Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people – Luke 2:10
Life can be pretty fearsome at times. The circumstances of life can bottle us up and paralyze us from doing anything. I imagine the shepherds in the field who experienced God’s angelic holy intrusion were taken aback and struck with fear at the heavenly presence. Why else would the angel say to them, “Do not be afraid.” God has the perfect antidote for our fears and for whatever else ails us. That’s especially true at Christmastime when emotions are heightened and feelings can be a bit weepier. God’s antidote and perfect solution to the troubles of life is His joy. “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” the angel said. God’s joy is good and great and it is for all people. Do you have God’s joy this Christmas? Do you have it now? Would you like to? Would you at least like to know a bit more about God’s great joy? This teaching is aimed at considering this powerful solution of God to our joyless life circumstances. This is a teaching to help you tap into God’s great joy that He has offered to the world.
The context of Luke 2:10, the verse upon which this study is based, is an angelic announcement to shepherds who were in the field watching their flocks. It was nighttime (Luke 2:8). “An angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” (Luke 2:9). When eternity comes into contact with humanity, when heaven comes into contact with earth, when the spiritual makes itself known to the material, it can be frightening. Then we come to verse ten which states, “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). What can we glean from this verse?
First, “the angel said to them” – God sent His messenger to tell us something important. This was an other-worldly messenger with an otherworldly message from God to humanity. When that angel made himself known “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” It was this awesome other worldliness that caused them to be “greatly afraid.” When was the last time you were in awe of the Lord? When was the last time the presence of God got your attention?
Second, “do not be afraid” – God’s intent is not to frighten us but to draw us close to Himself in love. God loves the world (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-12). An angelic being and the glory he brings is awesome and will cause us to fear. But the message of God’s messenger from the start is, “Do not be afraid.” There is a healthy “fear of the Lord” (e.g. Proverbs) which is a wise reverence and respect for God and His word. But God doesn’t want us to be paralyzed with fear so that we can’t receive the message He is bringing to us. He calms our fears. God’s ultimate message is one of love. “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. . . There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. . . .” (1 John 4:16-18). His messenger says, “Do not be afraid.”
Third, “for behold” – When God speaks, we need to listen. This is the second time in these few verses that we are told to “behold,” or to pay close attention. When God speaks, even when He speaks through a messenger, we ought to listen up and pay close attention. The same is case here. There’s a message from God that needed to be received. Whenever God speaks, we need to “behold.” We need to take hold of God’s message.
Fourth, “I bring you tidings” – God is the One who takes the initiative in reaching fallen humanity. That is mercy, grace, and love from God (e.g. Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 5:8). God is the One who reaches out to us. All we can do is either receive what He is offering or reject what He is offering. What will you do this Christmas?
Fifth, “of great joy” – God’s joy is the greatest. There’s no other “joy” that can match God’s great joy.
“Joy to the world, the LORD has come.” Those are the opening words to a popular and well-known Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, written in the 1700s by the famous Isaac Watts. Its words are a shout to glorify God for the joy that comes to the world through the birth of Jesus. The lyrics of the hymn are majestically glorious:
Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.
I love that song. It lifts my spirit every time I sing it no matter what my life circumstances are when I sing it. But not everyone feels the same way.
Joy, that’s something you don’t see a lot of in our world today. And that’s understandable. The circumstances of life can be very confining. We walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders. We may feel shackled with no way out; no hope. At times our plight is due to nothing we have done. And at times, we are suffering the consequences of our sinful choices. Natural disasters, threat of war, injustices, the economy, terrorism, illness and disease, politics, family and relational breakdowns topped off with the ever-advancing changes in our bodies due to aging, can all make joy a very distant thought. But what if I told you there was a way to live above life’s circumstances? What if I told you there was a way to transcend and overcome the hardships of life? What if I told you there was a way to actually have joy in the midst of such circumstances? It’s true; God offers joy to help us live above the circumstances in life.
In the Old Testament it states that God is the source of joy:
- Ecclesiastes 2:26 – For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
- Psalm 4:7 – You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
- Psalm 16:11 – You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- Psalm 32:11 – Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
We also see that joy comes from taking in God’s word (Neh. 8:10-12). Jesus is the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:1-2, 14). The continued revelation of God’s joy comes through Jesus. He came to bring God’s joy and it is in Him that we can find fullness of joy.
