Excerpt from Walt Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, & the Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (eBook).
[Why Happiness Disappoints, but Joy Does Not]
["You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." John 16:20b-22
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." John 20:19b-20]
Joy… rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief.
The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope – and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us.
In the sorrows of the Christ – as we ourselves experience them – we prepare for Easter, for joy. There can be no resurrection from the dead except first there is a death! But then, because we love him above all things, his rising is our joy. And then the certain hope of our own resurrection warrants the joy both now and forever.
[Become One of the First Disciples for a Moment]
And in that skin, consider: what makes the appearance of the resurrected Lord such a transport of joy for you? Consider this in every fiber of your created being. How is it that so durable a joy is born at this encounter? – joy that shall hereafter survive threats and dangers and persecutions, confusions and death, even your own death?
Jesus appears to the disciples. From “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Caravaggio (1571-1610).
Well, Jesus has been dead. Now he is alive. No one expects the dead to live. This causes a speechless astonishment. Is this also joy?
Well, the one whom you loved is here! Your beloved is back, Hooray! This is “gladness.” This is delight and “peace,” and gratitude. But is it also joy?
At his appearing, the Son of God has just kept the hardest of all his promises… This is marvelous affirmation…
Well… at his appearing, the Son of God has just kept the hardest of all his promises: he rose from the dead, exactly as he said. This is marvelous affirmation, the absolute guarantee that he shall keep to every other promise, from salvation to the sending of the Spirit to the raising of the dead. This is bright, sustaining assurance of faith. Is it also joy?
What causes joy?
This: not just that the Lord was dead, but that you grieved his death. That, for three days, you yourself did suffer his absence, and then the whole world was for you a hollow horror… You experienced, you actually believed, that the end of Jesus was the end of everything…
In the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation.
But in the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation. For it is, now … that the dear Lord Jesus Christ appears – not only an astonishment, gladness and affirmation, but joy indeed!
It is the experience of genuine grief that prepares for joy…
[View the Resurrection from the Disciples' Direction]
The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first, and through it we view a death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples’ terrible, wonderful preparation.
Unless, as now, we attend to the suffering first, to the cross with the sincerest pity and vigilant love, to the dying with most faithful care – and thus prepare for joy.
Jesus, come again! You need never suffer again. That was done once and for all. But come and remind me of the suffering, so that I recall and regain the purer joy of your rising after all. Amen.
- Walt Wangerin, Jr.
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(Image and some styling above are web-exclusive features not included in the text of Reliving the Passion. Image attribution: Caravaggio, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer’s personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)