Reading: Psalm 68
The Christian faith is a supernatural religion. That is, it is a faith that is founded not upon what human minds have come up with but with what God himself has revealed to us. The Christian faith does not merely propose belief in a divine being; it revels and delights in the worship of a great and awesome God.
In fact the God of the Bible presents himself to us as a God who is far too big for us to get our puny brains around. This does not mean that belief in God is somehow illogical but it does mean that human logic is simply not up to the vast task of understanding the God who is there.
But stop for a moment: if God really is God then why should we expect to be able to fully understand him? After all I guess most of us here this morning are unable to understand Russian so why should we suddenly assume that we can understand God who is far greater and far more complex than a foreign language? And, in any case, if we could fully understand him would we really want to worship a god who was really so small? Would such a god really be able to satisfy the longings and aspirations of our heart?
The Bible doesn’t waste time trying to prove that God exists – you know deep down that he does. Instead the Bible tells us something of what this God is like – it doesn’t tell us all there is to know about God but what it does tell us is true. We are not in a position to argue about it but we are in a position to worship and to seek to be reconciled to such a glorious God!
Now, why am I starting my sermon in this way this morning?
Well let me tell you. In the words of our text we have a reference to the Triune God: we’ve been thinking about Jesus and he continues to be the focus of our attention here too. Jesus is the Son of God. The Holy Spirit is also mentioned and he is the third person of the Holy Trinity. And Jesus expressed his thanks/praise to the Father or as he puts it in v.22 "My Father", God the Father who is described here as the Lord of heaven and earth.
What a glorious and great and personally sociable God our God is!
We will learn more about this extraordinarily majestic God as we consider these verses together this morning.
What Makes Jesus Rejoice?
First things first: Jesus rejoiced.
v.21 "In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit..."
I suspect that that doesn’t strike you in any particular way – but it is the only time in the entire Bible as far as I can tell that Jesus is said to have rejoiced! That’s not to say that Jesus was a dull and boring person who was a stranger to joy. He certainly didn’t see himself as being a joyless person as we can see from the words he spoke to his disciples in:
Jn.15:11 "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."
Or when he prayed earnestly for his disciples in:
Jn.17:13 "But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves."
While Jesus was evidently full of joy he was nevertheless prophesied by Isaiah as being "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Is.53:3).
So this record of Jesus rejoicing stands out and we should ask questions about it. What was happening at this particular moment in time that made Jesus react in this way?
Do you remember the circumstances? How important context is! Jesus had sent out a large group of his followers on a mission and they had just returned and shared wonderful reports of what they had been able to achieve. Specifically they had spoken about the victories they had wrought over demons. Jesus immediately put this in the wider context of his own victory over Satan identifying the success of his followers with the fall of Satan from the heights of his power.
It is reflecting on this that causes Jesus to rejoice.
If you like we could put it another way. The thing that caused Jesus to rejoice was the progress of the gospel of salvation. Indeed joy was set before him as he pursued his mission of securing salvation for us:
Heb 12:2 "Jesus... for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
If salvation secured and applied caused Jesus to rejoice can the same be true about you? Do you rejoice in salvation? Or do you perhaps think that salvation is somehow ordinary and mundane, not something that is important enough to get worked-up about? I wonder...
Jesus was thrilled by the progress of the gospel and rejoiced when he saw this tangible evidence of Satan’s empire and hold over sinners being broken and his captives being set free. A little later in this gospel Luke will record some more things that Jesus had to say linking joy and salvation:
Lk.15:7 "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."
Have you given heaven cause for rejoicing by coming as that one sinner to repentance and faith? Has salvation become yours? Please God it might come soon if you have not experienced it already.
What Jesus did in his joy
Moved and prompted by the Spirit Jesus, upon hearing the good news of the progress of the cause of salvation, turned at once to return thanks to God the Father, his Heavenly Father.
With what care he honours his Heavenly Father! He doesn’t refer to him as "Our Father" and indeed he never did. He told us to pray that way but his own relationship with the Father is different from ours and so he always referred to him in a distinct manner. In speaking to his disciples he would refer to "my Father" and "your Father, to "my God" and "your God".
And yet with a profound sense of this unique and unparalleled intimacy which he enjoyed with his Father note how he addresses his Father more fully:
v.21 "Lord of heaven and earth"
Jesus prays his Father as the supreme owner and the supreme sovereign of everything there is. Nothing is outside his control, his rule and his authority. Therefore it is he who is responsible for the progress of the gospel of salvation at this particular juncture. Jesus had sent his followers out and the Father had blessed their efforts rendering them successful and so Jesus quite simply and quite naturally returns his thanks to his Father for what he has done.
