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TRUE JOY

Luke 10:17-10:24
Key Verse: 10:20b

Thank God that we could think of Jesus’ heart and vision for the world, which is the plentiful harvest field. May we have Jesus’ view of the world and participate in his heart and vision through prayer and join in his work of harvest. In today’s passage the word, “joy” is written 2 times, “rejoice”, 2 times, and we read the words, “pleasure”, “praise” and “blessed.” The air of this passage is bright and joyful. We see the joy of Jesus and of the Father and also learn what kind of joy Jesus wants his disciples to have. Joy is one characteristic of Luke’s gospel, and an essential element of Christian life. As we study this passage, let’s think about true joy.

First, rejoice that your names are written in heaven (17-20). Look at verse 17. “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” When Jesus sent out the seventy-two, he told them to heal the sick and proclaim the message, “The kingdom of God is near you.” He said nothing specifically about exorcism. Although the seventy-two did not intend to drive out demons, presumably in the course of helping suffering people they saw that the demons submitted to them in Jesus’ name. They must have been surprised to see the power of Jesus’ name. They experienced something unexpected in addition to the healing power of Jesus and people’s repentance at the preaching of the kingdom of God. So when they returned, the first thing they said was, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

How did Jesus respond? Look at verse 18. “He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” We remember that Jesus defeated the devil’s temptation before beginning his public ministry. Throughout his public ministry, demons were powerless and helpless before him and came out of people at his command. And through his death and resurrection the head of Satan would crushed. When Jesus sent out the seventy-two, this was another challenge to Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph 2:2). Jesus must have engaged in a spiritual war, fighting in prayer. Here Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Satan is the chief of demons. When Satan fell from heaven, his subjects, the demons, were definitely powerless and had to submit to the seventy-two who came in the name of Jesus. We learn that the victory of Jesus’ disciples is due to Jesus’ victory over Satan. So in Jesus we have victory over demons, and our Lord Jesus wants us to claim this victory.

And Jesus continued, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Snakes and scorpions are the symbol of Satan. The ancient serpent that appeared in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve in Genesis (3:1) is called the devil or Satan in Revelation (12:9). In the desert, snakes and scorpions are the most dreaded because of their deadly poison. When Jesus sent out the Twelve, it is specifically written in 9:1 that he gave them power and authority to drive out demons. However, when he sent out the seventy-two, it is not distinctly written. Yet, Jesus said here that he had "given them authority to trample on snakes and scorpions…” What an encouraging and exciting statement in these words of Jesus! Here we can believe that those who are sent out in Jesus’ name have already received power and authority over deadly poisonous Satan. In this power and authority of Jesus we also can overcome all the power of the enemy and nothing will harm us. Thank Jesus. In this assurance Jesus want us to pray. He said in Luke 11:11-13, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In this promise we can pray until we are empowered with the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

But now Jesus says something striking. Look at verse 20. “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” What does this mean? Is it wrong to rejoice in the victory over the spirits? Certainly not. What a joy it is to experience that the demons who had so harassed us and fellow men now submit to us! We need such joy in doing God’s work - joy that demon-possessed souls are relieved and set free. Yet, if one stops there, consumed by that joy and excitement, this is a serious problem. There is a fundamental joy regardless of that joy. The primary and essential joy, the joy of salvation of our souls, must not be lost. Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Salvation is the most important thing to perishing mankind. At the time of man’s fall, God promised to send a Saviour (Ge 3:15). Jesus came as a Saviour in the fulfillment of the promise. Salvation is one of the main themes of Luke’s gospel. When John the Baptist, forerunner of Jesus, was born, John’s father Zechariah prophesied about Jesus, saying, “He has raised up a horn of salvation” (Lk 1:69). When Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord said, “Today, in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you…” (Luke 2:11). When a chief tax collector, Zacchaeuss repented and welcomed Jesus in spite of people’s muttering, Jesus was happy and said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9). And then Jesus spoke of his coming purpose into this world, “…the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk 19:10). When a criminal repented while dying on the cross and put his faith in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus assured his salvation, saying, “I tell you the truth, today, you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). When one soul repents and is saved through faith in Jesus, there is rejoicing in heaven (Lk 15:7). Saving one soul after another is God’s whole concern in heaven and on earth.

Jesus wanted the seventy-two to keep the joy of salvation through Jesus, even in the midst of doing the exciting work of God with the power over demons. However, here what makes us stop to think is that Jesus did not say, “…rejoice that your souls are saved”, but “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Why did Jesus say this? What is the meaning of this in Luke’s description? First, we can understand this in the light of the whole Scriptures. It is written in Daniel 12:1-2, “…But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” Hebrews 12:23 says, “to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus rebuked the church in Sardis, saying, “…you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die…” (Rev 3:1-2). And then Jesus said, “He who overcomes will…be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Rev 3:5). Finally, Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” In light of this, what a blessing it is that one’s name is written in heaven, specifically in the book of life.

