What brings joy? Babies. Puppies. Brown paper packages tied up with string. Our names written in heaven.
When the disciples return after their limited commission of preaching the arrival of the kingdom, they are ecstatic at their power to cast out demons. Jesus saw this as the falling of Satanic power and the dominion of heaven was coming to the earth. Then Jesus says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Then Jesus himself begins rejoicing “in the Holy Spirit” and thanking God for his gracious will (10:21-24). A few things are interesting about these verses. First, notice that there is a clear and distinct reference to the trinity. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father are specifically mentioned. Three distinct, complete persons, all equally divine, all equally present. Some question the validity of the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is difficult to dismiss it in light of passages where all three are presented in distinction.
A second idea is the juxtaposition of God’s sovereignty and intimacy. Jesus addresses his prayer to the “Father,” a term which invokes thoughts of family and relationship. However, Jesus adds, “Lord of heaven and earth” which points to the power and sovereignty of God. As one song puts it, “My God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY. There’s nothing my God cannot do.” Like Jesus’s prayer, this song speaks of our intimacy with God who is superior to all the creation
Thirdly, Jesus gives thanks for God’s hidden and revealed will. The play on words in the original language apekrypsas (hidden) and apekalypsas (revealed) helps point out the contrast. The message is the same, but it is hidden to those who view themselves as wise in the ways of the world. However, it is revealed to the babies, a metaphorical way of saying those who are open to learning. This is the embodiment of the proverb, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).
In verse 22, Jesus focuses on the intimacy between the Father and the Son but adds that this intimacy is all revealed to “anyone to whom the Son chooses.” While we may stand in awe of the divine relationship, it is even more humbling that Jesus chooses to share that intimacy with Christians. In fact, he turns to the disciples and calls them “blessed” or happy (connected to the joy expressed by Jesus) because they get to see the inbreaking of God in the world and hear the gracious message. Prophets and kings wanted the opportunity to see and hear it, but the disciples of Jesus were the ones who first saw it, but not the last. Christians today still witness the revealed God and hear the gospel.
Thinking about the joy expressed by Jesus, we see at least four ideas that spark joy for him. One, is the sovereignty of God, not merely over the universe, but more specifically over salvation. God authored the way of salvation and saves whom he desires. He desires anyone who submits to his gracious will. Two, the intimacy of the Father and Son. This is the foundational relationship that allows Jesus to accept the eternal submission. Because of the love of the Father and his own trust (faith) in God, Jesus willingly became subordinate (Phil. 2:6-8) which he remains so. Three, Jesus rejoices in the privilege of the disciples to participate in salvation. His death will make this possible, but the joy of man’s salvation outweighs the sorrow of his sacrifice. Four, the praise of gratitude that God receives from the disciples makes Jesus rejoice in the Holy Spirit.
Sovereignty. Intimacy. Salvation. Thanksgiving. These are a few of our favorite things. These spark our joy.