The Lord's Day Morning
April 25, 2010
Luke 10: 17-24
“Hidden and Revealed”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
As we prepare for worship, especially in light of our subject, I want to give you these words from J.C. Ryle, the great evangelical Anglican bishop of Liverpool. He says this: “Nothing so blinds the eyes of our souls to the beauty of the Gospel as the vain delusive idea that we are not so ignorant and wicked as some and that we have got a character which will bear inspection. Happy is the man who has learned to feel that he is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. To see that we are bad is the first step towards being really good. To feel that we are ignorant is the first beginning of all saving knowledge.” This is one of the things that Jesus emphasizes in the very passage we're going to study this morning. Let's prepare to worship Him.
Our Lord and our God, we are amazed at Your love and Your mercy to us. When we consider who we are, when we consider not only that if You should reveal our hearts this day and judge us based on what is in those hearts, not one of us would stand before Your judgment righteous. But beyond that O Lord, if the thoughts of our hearts and the deeds of our past and the present were revealed in this assembly today every single one of us would be humbled to the dust. And yet, O God, in Your love, You have given Your Son, the most precious one in the universe, for the likes of us. We beg forgiveness that we are not daily and hourly amazed by that grace. We ask Your forgiveness that we are so unamazed by amazing grace and we confess that the only reason that we're here is because in Your mercy You've given us another breath and by Your grace You have called us to trust in Christ and we have fled from our evil deeds and our good deeds to Him and we have found in Him our all in all. We come, O Lord, this day to worship You. We need to meet with You. We need to hear from You. We need Your Spirit to strengthen us. We need the fellowship of the saints. We need Your Word. So as Your Word is read and proclaimed, as Your Word is prayed and sung, we ask that You would use these things as a means of Your grace to draw us to Christ in faith and to build us up in Christ by faith. And we ask that You would get all the glory for this even while, by Your Spirit, You do us everlasting good. For we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 10. We’re going to be looking at verses 17 to 24. You’ll remember in the gospel of Luke chapter 10 verse 1 that Jesus sends seventy or so of His disciples out — some manuscripts read seventy some read seventy-two — to share the Gospel. In Luke 10:1 we're told that Jesus gives them four directions. They’re first of all to pray for laborers to join them in this ministry, they’re to go into all the cities where Jesus is going to come preaching, they are to heal — that is they are given special powers, miraculous powers of healing, as a manifestation of the fact that what they are going to say and preach is true, that God is working in and through them, and as a picture of what Jesus comes to do. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. And they are to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom of God. And what we get in this passage is the report of those seventy or so disciples coming back and they are thrilled with how things have gone. They are absolutely ecstatic. They can hardly believe their eyes as to the response they have had to this mission. And so we see something of their excitement when they come back from this mission amongst the villages. In their excitement, Jesus joins them. He truly rejoices in the things that they come back reporting, but then He directs them to a deeper reason for rejoicing even in the things that they've drawn attention to. And in so, He points us to the thing that we ought to rejoice about and delight in the most.
The passage comes in three parts. Verses 17 to 20 recounts the report of the disciples and then Jesus’ response to them in which He explicitly tells them what it is that they ought to rejoice in. Then in verses 21 and 22, we have recorded a prayer that Jesus prays to His Father in that very context and in that prayer Jesus clearly draws attention to God's sovereignty. And then finally in verses 23 and 24, Jesus turns back to His disciples. First He's responded to their report in verses 17 to 20, then He's prayed to God in verses 21 and 22, now in verses 23 and 24 He gives them an exhortation. And the exhortation to His disciples is basically this: “Dear, dear friends please understand how enormous the privileges are that God has given to you.” So be on the lookout for those things as we prepare to hear God's Word. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father this is Your Word. We need Your Holy Spirit if we are going to understand it rightly, not because it is not clear, it is clear. You are the best communicator in the history of the world. You know how to speak clearly to Your people. But we are sometimes dull. Sometimes we're dull because the desires of our hearts are set on the wrong thing. Sometimes the attractions of the flesh are distracting us. Sometimes the mindset of the world gets in and clouds our thinking in our hearts. Whatever the cause Lord, we need Your Holy Spirit, not only that we would understand Your Word but that our desires would be set on the things of Christ and the things of the Gospel and we need Your Spirit to apply Your Word to our own hearts, our own circumstances, our own situations. So do this we pray because we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is God's Word, hear it:
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!’ And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father , for such was Your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.’
