‘’The Gospel according to Matthew’’, a 1993 movie produced by Regardt van den Bergh and starring Bruce Marchiano was loved and hated by many. Some felt that the portrayal of Jesus was too light and even irreverent. They felt that Jesus was too casual in certain ‘holy’ moments and as such despised the production. I fall into the category of those who absolutely loved the movie. In most depictions of Jesus, he was always stoic, serious, grave, even sad.
Worse still, he sounded somewhat robotic. Is the portrayal of Jesus by Bruce Marchiano 100% accurate? I am not sure, but I would posit that, in my humble opinion, it was and is most likely the closest to the real Jesus.
The Jesus of the Bible was a very real person with real emotions; someone who connected with the outcasts, the rejects of society and even children. It is most unlikely that children would be attracted to someone who was always sober and serious. Ironically, the disciples had to try to keep the children away.
Somehow in the minds of many religious people holiness and joy are mutually exclusive forces. In other words, the holier one is, the more serious and somber they are. By implication, holy people are no fun and therefore difficult to get along with. This is not entirely untrue, but it is extremely far from the full picture. This narrative was clearly shattered not just by this movie but by the scriptures itself.
“And Nehemiah, … said to all the people, “THIS DAY IS HOLY to the Lord your God; DO NOT MOURN NOR WEEP.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So, the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “BE STILL, FOR THE DAY IS HOLY; DO NOT BE GRIEVED.” And all the people went their way to … rejoice greatly because they understood the words that were declared to them” –
According to the verses above holiness is very consistent and compatible with joy. The converse is also true: a lack of true holiness equals to a lack of genuine joy. I am sad to say that most preachers do not understand this.
They are so concerned about the happiness of their people that they would not dare speak about holiness except in a way that is so watered down that it really doesn’t have any serious effect or impact on the lifestyles of the people. In doing this, they inadvertently rob the people of the experience of true, real and holy joy.
It is true that the genuine manifestation of the presence of God provokes fear, awe, sinner consciousness and even terror in the heart of men. This medium does not give us enough room to discuss the encounter of Prophet Isaiah, Joshua, John the Beloved and others in scriptures. However, it is also true that the presence of God unleashes superlative, superfluous and ecstatic joy in those who are fortunate to meet Him.
“Because of you, I know the path of life, as I TASTE THE FULLNESS OF JOY IN YOUR PRESENCE. At your right side I experience divine pleasures forevermore!” – Psalms
God designed this life to be joyous and pleasurable. His presence provokes ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’. Holiness does not make us incapable of joy, delight and pleasure; on the contrary true holiness enables us to experience joy and delight on a higher level. Even the baby John the Baptist experienced joy in the presence of the baby Jesus whilst still in the womb of His mother, Mary.
The Jesus of the Bible enjoyed going to feasts and parties; in fact, His first miracle that proved His credibility and showed His divinity to His earliest disciples was performed at a Wedding Party where He supplied them with one hundred and twenty gallons of the best quality wine.
The terribleness, the fearfulness and awesomeness of encounter with God’s presence may provoke fear in us, but if we continue to tarry in that presence, it will morph into supernatural joy.
The devil cannot take your joy until you let him; and if he cannot take your joy, he cannot really hurt you. Happiness is good, but it is feeble, fickle and fleeting. Besides happiness is derived from things whilst true joy emanates from the presence of the creator of the universe. Those who spend their lives pursuing happiness will never be satisfied; they are chasing a mirage.
Those who pursue after God will find more joy and satisfaction in an ordinary day with the simple gifts of life than the happiness-chasers on exotic holidays and expensive shopping sprees. It is time for you and I to experience this side of God and to show it to a needy and dying world. No joyful person has ever looked to the bottom of a liquor bottle, strange leaves, or powders for happiness. No joyful person has ever looked to cheap, meaningless, debasing, loveless and repetitive sex for a sense of happiness in life.
Enter into joy today and you will never quit living life to the full and to overflowing.