December 7, 2014
Intro – The Dec 7, 2009 SI named Yankee SS Derek Jeter “Sportsman of the Year”. A pix showed Jeter from the back walking down the hallway toward the Yankee locker room. He is pointing up at a sign that says, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.” If you’re a baseball fan, you can relate. But believers have something far better to wake up to every morning: “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Christian.” It doesn’t get any better than that. It ought to set our hearts aflame with joy every day. We already seen how the 72 returning disciples rejoiced in serving, success, security and far and away most importantly, salvation.
But in vv. 21-24 we get an insight in the mind of our Lord. V. 21, “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” This is the only place where Jesus is said to rejoice. And it comes at a time when His heart is heavy in anticipation of the death that shortly awaits Him. Yet He rejoices – or better, exults! Great joy just bubbled up from within Jesus even in the midst of sadness. So what was it that set the spirit of Jesus aflame with joy amid extremity? Same for us.
I. The Sovereign Pleasure of the Father
V. 21, “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 [pleasure].” What is the first thing you see here? The sovereignty of God which dwarfs the arrogant ambitions of man. Notice Jesus addresses God as “Lord of heaven and earth.” Those who are wise in their own eyes are going up against the One who made it all in the first place. They have no hope of winning. Those who deny His creative genius will one day find that He hid Himself from them.
Tragically, the beauty of the gospel is hidden from those who arrogantly pit their wisdom against God’s revelation in Christ. But Jesus can rejoice because “yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” Everything is happening according to God’s will. Jesus is overcome with joy at that thought even tho it will cost Him dearly. And it is not just God’s will; it is His gracious will. It is a will that distributes unmerited favor all over the place. Thank God His will is gracious. If God’s will were merely just, we’d be up the creek without a paddle. We’d have gotten what we deserve long ago. But His will is full of grace. So Jesus rejoices the Father is graciously in control.
Note the gospel is hidden from the wise and revealed to little children. Does that mean that if you’ve got an IQ over 120 you’re done for? All Ph.D’s are out? No geniuses need apply? Is Christianity only for the dim-witted? That’s not the point. Paul was one of the brightest men of his time, and he came to Christ. Luke was a medical doc and he came to Christ. So what is Jesus point? The answer is in Prov 26: 12) “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” The issue is not IQ! Jesus is talking about people who think they have all the answers vs those who know they don’t. Those who listen to God vs those who reject Him. You don’t have to put your brain on the shelf to become a Christian; but you do have to submit to the greater authority and wisdom and will of God. If you will not do that, there is no hope. You are not wiser than God, but if you insist that you are, He will show Himself greater by hiding from you a gospel even the simple can get. “The wise and understanding” are those who leave God out of the equation. There’s no wisdom apart from “the fear of the Lord.”
Human wisdom makes up its own rules – and then tragically believes them. A popular talk show host is a perfect example of man indicting God with his own supposed wisdom. In his autobiography he says, “If God the Father is so all-loving, why didn’t He come down and go to Calvary? Then Jesus could have said, “This is My Father in whom I am well-pleased.” How could an all-knowing, all-loving God allow His Son to be murdered on a cross in order that He might redeem my sins?” Thought that was a clever question, no doubt! He says this as tho he could better plan and execute redemption than the Triune God. Salvation isn’t that complicated, but it will never be understood by those who will not humble themselves.
It is to those who come as babes – not IQ-challenged, but those who accept that God is wiser than them, that the Father reveals “these things.” Those who come as spiritual babes, trusting in what God has said, will prevail. They will gain understanding that the wise in their own conceits will never have – not until it is too late. In Mary’s wonderful prayer of praise to God in Lu 1:52 she says, “he [God] has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” That’s what Jesus is talking about here. Paul asks in I Cor 1:20, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” It is a principle that plays out over and over in Scripture.
Remember Esther? She eventually saves her people, Israel, at great risk to her own life, right. Great story, but there’s a subplot. The Persian King Ahasuerus promoted a valued advisor named Haman to #2 in the land. Everyone cow-tows to Haman -- except a Jewish man named Mordecai who, out of respect for Jehovah will not bow. Haman hates that and gets the king to issue an edict to kill all Jews, just to get one man. One night he is so overcome with rage he decides to build a gallows and get the king to let him hang Mordecai early next morning. BUT That same night the king can’t sleep either. He has the court journal brought to read, and it reminds him of how months before Mordecai has saved the king’s life from a conspiracy to kill him. Mordecai has never been properly rewarded and the king decides to fix that.
Next morning Haman arrives at court, gallows ready and loaded for bear. But before he can say anything the king asks how he could reward someone he delights in. Thinking the king desires to reward him, Haman pulls out all the stops. Dress him in royal robes, give him a crown and parade him through the streets proclaiming his honor as you go. Do it up right! The king says, “Right, Haman. See to it. That’s what I want done for Mordecai!” And that’s just the beginning. That night Haman accidentally falls against the queen at a party she’s giving. The king accuses Haman of sexually assaulting his wife and Haman is soon hanging from the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
What’s the point? God resists the proud and exalts the humble. He reveals Himself to those who seek Him with all their heart. But He hides from those who are wise in their own conceits. That’s God’s sovereignty, and you can’t change that! But you can do something about your proud heart this morning. James 4: 6) “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” It is His gracious will to give Himself to those who give themselves to Him. Jesus rejoices in that. It means salvation is available to all. No one is exempt. The gospel is on the bottom shelf. So I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Judging God rather than submitting is a dangerous place to be.