Then turning to the disciples He said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
What do you get excited about? Why really stirs your heart? What makes you rejoice? What produces in you such an inner tension of joy that you want to explode? I was in a car last week and there were three boys in the back seat and for a half hour they talked in sheer delight about the glories of Star Wars the Clone Wars. And I do not begrudge them that. It was nice to listen to people so excited about something. Aren't you tired of cynicism? Don't you love it when you see someone just genuinely delighting in something, relishing something? What do you delight in? Do you delight in anything like that?
I've been reading Jonathan Aitken's biography of John Newton, the author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, the famous pastor of William Wilberforce. John Newton, a tremendously favored and blessed of God Anglican minister at the end of the 1700's and beginning of the 1800's, ministered in a little place called Olney and also in a congregation in London called Saint Mary Woolnoth. And one of the things that comes out so beautifully in Jonathan Aitken's biography of John Newton is that John Newton was crazy about his wife. He absolutely delighted in his wife, Polly. He was out of his mind in love with her. Towards the end of his life, he released a book of a series of letters that he had written to his wife over the course of their relationship of forty-something years. And one of his friends criticized his book by saying, “Mr. Newton's release of this book is going to make Christian husbands look bad. Because he loves his wife so gallantly, all of our wives are going to expect us to love them like he loves his wife and this is going to be a bad thing for Christian husbands in Britain.” Would that that were the conversation of our wives in this congregation men — wouldn't you love your wives to be having this discussion with one another over dinner? “You know I'm really concerned about my husband. He loves me too much.”
Newton was conscious of this. Newton and his wife loved one another deeply. In fact, they talked about struggling with idolatry in relation to one another. Newton really worried that he idolized his wife. That's a struggle that I want you to have, husbands. That's a spiritual struggle I want you to have. he interesting thing about it is that Newton apparently knew that his friends sometimes scratched their heads about this because Polly was not what you would call a “fetching woman” nor was she particularly brainy. She was neither pretty nor smart and many of Newton's friends asked themselves, “What does he see in her?” He wrote to William Wilberforce after Polly died and delicately said this sentence — “Some women are like a pineapple.” Stay with me here! (laughter) “What they are cannot be appreciated only in the seeing but in the experiencing.” I think what Newton was saying to Wilberforce is, “You all may not see what I see in Polly, but I've experienced Polly and I delight in her.”
What do you delight in?
After I preached the sermon this morning I had so many encouraging conversations at the door with people sharing certain spiritual delights that they had: the delights of seeing children come to faith in Christ, the delights of seeing children grow up and graduate from college and go into nursing school and want to spend themselves for Gospel purposes in life, the delight of seeing friends come to faith in Christ, the delight of going on mission trips and other things of that nature. What are the things that you delight in and especially what are your spiritual delights? What you delight in will show you what your treasure is. What you rejoice in will show you what you think is most important in life.
I got an email from my friend Mark Dever, the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church on Friday, just after minister's meeting, and here's how the email read: “I've got a really young Christian sitting in my office and he just laughed out loud in delight and looked up at me and said, ‘So the name of the city is, ‘The Lord is there’? That's just too cool! That's awesome!’” And then Mark remarked, “Ah, the joy of encountering these truths for the first time.” And he copied that email to Al and C.J. and John Piper and me. And C. J. who's off on his thirty-fifth wedding anniversary with his wife Carolyn and is not responding to email zapped back from his iphone a one sentence response — “I want to be like that young Christian. Obviously the young man must have been reading through the final chapters of Ezekiel where Ezekiel describes the temple that God is going to build one day and then at the very last, in the final verse of Ezekiel, chapter 38 verse 5, Ezekiel tells us the name of the city in which the temple that God is building, he tells us the name. And the name is, “The Lord is there.” And this young Christian had read that verse for the first time in his life and his mind was boggled by that truth and he delighted. What do you delight in?
The disciples come back from this mission, look at verse 17, and they are blown away by what they have seen. They have gone out and everywhere they have gone, even the demons have obeyed them under the authority of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the disciples, their minds are boggled by this and they’re rejoicing in this. They come back and the Lord says, “Well how did it go, boys?” And they say, “Lord, the demons that we encountered in these villages, they were all subject to us when we declared Your name. This is amazing! Everywhere we went we healed people in Your name, the spiritual world was subject to us in Your name. Even the demons had to obey us in Your name!”
And Jesus rejoices with the disciples. Do you notice this? Look at verse 18. Jesus responds, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Do you understand what's going on?
