The John the Baptist Experience
Book 3: The Fellowship of the Forerunner
Chapter 2: The Secret of John’s Appeal
Copyright © 20231
We need to answer an important question we haven’t asked yet. Why were the crowds attracted to John? What was his appeal? Who in their right mind would voluntarily, willingly go great distances — on foot! — to hear his hard message about their sinfulness, about God’s demand for repentance, and about a Messiah for whom John was but “the opening act”? To answer that, we need to respond to the question Jesus put to the people, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” (Matthew 11:7; Luke 7:24)
I have considered Jesus’ question for over four years as I have “lived” with John in the Scriptures. Why did the people go in droves to hear him? Why did they respond so readily? What did they go “out into the wilderness to see?” I believe they went out to see a man who was Spirit filled and Spirit fruited, a man who lived close to God, and (surprise!) a man whose soul and spirit were keynoted by joy.
A Spirit-Filled Man
John was unique (up until Pentecost) in that the Holy Spirit lived in him and filled him. In that sense (since he was born before Jesus), he was God’s first permanently Spirit-filled man in the New Testament narrative. Consider Gabriel’s prophetic words to Zachariah in Luke 1:15—
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”
When did that filling happen? It was when he first sensed the presence of the Embryonic Emmanuel.
- 41…when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.… 44“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.”
- Luke 1:41,44
“Leaping for joy” is a very physical and (dare I say it?) “pentecostal” reaction to the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The enwombed Elijah-herald of Messiah was filled first, then his mother!
The Spirit’s Fruit in John’s Life
Think about the Christlike traits which manifested in John the Baptist’s life because he was and remained a Spirit-filled man.
John prefigured the humility of the “crucified life” of the believer before the Cross of Christ:
- He lived apart, both personally and spiritually, from the crowd, out of the spotlight.
- He had no interest in self-promotion or self-preservation.
- That we know of, he had no earthly possessions other than the clothes on his back, and he sought no financial gain from his famous ministry.
- His words continually revealed the humility of his heart:
- “I am not the One.”
- “I’m not even fit for dirty-sandal duty.”
- “You should be baptizing me!”
- John showed no sense of possession or “ownership” of his disciples or his flock. He enthusiastically encouraged key people within his ministry team (e.g., Andrew and young John) to leave in order to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40ff).
- He was completely indifferent when his ministry lost importance. When John says of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease,” we usually miss the implication of his reported location — “Ænon near Salim” (John 3:23). Ænon is a place a mile or two west of the Jordan, a place which featured a few natural springs and pools. John’s ministry crowds had declined so much that he was no longer even baptizing in the Jordan River valley.
John’s “fruit of the Spirit” showed up again as he preached fearlessly under the watchful eyes of wary Roman soldiers, responding to them when they sought his counsel:
- Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.
- Luke 3:14
It’s no surprise that troops from Rome’s occupying forces would have been present at John’s large baptismal meetings on the Jordan. In their minds, any gathering of large crowds had the potential of turning into an anti-government riot, or, worse, a full-scale rebellion. Nevertheless, the presence of these troops may have prepared Gentile hearts for the Gospel.
Does that seem far fetched? Think of Peter’s preaching in a Roman soldier’s home, the house of the centurion Cornelius. Peter’s words assume that Cornelius and his men were familiar with John’s preaching: “…you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed” (Acts 10:37). How did they know? Perhaps some of them had been assigned the duty of keeping an eye on John and his “riverside camp meetings.”
The same attitude of holy boldness shown by the post-Pentecost Spirit-filled apostles before the Sanhedrin had already been demonstrated by John years earlier, when he wouldn’t “give an inch” while calling out Herod for his sin.3 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 nkjv).
Hearing God’s Voice
Back when Solomon was young, godly, and humble, he asked the Lord for a “hearing heart” (1 Kings 3:9 nasb margin), and God was very pleased to grant his request. Gradually, Solomon stopped listening to “God only wise,” trusting in his own wisdom. We know the sad outcome. In contrast, John the Baptist, from womb to tomb, always seems to have had this hearing heart. And John’s listeners sensed that he was declaring to them both God’s mind and God’s heart.