Nor are we left in any doubt concerning the specifics of Jesus’ thanksgiving – he specifically refers to the distinguishing sovereign love of the Father:
v.21 "you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children"
Here is a declaration that ought to humble us and cause us to go humbly with our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Jesus is declaring in straightforward terms that God opposes or resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The scribes, the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of the Jewish people prided themselves on their knowledge and understanding. They considered themselves to be a cut above the others and fully expected to have a place in God’s kingdom and yet it was this class of religious snob that failed the most spectacularly to recognise that Jesus was the long-promised deliverer of his people. They thought highly of themselves and rejected Jesus. God the Father opposed them and did not reveal the truth to them! But there were others – here referred to as "little children" – who were not puffed up with their own importance. These simple ones were humble and God the Father honoured them by revealing the truth to them.
It wasn’t that the Father couldn’t overcome the pride of those who saw themselves as being so wise and so full of understanding and had to content himself with those that the world considers to be weak and insignificant – it was because this particular course of action was pleasing to his Heavenly Father!
Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus gives thanks to his Father for this? He doesn’t contest the Father’s way of doing things but rejoices in it. Is that true of you too or are you busy muttering and complaining that the Father ought to have done and ought to do things differently? Surely if the Father’s way of doing things was not only acceptable in Jesus’ sight but also thoroughly approved of then shouldn’t that be enough for us too?
And this free choice of Jesus’ Heavenly Father is described by the Heavenly Son as being the Father’s "gracious will". It was something he was not under any obligation whatsoever to do. He didn’t need to reveal anything to anyone – all of us have forfeited that sort of claim by sinfully turning our backs on him – but he acts is grace nevertheless! Praise his name!
The Importance or the Centrality of Jesus
We have already looked at Jesus’ joy and his reaction in praising his Heavenly Father now we turn to consider how Jesus saw his own role in the Father’s plan of things.
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."
What a claim Jesus makes here! Here is no ordinary religious teacher regurgitating what others have said many times before but here is a man seriously making a stupendous claim that if not true means we should lock him up in a lunatic asylum and forever throw away the key!
The Father who is the Lord of heaven and earth has given Jesus everything!! The same truth would be repeated by Jesus after his resurrection in very similar words. Then he would say to his disciples:
Mt.28:18 ""All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
And again the context would be one of salvation because Jesus there was on the verge of giving his followers his Great Commission, the task of going and making disciples of all nations.
But if this were not enough Jesus also declared that he was so great that the only one who could properly understand who he was was the Father himself. It takes divine omniscience to understand fully understand Jesus – that’s how great he is! And just in case you might think that every human being is so complex that it takes one greater than a human being to fathom out who we are Jesus puts it the other way round too! He declares that he is the only one who can and does understand who the Father is!
Jesus is declaring that he fully knows and understands the One who is the Lord of heaven and earth. If you said that folk would smile at you and think you’d totally lost it – but Jesus said it and has been believed on in the world for 20 centuries. Neither his teaching nor his influence suggest that he is a madman but rather the wisest, purest, kindest man who has ever lived – the Son of God! Indeed he has all authority necessary to share this true knowledge of the Father with whomever he will.
It’s simply another way of him saying:
Jn.14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
There are implications in all of this that you simply must not miss for true religion is personal religion.
You have your needs. We all of us have our needs. Some of those needs are greater and some are lesser.
Jesus has everything necessary to meet and satisfy those needs! He has received everything from his Father – and everything means everything. We all need the forgiveness of our sins – well look no further than Jesus! He has the authority to forgive our sins – it’s part of the very reason he came in to the world. We all need to be reconciled to God – he has the ability to do that.
You can go to Jesus Christ for the salvation you need sure that he is able to save you and to save you to the uttermost.
If you have gone to him you can be sure that his resources will not let you down – never!
There is no-one, repeat no-one, who has anything like the same credentials as the Lord Jesus Christ. He has the power, the authority and the loving kindness to meet your needs. He told his disciples that he had come that we might have life and life in all its fullness and he meant what he said.
Jesus presses these truths on his followers
Up to this point Jesus had been speaking openly so that anyone who was there could listen in to what he had to say. Now he withdraws somewhat from that wider crowd and speaks to those who have already become his followers.
I wonder do you think he is speaking to you – have you become a follower? or are you listening in to a conversation that doesn’t directly concern you?
vv.23-24 "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."
It is a tremendous privilege to be a Christian! What a position you are in if you are a Christian! For centuries godly men longed to understand what God’s plan of salvation really looked like and how it would all pan out. We’re even told elsewhere in the NT that even angels longed for a glimpse! But if you’re a Christian then you have seen with the eyes of faith just how God has worked out his plan of salvation in and through his only begotten son the Lord Jesus Christ!
Some of the so-called intellectuals of our day try to pour scorn on the Christian faith and rubbish any thought of a personal God offering personal relationship with himself. All they do is to give further evidence that God resists and opposes the proud. You needn’t fear their rantings and aggressiveness – it has always been so – but the Christian church continues because Jesus has pledged to build the church.
If you can see and hear these spiritual truths in Jesus then believe, receive and enjoy them. If you can’t see or hear then go to God and plead with him to open your blind eyes and to unstop your deaf ears. Repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ.
And may God bless you all.