Joy Over Life

by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison

Joy over life verily leaps off the pages of Holy Writ. It bubbles from the mouth of Jesus. It animates His every action. There is–in addition to specific, pervasive and persuasive texts (Gen. 1:26, 27; 9:6; Ex. 21:2225)–an ethic of the inherent value of every human life conceived, no matter its form or malformity. Simply put, for Jesus there is no “life unworthy of life.” In fact, Christ turns the human value system completely on its head (1 Cor. 1:25, 27) to the great delight and joy of the “least.”

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped [literally “skipped”] in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:4144).

What a remarkable transaction! John the Baptizer “skips for joy” in utero over the greeting of “the mother of my Lord.” Two unborns (the Lord Himself and His great forerunner) are each acknowledged as such in the womb! The word (used by Luke more than any other New Testament writer) expresses what is an “outburst of joy.” Luke is indeed the “evangelist of joy” and more. He’s the “evangelist of the joy over life!”

A peasant, Elizabeth, rejoiced over the unborn Lord (Luke 1:42). The unlikely mother of the Lord, Mary, sang her Magnificat: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . He has exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:46ff.). Elizabeth’s friends and family rejoiced with her over her newborn (Luke 1:58). Zechariah’s tongue was loosed in praise after the mute wrote, “His name is John. . . . He spoke, blessing God . . . for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:63). Praise and blessing are the sounds that joy makes!

At the birth of Christ, the angel announced to the shepherds: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). The whole heavenly host rejoiced over the One who came to bring peace between God and man (Luke 2:14). Feeble, old Simeon beheld this very life–in his own arms, in the flesh and rejoiced! “Mine eyes have seen your salvation . . . Let your servant depart in peace” ( Luke 2:29). Peace is joy at rest.

There is much, much more in Luke’s Gospel alone, including all the rejoicing over the prodigal, the lost coin, the great banquet . . . and finally, the greatest affirmation of human life in time for eternity, the resurrection of Jesus. After the Lord’s ascension, “They worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:5253). Acts continues the exuberant theme of joy over life (Acts 2:26, 46; 5:41; 8:8, 39; 11:23; 12:14; 13:52). “In all things I [Paul] have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35). Each and every one of these references is a testament etched in stone bearing witness: there is no “life unworthy of living!”

[Excerpted from A Little Book on Joy (CPH, 2011), pages 9195.]

Pastor Matthew Harrison
“Let’s go!” Mark 1:38

e-mail: president@lcms.org
Web page: www.lcms.org/president

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