II. The Supreme Power of the Son
V. 22, “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.” If you don’t believe in the deity of Christ, what in the world do you do with this claim? Think about it. There in front of you stands an ordinary-looking man. Sweat on His brow; scratches on His hands; dust on His sandals and feet. And this guy claims no one really knows Him except God and no one knows the Father except Him and anyone He chooses (wills) to reveal Him. Staggering claims. He’s claiming if we don’t know Jesus, we don’t know God!
This doesn’t mean that people can’t know there is a God. Most people still believe there is a God because He has revealed Himself in Creation and in the moral conscience of every heart. You can know there is a God without Christ. BUT you can’t have a saving knowledge of Him without Christ. That’s impossible. That’s why the supreme spiritual blessing of knowing God is a closed book to “the wise and understanding”, those who are wise in their own conceits. They reject the Son and thus reject the Father as well. The logic is irrefutable. If Jesus is truly God in the flesh come to die for our sins, it would be insanity to think that the Father could be approached by some other means.
This is the rock-bottom requirement for salvation – that you believe in and come through Jesus. John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Reject Christ and you’ve rejected the Father. They are ONE! You may believe in a God, but He is a God of your own making. The true God can only be known thru the Son. He reveals to those who repent and invite a new Master into life. God does not deal with passing acquaintances. You can’t just say, “Hey, Lord. Have a nice day” and go on your own way! Saving faith requires that He become your Lord! Jesus never made it plainer than in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Jesus’ heart overflowed with joy that the Father has made a way to Himself, even tho it was going to cost Jesus His life. Isa 53:10 perfectly summarizes: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Jesus rejoices in doing the Father’s will to bring offspring to life resulting from His offering.
Students in a paramedic training class were taught to keep performing chest compressions until backup arrived. "But what if we can’t keep going?" a one student wanted to know. "Should we call 911?" "Son," the instructor said, "you are 911!" Similarly, Jesus is 911 for your deliverance from guilt. There is no one else to call. No one else is co-equal with the Father. No one else died for your sins. There is no other way, Beloved. It is Him – or nothing!
III. The Surpassing Privilege of the Saints
Having expressed His joy to the Father, v. 23: “ Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 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.” This is a powerful statement of the unsurpassed privilege that these men enjoyed. Kings in ancient times were complete masters of their realm. But Jesus says, “You lowly disciples are more privileged than they ever thought of being.” Prophets were the voice of God to the people. Jesus says, “You guys are more blessed. You see what they longed to see but didn’t. You hear what they longed to hear but didn’t.”
OT prophets, and sometimes kings, like David and Solomon, got words from God which they sometimes understood and sometimes not. Daniel interpreted many dreams for Nebuchadnezzar. But he got some visions of his own that he couldn’t understand. In some cases, God sent an angel to help. But near the end the prophecies got increasingly complex. Dan 12:8: “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.” Daniel wanted more. God said, “Enough for now.”
Think of what the people of Jesus’ time did not understand until He came. They knew there was a Messiah coming – an anointed One. But they had no clue He had an existence prior to coming as a baby. They did not know He would be God in the flesh. They could not reconcile Isaiah’s prophecies of a suffering Messiah with a glorious, triumphant Messiah, so they largely ignored the suffering part. They knew there must be some ultimate sacrifice for sin, but they could never have imagined that sacrifice would be made by God Himself after He had lived a perfect life for 33 years, fulfilling on their behalf His own law to the perfection they could not begin to emulate. They could not see that there would be not one but two comings of Messiah – one in humility to pay for the sin of the world – one in power and glory and judgment to finalize the promised kingdom. How Moses, Elijah, David, and Abraham would have loved to see all that, but they could not and did not.
What they saw was like being handed a pair of binoculars. You look through them into the vast distance. Suddenly you see an unfocused image and movement. It’s alive. But you have no clue what it is. Could be King Kong. Could be a magnified ant. You know there is life out there, but that is about all. Then someone shows you how to adjust the focus. Suddenly the image becomes crystal clear. It’s Mike Hungenberg, and you can see every detail of his person. You can even tell, he didn’t shave today! That is exactly what happened when Jesus came. All His life until His resurrection God was turning the focus until things became crystal clear. His followers, and because they wrote it down, we today, can see things that kings and prophets wanted to see but couldn’t. We now know that He had to die to pay for our sins; we know that He rose again; we know that He went back to be with the Father in heaven; and we know that He is coming again. If He did the first 3, the 4th is a slam dunk, right? And we see it all with crystal clarity.
Peter later wrote in I Pet 1:10-12, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (They just couldn’t fit all the pieces together, but we can; we’ve seen them) 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” Imagine that. Even the angels didn’t know this stuff – but now we do. Jesus was ecstatic that it was all about to happen. After hundreds of years of mystery, the plan of salvation and redemption was about to made plain; His followers were about to be the most privileged people on the planet, and Jesus reveled in that.
Conc – Michelle Anthony in Spiritual Parenting, which I commend to all parents, tells of writing out a statement based on Eph 1 to help her children understand their unbelievable heritage in Christ. She wanted them to know who they are at their core so when tempted they’d see the incongruity. She personalized it for each child. It’s the Christian equivalent of “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee!” Mine reads, "My name is Dave McNeff. I am the chosen and adopted son of the Most High King. I'm the heir to an eternal inheritance waiting for me in heaven. I have been bought and completely paid for by the perfect sacrifice of Christ's own blood and then sealed throughout all eternity by God's Holy Spirit. Don't mess with me!" That’s the message that caused Jesus’ heart to overflow with joy. That’s what He bought and paid for for us. Let’s go live it. Let’s pray.