Theologian B.B. Warfield, in his wonderful article “The Emotional Life of our Lord”, makes the case that Jesus was not primarily a man of sorrows, but a man of joy. It is true that the gospels do not attribute any laughter to him, but you got to think he snickered as he snacked on broiled fish in his resurrected body to stun marveling disciples at his side.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising when we consider that the first miracle he did was increase the wine supply at a wedding party, and two of the last miracles he did on earth were raise from the dead and give depressed fishermen after a night without a catch a net full of fish. Furthermore, he made fun of and regularly rebuked serious Pharisees and made care-free children the models of the kingdom.
Warfield gives several other reasons that describe Christ’s emotional life as one of great joy.
We call our Lord “the Man of Sorrows,” and the designation is obviously appropriate for one who came into the world to bear the sins of men and to give his life a ransom for many. It is, however, not a designation which is applied to Christ in the New Testament, and even in the Prophet (Is. liii. 3) it may very well refer rather to the objective afflictions of the righteous servant than to his subjective distresses.76 In any event we must bear in mind that our Lord did not come into the world to be broken by the power of sin and death, but to break it. He came as a conqueror with the gladness of the imminent victory in his heart; for the joy set before him he was able to endure the cross, despising shame (Heb. xii. 2). And as he did not prosecute his work in doubt of the issue, neither did he prosecute it hesitantly as to its methods. He rather (so we are told, Lk. x. 21) “exulted in the Holy Spirit” as he contemplated the ways of God in bringing many sons to glory. The word is a strong one and conveys the idea of exuberant gladness, a gladness which fills the heart;77 and it is intimated that, on this occasion at least, this exultation was a product in Christ — and therefore in his human nature — of the operations of the Holy Spirit,78 whom we must suppose to have been always working in the human soul of Christ, sustaining and strengthening it. It cannot be supposed that, this particular occasion alone being excepted, Jesus prosecuted his work on earth in a state of mental depression. His advent into the world was announced as “good tidings of great joy” (Lk. ii. 10), and the tidings which he himself proclaimed were “the good tidings” by way of eminence. It is conceivable that he went about proclaiming them with a “sad countenance” (Mt. vi. 16)? It is misleading then to say merely, with Jeremy Taylor, “We never read that Jesus laughed and but once that he rejoiced in spirit.”79 We do read that, in contrast with John the Baptist, he came “eating and drinking,” and accordingly was malignantly called “a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Mt. xi. 19; Lk. vii. 34) ; and this certainly does not encourage us to think of his demeanor at least as habitually sorrowful.
Jesus of Nazareth was and remains Jesus, the glad not Jesus, the sad. And if this is true, followers of Jesus have plenty of reasons to be glad too.