To conclude His metaphor of the vine and the branches (John 15:1–10), Jesus says to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (verse 11). To understanding the meaning of “your joy may be full,” we first need to review passages from the Old and New Testament.
In the Old Testament, there is a connection between obedience and joy. The Old Testament prophets foresaw a time when joy would permeate the lives of God’s people in remarkable ways. For instance, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a day when God would wipe away tears and offer a feast of rich blessings to His obedient children (Isaiah 25:6–9). On that day, “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10; see also Isaiah 61:10).
The prophet Zephaniah also prophesied about a restoration of joy to the faithful remnant of Israel (Zephaniah 3:14–17). Even in the face of adversity, Israel will witness the triumphant entry of a joyous king (Zechariah 9:9; cf. John 12:15). These prophecies reveal a divine promise that obedience to God will result in unparalleled joy.
There is a connection between love, obedience, and joy in John 15. Leading up to Jesus’ statement that “your joy may be full” are these words: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:9–10). Obedience should be a loving, heartfelt response to God’s will—a response that is marked by joy.
To grasp the significance of John 15:11, we must set our eyes on Jesus, who is the embodiment of joyful, loving obedience. In the face of fierce opposition, Jesus found joy in fulfilling the will of His Father: “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’” (John 4:34). The point is that obedience stems from love and is the source of true joy.
We witness the pinnacle of joyful obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Facing the impending agony of the cross, Jesus surrendered His will to the Father: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). This act of willful obedience resulted in His triumph—and ours, through faith in Him—over Satan, sin, and death (1 Corinthians 15:54). The joy that followed His resurrection eclipsed the unimaginable pain of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
Just as Jesus found great joy in obeying the will of His Father, Christians will also have the same joy in obedience: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Obedience is not a joyless duty or mundane task. To the contrary, it is the means through which the joy of the Lord becomes our own joy.
Jesus does not withhold joy from us; rather, He shares His joy in proportion to our participation in His obedience. By surrendering our wills to God’s will, we can know the fullness of joy. We can partake in the same joy that Jesus had when He sacrificed His life for ours. Hence, joy is not a fleeting emotion but an enduring quality that overpowers the clenches of adversity. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “That your joy may be full.”