John Knew God’s Will and Timing
Technically John wasn’t a “born-again” child of God. He lived and died before Christ’s atonement and resurrection, before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Nevertheless, he was more “led by the Spirit of God” than many “sons of God” that we know (Romans 8:14). John could hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and follow His leading. Consider the import of points we take for granted as we read his story:
- The word of God (ῥῆμα θεοῦ / rhḗma4 theoũ) came to John… in the wilderness (Luke 3:2). He was “invisible,” in complete obscurity the first 30 years of his life, but he knew precisely when the Lord wanted him to start his ministry.
- He knew that Jesus, despite being conceived after he (John) had been conceived, existed before him (John 1:15).
- He received a word of knowledge before Jesus’ water baptism that a descending dove would reveal the Son of God (John 1:33).
- He received the revelation that Jesus was God’s Passover Lamb, by whom all the sin of the world would be taken away (John 1:29,36).
- He knew that Jesus had “come from above,” that He was “above all” (John 3:31), that He spoke the words of God and received God’s Spirit measurelessly (v. 34), and that God the Father had given all things into His hands (v. 35).
- He could neatly sum up men’s response to the Messiah, and the eternal consequences of their responses: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
How did John know all these things? He was a man “filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb,” and clearly God had revealed each of these insights to John through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10).
John Knew God’s Broken Heart
In the previous chapter I shared about an enlightening moment from early in my Christian life, something of a personal epiphany, in which I heard a Hebrew scholar read movingly from the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations. That reading shattered the “fire and brimstone” filter through which I had previously read the great prophet’s words. In that moment I heard for the first time God’s broken heart for His people, and I understood why Jeremiah was called “the weeping prophet.”
What does this have to do with John the Baptist? Often during my early studies of John, I wondered why people flocked to hear this man with his hard message. No doubt they came, in part, because his words rang true, and because they longed for his Messianic message to be true. After all, they had been waiting for their Messiah for centuries!
But I think there’s another element that we have a harder time grasping because of the intervening two millennia which separate us from the time of Jesus. I believe that the thousands and tens of thousands who flocked to John came in no small measure because of what they encountered in John’s spirit and personality. John’s uncompromising “hard message” came out of a loving heart broken over the sin and lost-ness of God’s people,5 just as expressed by Jeremiah.
We hear this same heart of God in His words through the Prophet Ezekiel:
- “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
- Ezekiel 33:11
- “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”
- Ezekiel 18:32
Because of the way we believe and how powerlessly and formulaically we often preach the Good News today in twenty-first century North America, we have rarely experienced the full-orbed working of the Holy Spirit. We haven’t seen Him (dare I use these descriptors?) unleashed and un-muzzled. We love to present Him as the “Comforter,” or even the Source of God’s Power; but rarely do we encounter Him as (or allow Him to be) the Convicter. Yet the blessèd Holy Spirit is both Convicter and Comforter. We should not be surprised to see in John — the first man filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb — this holy and glorious equilibrium, namely a hard, uncompromising message delivered through a man with a tender, broken heart.
Joy in the Holy Spirit
I perceive that another reason the people were drawn to John was because they found in him a man of deep joy, for joy is one of hallmarks of the Holy Spirit’s presence:
- …for the kingdom of God [which John was proclaiming] is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 14:17
- 22…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
- Galatians 5:22-23
- You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit…
- 1 Thessalonians 1:6
Someone might say, “Yes, well, but those are Paul’s words, written after Jesus’ Resurrection and the Church’s Pentecost.” Does that make a difference? Did the tone of God’s Kingdom message change at the Resurrection? Did the Holy Spirit change after Pentecost? Such an argument ignores God’s revelation of Himself: “For I, the Lord, do not change…” (Malachi 3:6).
John’s very assignment of turning hearts to God, of preaching repentance, automatically associated him with heavenly joy. There is one human activity which particularly generates joy “in heaven” (by which we assume Jesus means God Himself and the heavenly hosts), and the angels in particular:
- “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
- Luke 15:7
- “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- Luke 15:106
We saw in book two of this The John the Baptist Experience series how celestial sin split the heavenly ranks and ultimately corrupted the human beings God had created. This gives us insight into why “heaven,” and particularly the angels, would experience great joy at the repentance of any sinner — a human being has left the Rebellion and chosen God’s side in the conflict!
