We wake up to terrible news again … more violence and bloodshed, and we are saddened for Europe and the world. I imagine the European airport where my family will enter and depart in a few months, and my heart shrinks a bit. How do we live in this world – when despair feels overbearing and hope is pressed thin?
As I read about the final earthly steps of our Lord, I imagine Him in Gethsemane where He went to pray through the agonizing anticipation of the Cross. Gethsemane, which means “place where the oil is pressed,” was at the foot of the Mount of Olives. There, our Savior said yes to His Father’s will, that He would suffer the unthinkable weight of our sin and judgment in our place.
Olives were pressed under the weight of a millstone until the oil flowed out from the crushed pulp. The imagery of Gethsemane is fitting in light of Isaiah’s prophecy:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain … Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted … he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 3 – 5).
Jesus endured suffering and shame because of His love for His Father and for us. And He did it for joy. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, (Jesus) endured the cross, disregarding its shame.”
Scripture indicates that oil is a symbol of purity, light, healing, and the joy of God’s presence.
Like an olive crushed for its oil, Jesus’ suffering yielded a precious treasure. Again, Isaiah’s prophecy points us to Jesus:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me (the Messiah), because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning…” (Isaiah 61: 1- 3)
The living Savior invites us to a joy-filled life, the kind of joy that comes through fellowship with Him, even in – especially in – suffering. It is a joy that is marked by surrender, by the willingness for self to be pressed out and replaced with Christ.
To the Son, God says –
Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
You rule with a scepter of justice.
You love justice and hate evil.
Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you,
pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else. (Hebrews 1: 8 -9)
Jesus hurts with us in these times of grief and trouble and brokenness. He draws near to those who are crushed in spirit. But Jesus is drenched in joy because He endures.
He is Risen is still the news of the day, of everyday. Jesus rose from the grave to resurrect our joy, not necessarily a cheerful joy, but a resolute knowing that He has the final word. Because of Jesus, there is no weight of desperation that can hold us down. In Him, we can have the kind of joy which overflows and overcomes.
“The Savior looks upon the redeemed with an unspeakable delight, thinks of what they used to be, thinks of what they would have been, thinks of what they now are, thinks of what he means to make them in that great day when they shall rise from the dead; and as his heart is full of love to them he joys in their joy, and exults in their exultation … There is a joy of our Lord into which he will give his faithful ones to enter, a joy which he has won by passing through the shame and grief by which he has redeemed mankind.
The oil of gladness is abundantly poured on that head which once was crowned with thorns.” Charles Spurgeon
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126: 5 – 6
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Psalm 51:8
When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. Proverbs 21:15
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away ~ From Isaiah 35