I have never interviewed a cow. In fact, thank God, I did not grow up anywhere near a farm. But if I was to guess as to the most joyful moment for any milking cow… I would say that it might be when the farmer stands in front of her and with great delight tastes a glass of her delicious milk.
I have never interviewed a vine either. But if I was to guess as to the moment of her greatest joy and satisfaction… I would point to the instant when someone, having pulled a bunch of her grapes, delights in their juicy taste!
But I have interviewed people who have launched out into a commitment to share their faith in Jesus with others.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says that we, his disciples, are like branches and he is the vine. And he promises that if we remain in him, like a healthy branch well connected to a vine, we will bear much fruit. Imagine that--branches overflowing with clusters of grapes. What an image!
But that’s not all. “And my joy will be in you,” he explains, and “your joy will be made complete.”
Here is Jesus’ promise: Come harvest time, the vine and the branches will both share in fullness of joy.
Joy, the pure delight of life, the steady stream of satisfaction that we all dream of having… seems to be in short supply, doesn’t it?
A while ago, I was training a group of friends in how to share their faith. We had been trying to hear Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 10.
Everything in those instructions seems pretty bleak. Jesus tells them:
- They should see their mission as sheep hanging out with wolves. Huh?
- They are to go without enough supplies for their travels. Ouch!
- What’s more, from the very beginning he assures them that in many places people would reject them. What?
- Finally, he breaks the news that he is not going with them. They would go in twos into random towns as complete strangers. Gulp!
They must have left hesitantly, filled with fear. I know I would have.
But their return back to Jesus was nothing like their initial sendoff. They came back filled with joy!
And as Jesus received them back and heard of their adventures, he too was filled with joy. Luke appears to give us an unusual description of Jesus’ reaction. Nowhere else in the Gospels is Jesus described like this: “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit said…”
There is no avoiding it. Luke is telling us that Jesus exploded in joy along with his disciples.
It’s hard to find pictures or drawings of Jesus bursting in laughter or exploding in joy. After many google searches, I finally found an image that I liked of Jesus laughing. I liked that image so much that I printed it and glued it to my Bible. It helps me to envision what Jesus must have looked like that day with his disciples.
The day of the training, as we finished practicing, Alex, a young single man walked up to me. He shook my hand and thanked me. Then he said, “Pastor, I want to be among those who make Jesus explode in joy.” I, of course, smiled, encouraged him, and thought nothing further of his words.
Later on that week I was sitting in a long and tedious meeting. And my phone began to ring. I apologized and turned the ringer off without looking at it. In my pocket, however, I could feel the phone blowing up.
Filled with concern and curiosity, I finally stepped out of the meeting and checked the messages.
It was Alex. After several unanswered calls, he had finally sent me a video. In it, he was standing next to a man. Both of them were smiling. I imagined that he wanted to introduce me to an old friend.
I quickly pressed play. Alex was speaking: “Pastor Paco, today I went out with my sister to do what you taught us this past weekend. We came out to the park next to our house and met a new friend. We shared Jesus with him and he gladly received the good news.”
In the video, our new friend, and new brother, smiled and waved.
Then, Alex said something that I will never forget. “Pastor Paco, I am sorry that I called you so much. I just couldn’t wait to tell you about this because I am so filled with joy I can’t contain it.”
In our endless pursuit for joy, who knew that it has always been so available and within reach. All we need to do is join God on his mission with faith and obedience. The rest will follow.
By the way, you may call me crazy, but that day I think I might have heard the vine and some of its branches break out in full joy!
Paco Amador (@PacoChi7) pastors the New Life congregation in a Mexican immigrant neighborhood in Chicago. He enjoys running, dancing with his four daughters, wrestling with his three boys, and bike riding through the city. Pastor P and his wife, Sylvia, have been married for 20 years.