal life to come.

Joy is Possessed by those Who Have Christ’s Word

The joy that Jesus alone gives is not native to the world but possessed by those who have Christ’s Word (John 17:14). The world cannot have Jesus’s joy as it hates what God loves and loves what God hates (Psalm 2; 1 John 2:15-17). Obeying God’s Word will ultimately bring joy to all those in Jesus Christ.

God has given the body of Christ the ability to be encouraged by one another as we have the joy of the Lord. We need each other because our joy grows as we spend time with other joyful believers. Beware of the things of this life that vie for our attention, distracting us from the joy we have in gathering together as one body.

Jesus has given us His Word, and we are sanctified by it (John 17:14, 17). Sanctified is to be set apart. We are set apart from the world and set apart to the truth, the Word of God. The world cannot have the truth or joy of Jesus because they have rejected it.

The more we become like Jesus in holiness, the more joy we are going to have. As we grow in the Word and are obedient to God, we grow in our joyfulness which is something the world cannot take away or produce.

May we look to Jesus who modeled for us walking through the valley unto the obedience of God which is His joy (John 17:19).

Those with Jesus’s Joy and His Word are Sent with a Mission

The joy that Jesus alone gives is not native to the world but possessed by those who have Christ’s Word and are sent with a mission. Jesus is praying about the great commission work of His disciples who He is sending into the world (John 17:18-19; Acts 1:8).

It was the joy of the Father to send Jesus into the world, and it is the joy of Jesus to send His disciples into the world, individually and corporately as the church body.

Jesus sanctified Himself (John 17:19) for us, being set apart from the world, obeying the Father perfectly, and accomplishing the will of God with perfect joy. The cross was no easy mission for the Son of God. It was grueling and difficult yet full of joy because Jesus obeyed the Father.

Those who follow Christ should be known for their joy. Because Jesus prayed for our joy, we can know it is the Father’s will that we have His joy in this dark world.

It is Jesus who gives us joy to obey His Word and then to go out into the world to give His Word to the world. May we define joy according to how Jesus has defined joy in John 17.

Application Points

  • Is obeying God bringing you joy? True joy is not based on circumstances or feelings but, regardless of the trials, is the result of obedience to the Father with whom you are in a saving-faith relationship through Christ Jesus.
  • Do you believe there is no greater place for joy in this world than when the church body gathers together to worship the Savior? Do you believe Sunday is the best day of the week and that time spent at church with other believers is well spent?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore

1 Peter 4:12-19; John 15:1-11