Jesus is saying that in this little mission that's gone out to these villages in Palestine we are just seeing a foretaste, a portent of what is to come. The Gospel is about to break loose at Pentecost. After Jesus’ death and burial and resurrection and ascension, Jesus from the right hand of God the Father Almighty is going to pour out the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and the Gospel isn't just going to change Israel, it's going to go from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth and the earth is going to be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. The men and women and boys and girls from every tribe and tongue and people and nation are going to be brought out from under bondage to Satan and they’re going to be brought into the glorious light and the Gospel is going to triumph wherever it goes. And this little mission is just a little foretaste of that. And so Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. His kingdom is over!” It's almost like Jesus is saying, “And now it begins. Watch My kingdom come. Watch My kingdom grow. For thousands of years this world has been in darkness except for this little light that God has planted in Israel. Now that light is going to break forth and go to the ends of the earth and Satan's dominions are going to be broken down one by one, pulled down, and the Gospel is going to triumph.”
And so Jesus rejoices in what the disciples are rejoicing in — the display of His power even over the dominion of Satan and the demons of hell. But then Jesus says, and you see it in verse 20 — “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this.” Now, He's not telling His disciples you were wrong to rejoice in this. He's using a literary device that's called a relative contrast in absolute terms. He says to them, “Don't rejoice in this; rejoice in that.” Now He clearly doesn't mean that it's wrong for them to rejoice that the demons are subject to them because He's just rejoiced about that too. He says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning.” He's excited about it too.
What He is saying is there's something deeper that your joy needs to be in. And in this passage Jesus points you to what that deeper thing is. And you know what it is? It's grace. It's saving, converting grace. That's what Jesus tells His disciples that they need to rejoice in. Don't rejoice that you can speak a word and cast out a demon in My name.
Rejoice that you've been converted. Rejoice that you've been saved. Rejoice that your name is written on the Lamb's book of life. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven.
That's what you ought to get excited about, that's what you ought to delight in, that's what you ought to rejoice about. You rejoice in that.
In fact I'd like you to see three things that Jesus says.
I. Jesus rejoices over converting grace.
The disciples are excited about this miraculous, spiritual authority that they show even over the demonic world. Jesus, in this passage, rejoices — and let me just give you a word — this is the only passage in all of the Gospels that we're told Jesus rejoices in something. We’re told repeatedly that He has compassion. We’re told repeatedly that he grieves and mourns and weeps over the in and rebellion and misery of His people. But in only one passage in all of the Gospels are we told what Jesus rejoices over. And you know what He rejoices over? He rejoices over conversions. He rejoices over saving grace bringing someone from darkness to light. He rejoices seeing someone being brought out from under the dread, killing power of sin and into the marvelous grace of the loving Lord. And so the first thing we see is that Jesus rejoices over converting grace and you see this in verse 20 — “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Rejoice over your conversion. Rejoice over the conversion of others. Don't get all hung up about your gifts and your elegance. Your ability to call upon demons to obey in My name. Rejoice fundamentally in this, that your hearts have been changed, that you've responded in faith to the Word of the Lord, that your names are written in the Lamb's book of life. You rejoice in converting grace.”
Let me ask you this question — have you recently delighted in the thought of someone coming to faith in Jesus Christ? Have you rejoiced at someone being converted by the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting in Christ as He is offered in the Gospel? Is that something that delights your soul? Have you gotten excited about it? Have you gotten excited about it enough to share the Gospel yourself, to pray for the conversion of someone else? Believers rejoice in what their Master rejoices in, and the Master rejoices when men and women and boys and girls come to saving faith in Christ. Have you ever looked around and said, “Lord, I beg You, it would give my heart great joy if You would bring about more conversions through the ministry of the people and the pastors of this congregation. Lord, we want to see people brought out of darkness into the marvelous light. We want to see people's lives changed by the Gospel and then we want to see Christians built up in that converting grace which first saved them.” Do you feel that way? If you are your Master's disciple, you will rejoice and delight in what your Master rejoices and delights in. If you asked me the question, “Do we rejoice in conversions at First Presbyterian Church?” here's my answer: “Yes, but not enough. Yes, but not enough.” Would that we would rejoice like Jesus rejoices.
