"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)
When did he tell them this?"I have told you this" refers to Jesus' previous statement in John 15:9-10, where he speaks of his loving service relationship with the Supreme Being, and how that has been mirrored in his loving relationship with his disciples:
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love." (John 15:9-10)
What does Jesus mean by 'joy'?And how does Jesus' disciples' joy become complete by following Jesus' commands?
The word "joy" is being translated from the Greek word χαρά (chara), which refers to joy or gladness. It means happiness.
Each of us is looking for joy - happiness. We are constantly looking for fulfillment. From cradle to grave we seek joy from those around us, from accomplishing our goals, and from our senses. One might say we are each fervent joy-seekers.
And yet none of the things of this world seem to bring us any real joy. This is why we keep looking for joy despite all our accomplishments. This is why we set up one goal after another to achieve. We seek to accomplish a certain goal or position, and once we get it, we usually feel "is that all there is to this?"
Instead of questioning whether the things of this world really make us happy, we set up another goal to achieve, again thinking that once we accomplish that goal we will be happy - joyful.
In this way, we keep chasing the things of this world. Whether it be wealth, a mate, a big family, a big house, that important job, or that particular status, we go from one thing to another - like a bee taking pollen from one flower after another.
The problem is, none of these accomplishments fulfill us. We remain empty inside, and this is why we keep thinking the next thing will fulfill us.
Meanwhile, the aspiration repeated in so many popular songs, love stories, and other media sets up another goal: Family brings fulfillment.
But a snapshot of the household of any family will tell us that the family also does not bring fulfillment. Instead of being fulfilled, each member of the household is busy seeking their own set of goals outside of the family. The family provides a resource or a foundation for a perpetual seeking of satisfaction outside of the relationships of the family.
In addition to this, most households are places of constant bickering, confrontation, outbursts, crying and even sometimes anger and hostility.
So if the family brings so much joy, where is this joy? Why are there no symptoms of joy? If there is so much joy in family life, why do more than half of all marriages end in divorce among Americans? If the family brings so much joy why do so many kids rebel against their parents? Where is the joy?
The fact is, there is simply no joy within the physical dimension. There might be shadows - glimpses of joy - but these are typically sentiment - not real joy. Not real fulfillment.
Real joy, real fulfillment has a definite symptom: Everything begins to revolve around that which brings joy. There is no search elsewhere: When fulfillment is found, it is definite.
Real joy comes from another dimension: It comes from the spiritual dimension. This is the dimension we are each from. The spiritual realm is the world of the Supreme Being. This is the world of love, humility, joy and fulfillment.
What is this physical world?This world is the place where we pretend to be who we are not. Here we pretend to be heroes in the form of firemen, policemen, soldiers, and so on. Here we pretend to be little kings in the form of bosses, officers, politicians, parents and so on. Here we pretend to be stars of either large or small audiences. Here we pretend we are enjoyers, as we feed our senses with the things of this world.
Yet we are none of these. These roles - and the physical bodies we use to maintain these roles - are only temporary. We may think we are in control as parents, but then our kids grow older and leave us. And then as we get older, our kids end up bossing us around. We might think we are the best fireman but then our body gets old and the fireman must retire to an armchair. Or we might think we are a big superstar, only to find that as we get older a younger star takes our place in the limelight.
All our physical roles and positions are temporary. And then the physical body dies. Then it decomposes, and worms begin to eat it. Or the body is cremated and the ashes are put into a jar or tossed out across the water.
This is the epitome of physical life: All that's left of a lifetime of accomplishments is a jar full of ashes.
We are not these physical bodies. These are vehicles we drive around for a while. When they wear out, we leave them. And when we leave them, they cease to operate.
What are we composed of?Each of us is spirit in composition. This is what is often missed from Jesus' teachings. Jesus is not teaching his students to become wealthy, be famous, or enjoy goodies to accomplish joy. He is teaching them that they can find spiritual joy by following his teachings - which reflect the instructions of the Supreme Being.
This relates directly to our identity: We are not heroes, little kings, stars or bosses. We are servants by nature. We are caregivers. This is our identity. We are spiritual in essence, and our position within the spiritual realm is that we are one of the Supreme Being's caregivers.
Embracing this real identity is what gives us happiness. When we please our Best Friend and Companion we become happy. This is the family - the Supreme Being and His associates - we are each seeking. This is the relationship that fulfills us.
And this is the joy Jesus is experiencing. He feels joy by following the commands of the Supreme Being because he loves the Supreme Being. He wants to please God. Jesus' love for God and this loving service to God brings him joy.
And since Jesus is passing on those commands - instructions - given by the Supreme Being, Jesus' disciples can also latch onto that same joy by following Jesus' instructions.
Ultimately this joy comes from loving God and loving service to God. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)