With that thought in mind, let’s consider something that’s been under our proverbial noses. Have you ever asked yourself why the promise and prophecy of John’s birth and ministry should be delivered through an angel and not through a human messenger or by God Himself? Think of it this way: Gabriel was given the honor of announcing the birth of Messiah’s forerunner, the herald of God Incarnate — the Savior and Redeemer who would undo the damage and dishonor initiated by another heavenly being. What a blessing it must have been to the angels that one from their ranks should be given the privilege of such a proclamation! What joyful anticipation there must have been among their ranks in watching “sheep” and “coins” and “prodigals” repenting and returning via repentance to their rightful owner — the Shepherd (God the Son), the woman with the lamp (symbolic of the role of God the Holy Spirit),7 and the Father!
Now let’s tie this joy to John and his ministry. This is very easy to do once our eyes are opened to the possibilities. We have spoken of angelic joy and Gabriel’s joyful honor in announcing John’s birth. The link is this: John is the one ordained to successfully preach repentance, and the souls he will turn back to God, the hearts he will prepare for the imminent Messiah will bring great joy in Heaven, both to God and to the angels. How fitting, then, that Gabriel should receive the honor of announcing the conception and birth of the great Preacher of Repentance!
Perhaps it’s out of this anticipation of joy that Gabriel’s announcement initiates this theme of joy which the Scriptures associate with John and his ministry. Gabriel prophesies to the aged priest Zachariah, soon to be John’s father:
- “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at [John’s] birth.”
- Luke 1:14
Look at the bolded words in that one statement. We find the noun for joy — χαρά / chará8 — and the verb for expressing joy — rejoice / χαίρω / chaírō. Those are words we would expect. But stop to consider what is meant when Gabriel tells Zachariah that he will experience “joy and gladness.” The Greek word for gladness is ἀγαλλίασις / agallíasis, which is a noun that can be translated as transcendent joy or over-joy.
The verbal form of this word agallíasis (ἀγαλλιάω / agalliáō) has for its root the verb állomai (ἄλλομαι), which means to leap or to spring up. Állomai is used of the healed lame men leaping in Acts 3:8 and 14:10, and of eternal life springing up in John 4:14.
So while rendering agallíasis as gladness (as most English translations do) is acceptable, the intensity of Gabriel’s statement might deserve something along the lines of this: “Zachariah, you will have joy and leaping joy” (or “joy and over-joy”)!9 Zachariah will become the leaping-for-joy father of a “bouncing baby boy” — an amusing and memorable mental image of a sacerdotal senior citizen!
When John was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, he was also clearly filled with joy. Remember?
- 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped [σκιρτάω / skirtáō] in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.… 44“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped [σκιρτάω / skirtáō] in my womb for joy.”
- Luke 1:41,44
That word skirtáō, which originally meant spring or leap or bound, came to be associated with joy, and hence jumping for joy.10 Within this short passage we find two of the three uses of skirtáō in the New Testament, the other one being found in Jesus’ words about persecution in Luke 6:23:
“Be glad [χαίρω / chaírō / rejoice] in that day and leap for joy [σκιρτάω / skirtáō], for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.”11
If there is an English translation that renders skirtáō here in Luke 6:23 in some way other than leap for joy, I haven’t yet found it. Carrying that “leap for joy” rendering back to Elizabeth’s experience during Mary’s visit in Luke 1:41-44, we understand that when verse 41 says “leaped,” the import already is that he leaped for joy in the presence of the Embryonic Emmanuel.
But then verse 44 is even more explicit, for in the phrase “the baby leaped [σκιρτάω / skirtáō — leaped for joy] in my womb for joy” we now find skirtáō intensified by another “joy” word. Let me put the English in the Greek word-order so that we can see the “joy squared” more plainly: “the baby in my womb leaped for joy – for joy.” In the second “for joy” phrase we rediscover our word ἀγαλλίασις / agallíasis again — extreme delight, transcendent gladness,12 the “jumping joy” mentioned by Gabriel in verse 14.13
So John’s deep, Spirit-filled joy began before he was even born!
An Unexpected Fruit of John’s Ministry: Joy!