The night before Jesus went to the cross in the middle of His teaching on the Holy Spirit, Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Jesus wants us to be joy full; full of joy; His joy. Joy is linked closely to the fruit of the Spirit which is love (Gal. 5:22). What Jesus was teaching His disciples was that when the Spirit came, He would produce joy in them. There is “joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). It is the Spirit that brings Jesus’ joy to us.
What is joy? And in particular, what is Jesus’ joy? The Bible says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). The best way to begin to define joy and Jesus’ joy is to look at Jesus and what produced joy or rejoicing in Him and what He said would produce joy in others. Let’s pray and come into His presence. Let’s take a walk by His side in the gospels and discover the fullness of His joy.
When we walk with Jesus through the gospels and in parts of the New Testament, we see a number of things associated with His joy. Jesus’ joy is related to the following things:
First, the arrival of Jesus brings joy. When Jesus entered the world, His incarnation brought great joy to the world:
- Matthew 2:10-11 – 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
- Luke 2:10-11 – 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
When Jesus was miraculously conceived and in the womb of Mary, His presence in her womb brought joy to John the Baptist who was in the womb of his mother Elizabeth:
- Luke 1:44 – 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
There’s something about the presence of Jesus that brings joy. When He comes and we realize His presence it means we can rest in Him, it means Someone is there who will take care of our sin problem and circumstantial difficulties (e.g. Mat. 11:28-30). When Jesus comes it leads to joy. Have you recognized the presence of Jesus and welcomed Him with joy?
Second, introducing others to Jesus brings joy. When Jesus is shared with others through the preaching of the word it leads to great works of God and great joy for those who are experiencing the great work of God:
- John 4:34-38 – 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
- Acts 8:4-8 – 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.
Seeing and experiencing the work of Jesus in lives causes a great eruption of joy in those who see it happen and experience it firsthand. That’s because we realize God is real and that He is taking a loving interest in us. Physical and demonic problems are no match for the Lord and that is a source of great joy for us. Have you experienced the joy of Jesus work in you?
Third, personal salvation and being used by God brings joy. Personal salvation brings great joy because when a person is saved from their sin it is like a treasure found, burden lifted, and a harvest come in:
- Matthew 13:44 – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Jesus took great joy in leaving His throne and coming to purchase the souls of the lost. Jesus came looking for lost sheep which were of the greatest value to Him. When he found them, he rejoiced:
- Luke 15:5-10 – 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus lived to save the lost.
Mary experienced great joy as she sang to the Lord of His salvation:
- Luke 1:47 – And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
Mary experienced the joy that comes from the removal of sin in her life through salvation.
Jesus told His disciples that successful work for Him was good and a cause of joy but an even greater source of joy was salvation:
- Luke 10:20 – 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Have you experienced the joy of personal salvation?
Fourth, faithful enduring service to the Lord brings joy. When you realize all that Jesus has done to work your salvation, serving Him is a privilege. When we faithfully serve the Lord the work, he does through us is a source of joy, but the greatest joy comes when our Master tells us well done:
- Matthew 25:21 – His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
- Matthew 25:23 – His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
- Luke 10:17 – Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”
Are you serving the Lord and experiencing His joy? When you see Him will He say to you well done and will you enter the joy of your Lord?
Fifth, Jesus’ words bring fullness of joy. Jesus rejoices when we receive His words. He spoke His word to bring us joy:
- Luke 10:21 – In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
- John 15:11 – “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
- John 17:13 – But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
There’s something about the words of Jesus that bring us joy. When Jesus speaks and we listen it is like the fulfillment of what Jeremiah spoke of when he said:
- Jeremiah 15:16 – Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.
Have you, are you taking in the word of Jesus? If you want His joy, take in His word.
Sixth, persecution for Jesus’ sake brings joy. Blessing and joy await those who go through persecution for the sake of Jesus:
- Matthew 5:11-12 – “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- Luke 6:22-23 – Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
Being persecuted for Jesus’ sake is not some sadistic or masochistic source of pleasure, it is merely an opportunity to follow in the steps of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:21). Persecution is also a means of making deposits in our heavenly bank account. Are you known as a follower of Jesus? Are you making a difference for Him in this fallen world? Have you been or are you being persecuted for Jesus’ sake? If you are, rejoice, great is your reward in heaven.
Seventh, birthing God’s plan brings joy. Jesus is our model in this truth. He birthed the plan of salvation. It was a painful birth but once attained, it led to great joy. And the prospect of this plan drove Jesus to endure the pain:
- John 16:20-22 – Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (cf. also Jn. 14:28)
- Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Joy comes when we first think of what God will do and then actually see it come to pass. Vision for God’s work brings joy and the fulfillment of those plans brings joy. Are you involved in ministry? Is it painful? Look beyond the pain to the joyful conclusion of the work God has called you to and it will lead to joy.
