The background picture on my computer is a picture of a laughing Jesus. For some, it is a symbol of “offense,” inasmuch as they do not read in Scripture about the Lord laughing; they see it as turning Jesus into “a belly laughing jokester.” Really? Certainly, since Jesus, who was created in all points like as we are, at some point in his life he laughed. Jesus had some sort of sense of humor – he called his two best friends the “sons of thunder,” for crying out loud. At any rate, in Luke 10.17-24, Luke contrasts two very different joys: the joy of the returning seventy and the joy of Jesus.
The Joy of the Seventy
There are many places in Scripture where there is a period of time that lapses between two verses and in Luke 10.16-17 we have one of those occasions. We don’t know how long it was between the time the disciples left and returned, but there was a span of time. I suppose Jesus set a date when he could meet with all fo them at once to review how the trip went. Or he happened to meet them along the way as he was making his rounds to the various places he ahd sent them. Nevertheless, the report is unanimous: these disciples have a joy within them. The Greek word is charis, which is simply “gladness, a state of rejoicing, happiness” (Dictionary of Biblical Language). These men return from their mission glad, happy about the work they have done for the kingdom.
Jesus then lays down the hammer. Mind you, Jesus is not tryng to stop these men from having this joy or put a damper on their victory; on the contrary, I think he rejoices when we overcome the evil one. But he is trying to keep the disciples from allowing this joy to become pride, the very thing that led to Satan’s downfall (cf. 1 Timothy 3.6). It is ok to have joy and rejoice that you have come out of some trial or temptation (cf. James 1.2-4). But take heed lest that joy turn into pride. Jesus says he watched Satan “fall like lightning.” Many people think this refers to the pre-incarnate time when Jesus watched Satan fall from glory (heaven). However, another interpretation is that heaven refers to a position power and Jesus has been watching (Gk. “I was watching,” imperfect tense) as the gospel of the kingdom has been preached Satan’s power flash out like lightning as these disciple’s fulfilled their mission. As these disciples drove out demons, the kingdom of darkness was diminshed and the kingdom of God flourished.
Jesus tells the disciples that they should not so much rejoice that the spirits submi to them but they should rejoice over a greater thing: their names being written in heaven. Indeed, what a grand thought to think that in the registar of heaven, our can name be written and mentioned by God if we are under his reign and rule for our lives. The disciples will do great and grand things like trample serpents (Satan?) and scorpions and not be harmed, but ultimately our joy should come more from the fact that we are known by God in heaven.
The Joy of Jesus
We teach our children the song “I got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart…” Well, in this passage (v.21) Jesus has the joy down in his heart and he got it from the Holy Spirit. The NIV says he was “full of joy.” Other translations simply say he “rejoiced,” losing some of the translation. In the Greek it is all one word (egalliasato) and it means to be “extremely joyful, filled with delight,” also “to rejoice exceedingly.” This is a great joy, a lively joy. This word is usually used in reference to the joy a kingdom dweller experiences (cf. Matt 5.12; Luke 1.47; 1 Peter 1.6). Out of this joy, Jesus praises the Father (denoting compassion), the Lord of heaven and earth (denoting his sovreignty). Why? Because of the revelation of God of his grand scheme. “These things” are those things pertaining to the kingdom which the seventy have experienced in their mission. And it was not to the great, the wise, the learned whom God revealed these things to, not those who are “great” by human standards. Instead it is to the “little children.” Paul quotes from the Old Testament to drive this point home when he writes, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1 Cor 1.19). This was all according to the pleasure of God.
To Jesus, God has committed “all things” pertaining to salvation and redemption. Hence, he is on earth to fulfill that grand plan to save man. And there are depths of the Son which the human followers cannot comprehend; only the Father knows them. On the other hand, the same is true of the Father to the Son. But those who are “chosen,” then Christ has revealed the Father to you. This points to the exclusivity of the kingdom; there is bu one way for a person to know the Father and that in Christ. Hence, if you are outside of Christ, you do not know the Father.
In private, Jesus sheds more light on the situation. There were many who sought to see what their eyes saw: prophets and kings. But only in their time has it now been “revealed” (Gk. apokalupsis, from which we get our word “apocalypse”), that is uncovered. Thus, the disciples are “blessed,” enjoying the state of bliss only the gods enjoy. Truly, they were engaged in something special.
How great a blessing for us to read and hear of all this wonderful things Christ has done! He has conquered sin, hell, and the grave in th cross. He has opened up a new and living way which we can enter into. We, like these disciples, are blessed to have all these things and so much more. We can enjoy the joy of our salvation. We can enjoy the joy which the Holy Spirit brings (see 1 Thess 1.6). We can experience the joy of knowing we are known by the Father in heaven. Let us do our best to praise God for what he has done and tell others of the blessed state of a disciple in the kingdom.