What was Jesus’ assessment of the results of John’s ministry? In a word, John brought joy, the joy that comes from true, deep repentance, to those who confessed their sins and underwent the “baptism to repentance.” Many of those who followed Jesus had previously been John’s obedient listeners, and Jesus said to them:
- “[John] was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”
- John 5:35
We would probably expect the common word for rejoice in this passage — chaírō (χαίρω) — but it’s not here. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John uses a stronger and more expressive word to denote Jesus’ meaning. Once again, the verb is agalliáō (ἀγαλλιάω), that is, to over-joy, to bubble over with joy, to be extremely joyful.
This is joy Jesus is speaking about, not some worked-up thrill of the moment or mere “happiness,”14 which is more circumstance-dependent. This is the joy that comes from having responded to the Holy Spirit’s heart-exposing “hard message,” experiencing the soul-deep sorrow of conviction, having turned to God via full repentance, and having received a liberating inner witness of His forgiveness. No, John’s message wasn’t a happy one; nevertheless, it produced a bumper-crop of joy in the souls of those who obeyed his call to repentance.15
The End of John’s Ministry: Undiminished Joy
Carefully note some of the last words John shared with his few remaining disciples before he was imprisoned. Remember, the setting isn’t the Jordan Valley (where Jesus’ disciples are now baptizing), but among a group of spring-fed pools a mile or two west of the Jordan in “Ænon near Salim.”
As John’s crowds dwindle day by day, as more of his disciples “desert” to Jesus’ ministry, his remaining disciples grow concerned that soon Jesus’ “competition” will end John’s ministry. In response, John sums up his ministry and his relation to Jesus in the metaphor of a wedding:
- 27John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’
- 29“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30He must increase, but I must decrease.”
- John 3:27-30
Few milestones in life bring as much anticipation and actualization of joy as a wedding, and not just for the bride and groom. The immediate family members and close friends, especially those in the wedding party are in full-on celebration mode during the rehearsal, the set-up, the ceremony itself, and the wedding feast which follows.
In the metaphor of the wedding, John likens his role in preparing the hearts of the people for Jesus’ ministry to that of the “best man” (the “friend of the bridegroom”). In reporting his “wedding mission accomplished,” John uses two joy-phrases of interest:
- “the friend… rejoices greatly” — the Greek phrase here, as recorded by the writer (John the Apostle), is charâ chaírei (χαρᾷ χαίρει), literally, rejoices with joy. Even though the Apostle is writing in Greek, he faithfully records what would have been a standard, idiomatic Hebrew expression, that is, a Hebraism. “With joy I rejoice,” intensifying the noun form with the associated verb, is the way a typical Jew of the time would express a very intense emotion.16 I suppose if we needed a “shorthand,” we could say John was experiencing “joy ‘squared.’”
- “this joy of mine has been made full” — Each of us who follows the Lord Jesus hopes to be able to say, “I have accomplished everything my Master put me on earth to do.” Imagine the joy and satisfaction in being able to say that truthfully as death approaches!17 The verb here, plēróō (πληρόω), has the idea of made complete, filled full. Not surprisingly, it’s the same verb Luke uses in Acts 13:52, where he also associates it with joy: “And the disciples were continually filled (there’s plēróō / πληρόω again18) with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”19
Joy! From John’s prophetically promised birth, through his gestational gymnastics, from the heart-fruit of his followers, to his own mission-accomplished jubilance before his arrest and martyrdom, the common — but very uncommon and unexpected — thread is joy.
John as Prototype
I believe we can look to John as a prototype for Last-Days evangelism. Imagine an army of believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit, broken over sin (both their own and that of the lost world), living the crucified life, full of that greatest evidence of the Spirit’s sanctifying power – love! – and full of the joy of the Lord. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22). Love and joy top Paul’s justly famous “fruit list.”
In John’s life and ministry we see an example of how God’s Spirit can operate in a man or woman.
- John, because he was filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, was conscious of God’s presence, and others were conscious of God’s presence within him.
- Because John lived filled with that Spirit, he confronted people with the truth, and guided them into all truth20 (not just the “popular teaching” that “sells”). In this way, through John, the Holy Spirit brought conviction to the hearts of many tens of thousands…
- …thus plowing their hearts to receive Jesus’ word of the Kingdom and bring forth fruit unto eternal life.
