“But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13).
Being almost out of the world and back in the presence of His Father but still in the world for now Jesus says that He has spoken what He has for His disciples joy. Not joy in general, but that His own joy would be fulfilled in them. Jesus could have said “…these things I speak in the world, that they may have joy.” But He didn’t. He said He spoke His words to them so that His joy would be in them. So, why has Jesus taught His disciples? Why has Jesus said certain things to His disciples? Why has Jesus spoken His word to them? One reason is given here…that His joy would be their joy.
How are we supposed to respond to Jesus’ request to the Father to give us His joy? Five ways.
First, we must see the connection being made between His Word and His joy. He spoke His words to them so that His joy would be in them. Jesus’ words lead to Jesus’ joy. That’s what He’s saying, we cannot miss this. This is the foundation of understanding v13.
Second, because His Word is the means of His joy being in us we should make it the aim of our lives to not only learn His truth but feel the joy of His truth.There are two pitfalls to avoid here. On one hand there are those with a heartless head, where the truth of God is consumed but a love for God is never cultivated. On the other hand there are those with a headless heart, where God is loved vastly but is never studied deeply. Both are wrong and both should be avoided. Instead of falling off into these two ditches our lives must be those that seek a head for truth and a heart for God. Or as John Owen has said “…we must be those who enjoy a vast communion with God in the deep doctrine of God we contend for.”
Third, in order to have His joy must do far more than just see His truth in His words. We must see God in His truth and savor the God standing forth in it. Here are a few ways to say this. You could say…doctrine matters, immensely so! But the goal isn’t merely right doctrine, it’s a right doctrine of God fueling a robust delight in God. Or you could say…don’t just admire the shape and position and cleanness of the window, gaze at the mountains you see through it!Or you could say…see the words of Jesus, indeed to see the whole of Scripture, as the way God plucks every string in the harp of our soul.So, we see in order to savor, we seek insight in order to enjoy, we seek knowledge in order to love, the labor of the mind serves the affections of the heart.
Fourth, Jesus did not intend that His joy would be somewhat present in us, kind of present in us, or even very present in us. No, He intends that His joy would be fulfilled in us, or would fill us, complete us, satisfy us, gush forth and overflow in and through us. All of these options are possible meanings from the Greek word present here in our English word ‘fulfilled.’ See that v13 is teaching that the aim of His words is the fullness of His joy, and I wonder if you see the implication of this fullness? When something is full there isn’t any room for anything else.
Fifth, this is how the disciples then, and we today, fight sin. Whatever sins you’re battling don’t believe the lie that your desires are too strong. That it’s desire overpowering will and your sin problems would be corrected if you just overcome your unruly desires with a stronger will. I’m afraid it doesn’t really work like that. Our desires aren’t too strong they’re too weak, in that by giving into this or that sin, you’re settling for lesser pleasures when you could feast on what infinitely satisfies and fills the soul. This is the ultimate battle of the Christian life, fighting to be so filled and so satisfied in Christ that there is no room for sin. This is what Jesus prays for His disciples to have in v13, and this is what we can have in Him as well.
In John 17:6-13 we see revelation, preservation, and jubilation. These three items top the prayer list of Christ for His own. I would encourage you to put them atop your prayer lists as well. For both those who know Christ and for those who don’t know Christ. We all need these things. Everyone needs to see and be stunned by God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Everyone needs God to keep us throughout the stormy waters of this life because we can’t make it on our own. And that there are a million different things tempting us with ‘joy’, we need to know that only One Person can ultimately and truly satisfy the human heart: Jesus Christ Himself.
John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2017) page 121-123.
John Owen, quoted in Ibid., page 101.
Ibid., page 121.
Ibid., page 104.
Ibid., page 102…my twist on it.
Ibid., page 123.