Jealousy & Joy

As Paul and Barnabas present the good news that Jesus Christ has come bringing salvation to the world, any interest the Jews in Pisidian Antioch have gets choked out by their jealous hearts. When they see the Gentiles receiving eternal life, they try to get rid of Paul and Barnabas. But even in the midst of rejection, the gospel takes root, and the disciples who believe are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

When the gospel is heard, the reaction is either jealousy or joy. If an idol that you love is threatened by the gospel, you will erupt in a selfish, protective jealousy and try to silence the good news. But if you are crushed by the guilt and shame that sin has laid on your shoulders, then you will receive the message of Jesus Christ with songs and shouts of joy.

As bad as their jealousy is, we’re still a little shocked when Paul and Barnabas pronounce immediate judgment on the Jews and turn away. Just like that, thousands of years of covenant history are ripped out of their hands, and handed to some Gentiles who are attending synagogue for the first time in their lives.

But turning to the Gentiles is not the same thing as abandoning the Jews. Jealousy is God’s way of punishing idolatry, and joy is God’s way of overcoming jealousy. The Jews reject the gospel because they have made Judaism into an idol. When Jesus threatens their idol, they think He is after their joy. And so instead of beating them over the head with a message they have already heard, God changes His strategy. He makes them jealous of the joy of those who believe His word. He shows them people who love to sing and feast and celebrate, and then He invites them to come back and join in.

This is part of what it means that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” Joy is a weapon. By leaving behind a crowd of disciples who were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas set the timer on a massive explosion of joy that will blow the jealousy of the Jews into pieces.

Three lessons for us: Get joy. Show your joy. Spread your joy.

First, Get joy – vs. 48 and 52. Where does joy come from? It comes from the gospel, it comes from Jesus. By believing the gospel of forgiveness and freedom, the Gentiles were filled with joy. Maybe you’ve never known this joy, maybe you just need to have your joy renewed. Jesus loves doing both. If you are burdened and weighed down, if your life is depressing and miserable, then hear the good news: Jesus forgives! Jesus saves! There is no problem in this world that is so great that it cannot be overcome by the joy of knowing Christ as Savior.

Second, Show your joy – invisible joy doesn’t overcome anything. Hidden joy does no harm to jealousy! Vs. 48 – the Gentiles were filled with the emotion of joy, AND that emotion overflowed into the action of rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord. What does it look like to show your joy? It looks like singing Psalms and eating ice cream. It looks like resting on the Sabbath. It looks like feasting with delicious food, rich wine, and loud songs. It looks like loving your husband, loving your wife, loving your children. It looks like glorifying, or making much of God’s word, reading it and talking about it all the time, filling your life with the Word that has shown you the path to true joy.

Third, Spread your joy – this really is the natural result of showing joy, but we need to hear it again. vs. 49 – Joy is infectious. Rejoice so much and so often and so hard that your neighbors start to wonder about you, and then invite them over. Has God been good to you? Do you know the joy of the Lord? Then have a feast, and invite the neighbors. Celebrate openly. Sing loudly. Glorify the word of the Lord on Facebook, Twitter, in your daily conversation. Invite others into your joy. Make them jealous of your joy until they trade in their idols for a better God.

Posted on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by CJ Bowen