Eighth, asking in Jesus’ name brings joy. When we pray in Jesus’ name and ask in His name it will ultimately lead to joy:
- John 16:24 – Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
When we pray in Jesus’ name, according to His will, we are assured and promised God will answer (1 Jn. 5:14-15). Do you pray in Jesus’ name? That doesn’t mean Jesus’ name is a magical phrase that gets us anything we want. It means we pray in accord with the nature of Jesus whose name we are asking in. if you do that it will lead to great joy.
Ninth, Jesus’ miraculous works bring joy. When Jesus works in our lives it leads to great joy:
- Luke 13:17 – And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.
- Luke 19:37 – Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen,
Are you thankful and rejoicing for the works Jesus has done and is doing in your life?
Tenth, fulfilled prophecy brings joy. Like Abraham, when we see the fulfillment of prophecy it leads to great joy because it assures us of God’s faithfulness:
- John 8:56 – Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
Another example of joy related to the fulfillment of prophecy happened in the Old Testament when God’s people returned from their captivity:
- Isaiah 51:11 – So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
We were once captive to sin. Salvation brings liberation from sin. That should bring us joy.
Eleventh, Jesus’ resurrection brings joy. When One who was dead is then raised from the dead, it brings great joy. Jesus’ resurrection, the eternal message of hope leads to joy:
- Matthew 28:8-9 – So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
- Luke 24:41 – But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?”
The resurrection of Jesus tells us His redemptive work was totally sufficient. It tells us not even death can keep us down. And it tells us there is always hope in the Lord. That is reason for great joy.
Twelfth, Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit brings joy. The Holy Spirit is who works Jesus’ joy in us and the prospect of His coming and work in us should give us great joy:
- Luke 24:49-53 – 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.
Joy is the work of the Spirit in us:
- Romans 14:17 – for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
- 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,
Have you experienced the joy of the Spirit in your life? Jesus offers that to you. Ask and receive by faith.
Later in the New Testament the apostle John said he was inspired to write, “so that your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:4). Peter spoke of the joy of Jesus as “joy inexpressible” stating:
- 1 Peter 1:3-9 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Joy is a wonderful provision of the Lord and we will be greatly enriched and edified in our walk with Him when we understand joy and incorporate it into our lives.
When we put all of this together a definition of joy could be stated to have three components as follows:
Joy is a work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life giving a sense of relief from the burden of sin through salvation in Christ.
Joy is a comforting sense of security based on the reality of God’s divine providence in life; God is sovereign and in control.
Joy is a sense of satisfaction that comes from serving the Lord and seeing His plans succeed.
We can therefore give a summary definition of joy as:
Joy is not a mere feeling, it is the presence of Jesus within assuring, guiding, and empowering through life.
This is the great joy God offers us through Jesus Christ. It should be noted that we are not saved by joy. In Jesus’ parable of the Sower he says that there are people who hear His word and “immediately receive it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Mat. 13:20-21; cf. also Lk. 8:13; and John 5:35). Joy may be an indicator of one following the Lord but it does not save us. From Jesus’ teaching here, we can also conclude that joy can be a shallow emotional feeling that is very transient and superficial. The joy we are talking about, Jesus’ joy, is enduring. Beware of false and shallow imitations of Jesus’ joy.
Sixth, “which will be to all people” – God doesn’t offer this great joy to only a select few. God offers His great joy to everyone. God offers this great joy to everyone who would receive it as a gift of His grace through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. God’s great joy is an aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). Receiving God’s great joy is as easy as ABC. When we admit our sin before God and ask His forgiveness based not on any effort or good work of our own, but only on the basis of our belief (or faith) in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, then God will forgive us, give us spiritual life by the Holy Spirit indwelling us, give us eternal life, and transform us into a new creation. When this happens, all the old things of our sinful past will be put behind us and everything will become new because of our relationship with Jesus (2Cor. 5:17). That will produce God’s great joy in us.
Do you have God’s great joy of Jesus in you this Christmas? Do you have Jesus’ joy? Jesus’ joy may be what you need to get through this Christmas. I pray we all experience a great big gigantic dose of God’s great joy in Jesus this Christmas. Then we will really have reason to rejoice. God bless you all with His great joy. In Jesus name. Amen.