II. Jesus praises God for sovereign grace.
Then secondly look at verses 21 and 22. Here, Jesus praises God for sovereign grace. He draws attention to the irony and the exclusivity of God's grace. He's first responded to the disciples’ report and He's rejoiced over converting grace. Now, He prays to God praises Him for ruling grace. In other words, Jesus in this prayer says, “Lord, this is just like You. You know, Your people have been waiting for the Messiah to come for thousands of years and when You send Him into the world the core group around His is not the kings of Israel or the prophets of Israel or the priests of Israel or the scribes of Israel or the leaders of the synagogues. The core group that You've got around Him is fishermen, tax collectors, farmers, zealots. They’re not the great and important people of the land. They’re people that other people look down on. It’ s just like You, Lord, for You to do this. Your people wait all these years for You to bring the Messiah into the world and for You to set up Your kingdom, and when You do, You do it with the least and the lost and the limping. I praise You, Lord, for doing it that way because that shows that this thing is of God. If men had planned this, there would be a celebrity line-up of Israel. Celebrities for Jesus would have been rolled out if men were doing this. Politicians for Jesus, important people for Jesus — that would be the core group. But Lord, You've chosen the least.” And He praises God for His sovereign grace in doing it this way.
And you know what that ought to do to us my friends? It ought to humble us. It really ought to, and especially in this congregation. We have so, so much. The Lord has granted that over almost a century and three-quarters the Gospel's always been preached from the pulpit of this church. They’re not many churches that can say that. For a century and three-quarters the people of this congregation have cared about conversion. They've cared about the Gospel, they’re cared about evangelism, they've cared about missions. There’re not many churches where you can say that. And in a church like our church, and you know what I mean “like our church,” you go around the country to other churches like our church and they’re dead, the Gospel-light has gone out, the passion for the truth is gone, and again, what does that make us do? Does that make us beat our chest and say how wonderful we are? No. It says, “Lord, I don't know why You have chosen to preserve the Gospel here, but I do know this, it's not because we deserved it. For whatever reason You've chosen to preserve the Gospel-light in this congregation and that means Lord we need to say, ‘Thank you Lord. We don't deserve this.’ And we need to say, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’” Luke's going to teach us that in about two chapters. But it ought to humble us to the dust.
III. Jesus rejoices over God's expanding grace.
One more thing – Jesus praises God for, He rejoices over, He delights in not only converting grace, verses 17 to 20, not only ruling grace, verses 21 and 22, but expanding grace, verses 23 and 24. Look at what Jesus says to the disciples about their privileges. He says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you her, and did not heart it.” Do you realize what Jesus is saying to His disciples? He's saying to His disciples, “You disciples know some things that Moses did not understand because you have been given this fuller, fresh revelation of God in Me, the Messiah, the Son of God, and from Me — eventually the writings of the New Testament, the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospels, the inspired testimony of His apostles in the epistles of the New Testament. There are things you understand, My disciples, that the greatest of Old Testament saints did not understand.”
You know, one of my favorite stories is the story of the man born blind in the gospel of John. He's born blind and Jesus heals him. It gets the Pharisees all in a tizzy and they want to make sure that this man does not think that Jesus is the Messiah and so they keep badgering his parents and him to say, “Who do you think this guy is that healed you? Do you think He's prophet? Do you think He's the Messiah? Do you think He's sinful man or do you think He's perfect?” And they keep badgering the parents and the man. And then finally they get hold of the man and do you remember how the man responds? He says, “As to whether this Man is a sinner or not I don't know, but I do know this, once I was blind but now I see!” Now John gives you hints all over that passage that this man is truly converted. But in answer to the question, “Who is Jesus” his response is, “I don't know whether He's a sinner or not. He's just the guy that saved me. He's just the guy that gave me sight. He's just the guy that gave me life. I don't know.”
Now here's the situation my friends. Our preschoolers know the answer to that question. Our preschoolers know the answer to that question. That brother, living under the final days of the old covenant, was even unclear on the person of Jesus. Your preschoolers know the right answer to that question. “No sir, Jesus never sinned. He lived a perfect life. He died a perfect death in my place so that I could be stood before God, declared right with great glory and exceeding joy. No sir, He never sinned.” Even your preschoolers could have answered that question to the Pharisees.
Do you understand that the least of those who were believers in the new covenant knew more about some things than Isaiah and David understood? Do you have any idea of that privilege? Do you have any idea of that privilege? Given what you know, and given that you know more than those old covenant saints who looked forward for the day Jesus of His coming, and they did what? They rejoiced. Given that you know more than they know, do you rejoice and delight in the things that He delights in more than they did?
Oh, my friends, your delight will reveal your heart. It will reveal the treasure of your heart. May God grant that your delight is fundamentally in the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, we bow before You and we ask that You would make us a congregation of sinners saved by grace that delight in grace, who absolutely cannot get over it. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now turn with me to 469.
Grace to you and peace for God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.