A name represents a person. People want their names to be famous, written in books, magazines, newspapers, even on the walls of buildings, statues, or street signs, etc. I often go to Mt. Sinai hospital with the individuals from my work place. There, the names of donors are written; the size of one’s name in accordance with the amount of donation. When we walk on campus, the names of famous U of T graduates are written on placards with the words, “Boundless.” Yet, we remember Jesus’ words, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Lk 9:25). In the Bible, the names of great people are written and they are really honourable before God. Luke, as a historian, carefully wrote the names of certain people in his gospel. Among them, are Zechariah and Elizabeth, whose names are recorded only in Luke’s gospel--they seemed to be an ordinary couple at that time, but were great in the sight of God because of their life of faith in observance of the words of God. In the gospel story, there are the names of the twelve disciples. Yet, what truly matters is whether one’s name is written in heaven, not on earth. We don’t know the names of the seventy-two, for their names are not written in the Bible. Nobody knows their names, but Jesus knew each name. And according to Jesus their names are written in heaven, in the book of life. Because of this, Jesus wanted them to rejoice. This joy is lasting joy, while the joy of victory over demons and all other joys are temporary.

Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” And 1 John 5:11-12 says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” So obviously, the names of those who have the Son and thus have life are written in the book of life in heaven. May we know the tremendous value of our names being written in heaven and rejoice in it, keeping the Son Jesus in our hearts with faith in him and running the race of faith to the end, working that other names also may be written in heaven through us.

Second, the joy of Jesus the Son and the Father (21-24). Look at verse 21. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’” At that time why was Jesus full of joy through the Holy Spirit? We believe that Jesus’ joy was in that he had the intimate relationship with the Father, especially through his obedience. It is also certain that Jesus was rejoicing at the thought of the seventy-two who were sent out to preach the kingdom of God. When Jesus sent them out, to him it was like sending lambs among wolves. Yet they obeyed Jesus’ command and went. And the harvest work could be done through them, through their faith and obedience. This was evidently the work of God. So Jesus praised God the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus said, “…because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Surely, God’s joy and pleasure is not in hiding something precious from people. His joy is revealing the secrets of God to the people of this world so that they can ultimately be saved one by one. But man’s pride through human wisdom and knowledge blocks the revelation of God. One’s humble heart and obedience to God is the channel through which God’s revelation comes. Especially the revelation of God’s word can come to us when we seek him earnestly and study his word with a humble heart. It has been said that the Scripture is deep enough for any proud theologian to be drowned, and simple enough for even uneducated grandma-like people or little children to grasp and have life. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Look at verse 22. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” In the gospel Jesus identified himself as the Son of Man. Yet, he knew that all things had been committed to him, the Son of God, by God the Father. Who can know the Son in this world? Here Jesus said, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father." Human knowledge and logic fail to know who the Son is. So he was despised and rejected by many while on earth and he has been so throughout history and until now. People question again and again, “How can God have a Son?” They are bound by human reason. When Peter made the confession of Christ, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Mt 16:17). One can know the Son Jesus through God’s revelation. Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, “God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph 1:17). God gave mankind the Bible, which was written by those inspired by God so that human beings may know who the Son Jesus is. Jesus once said to the unbelieving Jews, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (Jn 5:39).

Here Jesus also said, “No one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” All human knowledge and wisdom fail to know God whom Jesus called the Father. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” It is true that in history no one has ever seen God. But Jesus, God the one and only Son, came into this world to reveal God the Father. Jesus chose the twelve disciples to reveal to them who God the Father is and to let them know that God the Father sent him into this world. Jesus also chose the seventy-two to reveal God the Father, the Lord of the harvest to them. Jesus calls people out of this world so that they may know God the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom God has sent, which is eternal life (Jn 17:3). Knowing God the Father and God the Son is the greatest blessing human beings can have in this world.

Look at verses 23 and 24. “Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’” The prophet Isaiah saw the coming Messiah with the eyes of faith and described him, especially his suffering and its meaning as vividly as if he saw the Messiah with his own eyes. Yet, it is true that he could not see the Incarnate God Jesus, who came in flesh into this world. Many prophets and kings longed to see what God had promised concerning the Messiah fulfilled, but they could not see it. They wanted to hear his voice, but could not. Apostle John described the blessedness of the disciples this way, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim…” (1 John 1:1). John wanted to share this blessedness with all of God’s people. As for us, what a blessing it is that we have the complete description concerning God the Incarnate Jesus in the Bible! Luke wrote at the introduction of his gospel that he wrote this gospel in an orderly account so that we might know the certainty of Jesus (1:4). May we bear this blessing and share the blessing with others.

Thank God for teaching us what our true joy is. Jesus said, “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This is through knowing God the Father and the Son Jesus, and this is the greatest blessing human beings can have while on earth. May we keep this immeasurable blessing and have the joy in our hearts over all other inferior joys, and let others have this blessedness and joy through us.

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