When Jesus knew the time for his death was imminent, he told his disciples. In John 16, he told them “a little while and you will see me no longer”. Jesus knew he would die. He knew he would be buried. In a little while, they would not see him because his body would be in the tomb.
But Jesus promised they would see him again. He said “and again a little while and you will see me”. Jesus knew he would rise from the grave and present himself to the disciples.
Jesus knew more than the physical facts, though. He knew the emotional facts. He told them they would weep and lament. They would be sorrowful. But their sorrow would turn to joy. That joy would be permanent. Jesus said “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”. (John 16:16-22)
In Acts 1:9-11, we see the promise of Jesus fulfilled. The disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God. They rejoiced because Jesus was alive. He conquered death, rose to life and ascended to his throne in heaven.
Knowing these things were true, the disciples knew all that Jesus said was true. They knew he would keep his promise to return. He would keep his promise to send the Holy Spirit to them.
The disciples never lost their joy, just as Jesus said. This joy carried them into the world to preach the gospel. This joy sustained them in suffering and death.
We did not see Jesus after his resurrection. We did not see Jesus ascend to heaven. But we believe it. And this gives us joy also. In one sense, coming to faith in Christ is entering into joy. John wrote that he told the story of Jesus so that we might have fellowship with the disciples, whose fellowship was with the Father and wit his Son, that “our (John and his fellow believers) joy may be complete. (1 John 1:3-4) As believers are added to the fellowship, the joy of the church grows to completion.
Paul urged us to rejoice also. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord”. (Philippians 3:1) Rejoice is to have joy, to express joy.
Our joy is not based on external circumstances. Paul and John knew great persecution. Yet the rejoiced in the knowledge that Jesus is alive in heaven, on this throne, ruling until all enemies are placed under his feet, waiting to return and collect us to be with hims and see his glory.
Live in joy today. Rejoice! Joy will be your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy is good for you. It is good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22) It is the proper response of one who believes in the resurrection and return of Jesus.