9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,  for the servant  does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:9-17 (ESV)
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Joy perhaps isn’t the first thing that comes to mind today as people think about Christianity, or God’s law. And in actual fact, it is God concern for our joy in life that moves him to give us his law, a law meant yes, to show us how to live a God pleasing life, but more than that a joy filled life of love. We can see this perhaps most prominently in the third commandment concerning Sabbath rest, in that the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath, as Jesus says. It was God saying but on this day, just pause a little to enjoy life would you? No, but we abuse his law as much as we break it to turn it into an instrument of torture, so that joy is not the first thing people think of when they hear of Christianity. But Jesus Christ did not come to endure this world, and die on the cross to shame everyone into feeling guilty and being miserable. He did not rise from the dead for our justification so that we could go around making certain everyone else is miserable too. Actually scripture shows God to be quite concerned for our joy, he has given us life, and as with most gifts, the gift of life is one that he wants us to enjoy. It was actually this joy of life that characterized the Lutheran Reformation and made it catch on. When Luther came to comprehend the gospel, the justification of man before God on account of Christ, the salvation of man from sin, death and the power of the devil in his own death and resurrection, well he burst forth in joy that overflowed to all aspects of his life, domestic and academic. It was his joy and the jovial nature of his demeanor that made his Table Talk a best seller throughout Germany. This Table Talk consisted of little more than quips, some of them a bit on the crude side, that he would let loose while drinking beer with his students at his dining room table. It was this joy that was captured in the paintings of his friend Lucas Cranach, from the nudes he was famous for to the altar pieces that guaranteed him a position among the masters like Durer, Raphael and Michelangelo. It was this joy that cost Bach a job in a Calvinist church when he set it to music. He was let go from his position as organist, the congregation said because his music had too much joy in it. He told them that the securing of their salvation in Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Jesus celebrated every Sunday was actually something joyful. And so it is that it is this joy of our salvation we pray for so often during the offertory that punctuates our worship, “restore unto me the joy of my salvation.”
Restore it we sing, because we so often lose it amidst the daily grind of life, it is so often lost amidst the pain of sin and death, so often lost due to the very things we think will perhaps bring us joy and happiness. It was this sort of thing that had led David to the brink of despair when in the pursuit of happiness he entered into an affair with Bathsheba. It brought him pain, suffering, the betrayal and murder of a close friend, Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband, is listed under the 80 mighty men of David, one who had been with David as he fled from Saul, spent months at a time living off the land in caves, and fighting together in close combat, these men would be known to take out upwards of three hundred enemies by themselves with nothing more than a spear, the kind of men who for sport would enter a lion’s den barehanded. But David for all the wives he had already been given by God, thought perhaps there would be more happiness if he stole Uriah’s wife for an evening. And this is who we are. Given salvation and we are still apt to spurn God’s law and run headlong for our destruction like a herd of pigs recently possessed by demons.
God gives us so much to enjoy in life. He outlines these things for us in the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, bread, wine, the work of our hands and the wife of our youth. Which is to say, the food that we eat, not merely bread. I often marvel at this today. In American culture we too often consider food as merely utilitarian. We give little thought to actually enjoying it. So we go through a drive through, always in too much of a rush for work to actually enjoy life. Even our work, we allow it to take over our lives to such an extent that we fail to enjoy it, and we let it infect the rest of our lives with melancholy, and apathy. We think it is money that is going to bring us all the happiness we need, but our pursuit of it robs us of all the simple joys in life that might come if we just slowed down to smell the roses as it were, to enjoy the simple pleasures God has given us in life. Instead we look to cheap and fast substitutes in porn and drunkenness, debauchery and abuse.
But it was from this also that Jesus came to save us, for this he gives us the commandment to love one another as he has loved us. That our joy may be in him, and that our joy may be full. For his love restores to us the joy of salvation as he calls us from our sin and washes away our iniquities, showers us from our shame and makes us clean in his sanctifying blood. For greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends, and he calls you friend. It was you he chose for joy, even when you turned to sin for happiness, baptizing you in his name that you would be restored to the joy of your salvation in the feast of forgiveness with his words “Take eat, this is my body given for you, take drink this cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” And it is this joy that he now bestows when he says,
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.