- The end result for many was the Kingdom being established in their hearts, characterized by “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
What will it take for our hearts to change and conform to the prototype so that sharing the Kingdom is a passion rather than a weight of duty? We might well sum up the need of our day in a passage from David’s famous prayer of repentance in Psalm 51:
12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
Too often nowadays, I think an inaudible collective groan or sigh arises from many Christians when they are reminded or exhorted that they “must evangelize” and witness and “share the Gospel.” That’s not a response from which we can readily expect a willing, sustained effort, is it? How very different this is from when we were newly saved! At that point in our lives we had experienced a life-changing encounter with a loving Savior and a forgiving Heavenly Father. We were in love with Jesus and wanted the whole world to know! We didn’t need to be “motivated” to share; most of us couldn’t shut up when we were first saved! What motivated us? The joy of our salvation!
I know my sins are all forgiven —
Glory to the bleeding Lamb!
And I am on my way to Heaven —
Glory to the bleeding Lamb.21
For many of us, there was another experience with God which re-motivated us. It was the joy of that life-changing, filling, thrilling encounter with the Holy Spirit, producing sanctification and re-empowering us as witnesses.
Are our hearts hard or indifferent or burdened by unconfessed sin or rebellion against God, coddled by “cheap grace”? Think of the wisdom and insight in the points of David’s prayer, which we quoted above. Throughout the opening verses of Psalm 51, he has been confessing his sin and expressing his sorrow and repentance. Then he says,
- There’s a joy that comes from walking closely with You, and it’s clear now that I have lost that. Please restore to me the joy of Your salvation.
- As You do so, Lord, please don’t leave me to my own devices. Sustain me with Your Holy Spirit.
Now don’t miss this next part. Once the business of conviction and confession and repentance is concluded, once David experiences the earthly overflow of that “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” and the restoring and sustaining power of God’s Holy Spirit…
- Then will I teach transgressors Your ways;
- Then sinners will be converted to You!
It was the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit and the deep joy of John’s experience with the living God that drew the people to hear his uncompromised and uncompromising message. How is it that we think we can succeed in our task with less than John had?
We have forgotten that in order to see sinners come into a “John the Baptist experience,” in order to preach and teach to accomplish the same, we ourselves must be in the experience personally. We must spend time in God’s presence.22
We can’t produce what we are not. God’s principle requires “fruit trees… bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them” (Genesis 1:11,12). We seek to be used in prayer and witnessing and preaching to see backsliders and unbelievers have a heart-plowing, rock-removing, way-straightening, soul-preparing experience. But we ourselves must be taken through our own “John the Baptist Experience,” including the infilling and empowering with the Holy Spirit, the cross-life of self-denial, and the consequent restoration of joy in our fellowship and communion with the living God!
In the John the Baptist prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 40, we’re told in verse 5 that once the way of the Lord has been straightened and leveled and smoothed (vv. 3-4),
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
May we live through an era of The John the Baptist Experience, so that we may see God’s glory!
- 8…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
- 1 Peter 1:8-9
Having grappled with the key points of John’s “extraordinary message” in Book 2, we must now realize that our need is far greater than just a more complete idea of the Kingdom message. The Gospel is more than just a series of correctly delivered “what’s”; the message needs spiritually prepared “who’s”! We need to “appeal” to God to make us purified, uncompromising, humble, righteous, Spirit-empowered, joyful, appealing Kingdom messengers, like the original herald of King Jesus!
- This is a preview chapter from the book The John the Baptist Experience: Book 3: The Fellowship of the Forerunner; copyright © 2023 by Jim Kerwin. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from New American Standard Bible (nasb) Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. www.lockman.org ↩
- The underlying Jordan River photograph is copyright by Rex Wholster and used under license from iStockphotos.com. ↩
- Mark 6:17-18 states: 17For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.”
“Had been saying” (ἔλεγεν / élegen) is the imperfect active indicative form of “I say” (λέγω / légō). The imperfect voice in Greek conveys the idea of something that is regularly or habitually or constantly done, an action that was ongoing. In this case, despite the probable consequences, John was repeatedly calling for Herod’s public confession of and repentance from his very public and scandalous sin. John was no respecter of persons; he called all, “from the White House to the prison house,” we might say, to confess their sins and repent.
John no doubt quoted from both Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21 as the scriptural basis of his call for the king’s repentance. ↩
- Concerning this word for “word” — rhema — read Percy Gutteridge’s eye-opening Bible study Logos & Rhema. ↩
- We addressed the danger of failing through human zeal and a heart different from God’s heart in our previous chapter, On the Brink of Failure. ↩
- These two verses represent the closing lines of the first two of the three Parables of the Lost Things (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son) which comprise Luke 15. That word joy (vv. 7,10) — χαρά / chará — seems to be missing in the third parable. But…
- We find the verbal form of joy — rejoice (χαίρω / chaírō) — in verse 32 of the third parable: “We had to celebrate and rejoice.” That same verb appears in verse 5 of the “Lost Sheep” Parable, where it says that the shepherd laid the rescued sheep “on his shoulders, rejoicing.”
- We also discover a more communal form of this verb rejoice in verses 6 (The Lost Sheep Parable) and 9 (the Lost Coin Parable). In those places we encounter the compound verb συγχαίρω / sunchairō (σύν / together + χαίρω / rejoice) — rejoice with me!
- If the celebrating, feasting, music, dancing, and merriment reported in the third parable as initiated by the prodigal’s father wasn’t a manifestation of joy, I don’t know what is!
- Think of the woman’s lamp in “light” of Proverbs 20:27—
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,
Searching all the innermost parts of his being.
The “woman” with the lamp scours the house for the lost coin, searching every nook and cranny, sweeping behind, under, around, above everything in the house. What a picture of the thorough work of the Holy Spirit in conviction! ↩
- Why do I underline the “ch” in these Greek words? I do it to clue the reader in helping with pronunciation. In English the diphthong ch is pronounced in one of two ways:
- like the “soft” ch in church, charming, coach, and chop; or,
- like the “hard,” k-like ch in character, orchid, and monarch.
However, the ch in our transliterated Greek words comes from the Greek letter χ (chi). It actually makes a back-of-the-mouth, uvula-activating German-like ch sound, the the ch in ach or Bach. Failing that, use the “hard k” sound, since so many of our “hard ch” words derive from Greek root-words which contain the chi, e.g., chaos, chorus, scheme, and the other “hard k” words mentioned in the point above. ↩
- Other renderings of agallíasis include delight (niv, Williams), exaltation (neb, Vulgate), extreme joy (Lavender), and intense joy (Weymouth, though another edition reads exultant joy, the same concept). ↩
- Dictionary of Biblical Languages: Greek (hereinafter DBL:G), s.v., skirtáō. ↩
- While Jesus’ words here don’t apply to John directly, no doubt John experienced sufficient persecution during his ministry (including his imprisonment) so that he could attest to joy and “leaping joy” that comes from the Holy Spirit’s assurance in such times of trial. ↩
- DBL:G again, s.v. ἀγαλλίασις / agallíasis ↩
- This re-emphasizing — leaped for joy for joy — seems to be the same sort of idiomatic phrase mentioned below in the section subtitled The End of John’s Ministry: Undiminished Joy. ↩
- Most of us have forgotten what a “hap” is. A hap is one’s luck or lot, an accident or occurrence. Hap, in older English, was used both as a noun and as a verb. So happiness depends on happenstances, which is to say, whatever happens. Being so ephemeral, happiness rarely leads to deep-down joy. ↩
- How inspired David was when he wrote:
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
— Psalm 30:5 nkjv —
- Compare this to Jesus’ Last-Supper words in Luke 22:15 — “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…”, where the bolded words translate epithumía epithúmēsa (ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα). English translations struggle a bit to adequately render the emotion Jesus is conveying into readable English — with deep, longing desire I have greatly and longingly desired. ↩
- And immediately after death! —
- “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy (χαρά / chará) of your master.’”
- Matthew 25:21
- The continually part of the translation conveys the fact that the verb is in the imperfect tense. In the imperfect, the idea is that a thing kept on happening in the normal course of events. ↩
- Joy being made full is a repeated theme in the New Testament. Other verses linking joy and fullness include:
- John 15:11 — “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
- John 16:24 — “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”
- John 17:13 — “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.”
- Romans 15:13 — Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- 2 Timothy 1:3-4 — 3I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, 4longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.
- John 16:13 ↩
- From Hodgson Casson’s My Savior Suffered on the Tree ↩
- I am reminded of the wise counsel of Peter Deyneka, founder of the Slavic Gospel Association: “Spend time in the presence of God and the presence of God will spend time in you!” ↩