Misplaced Joy (Luke 10:17-20)
Luke has been providing an orderly account of the life and ministry of Jesus to provide assurance to believers that what they had heard about Jesus was indeed true. Jesus had wrapped up an extended season of ministry in Galilee. Now he is beginning his journey toward Jerusalem knowing that his own death is fast approaching.
This chapter began with Jesus appointing seventy-two disciples to go out into the cities in the surrounding region and deliver a message of peace. Those who reject them were to be warned that they were rejecting the coming of the kingdom of God. In our passage this afternoon the disciples are returning from their mission and they are excited to tell Jesus all about their experience.
Power and authority tend to have a corrupting influence. Whenever fallen men and women gain some level of influence, unless strong checks and balances are in place, you can bet that corruption will follow. I just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities for the first time. Dicken’s criticizes the chaos and violence of the French Revolution. Obviously, there are a lot of secondary causes that led to the revolt by the commoners, but once they were in power they began to perpetuate their own injustices.
Not only did the seventy-two have success, but they were filled with joy about the new found authority that had received doing ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus initially responds with encouragement regarding the authority he had given to them, but he also challenges them regarding their misplaced joy. Power and authority cannot be our primary source of joy, because it is a fleeting and temporary experience.
Everlasting joy does not develop out of temporary power, but hope in a future reward.
Read Luke 10:17-20
Rejoicing in Authority Received (17)
We can begin by noting several positive aspects of the return of the seventy-two. First, they were rejoicing, not grumbling. They had not been given an easy task. They apparently met with serious opposition as Jesus had warned (3). But they confidently obeyed their Lord’s commission and were filled with joy about its success. We could also say that they recognized that their authority was not personal, but derived from Jesus.
They didn’t say “Jesus” instead of “Abracadabra.” They didn’t use his name as a magic word, but they recognized that they operated in the power of Jesus. They depended upon Jesus as they went in his name. Surely, they had spent adequate time in prayer, as he told them (2), and now they were walking by faith.
Every generation of Christianity needs evangelists who are willing to face rejection and press on with joy. We ought to appreciate missionaries who have gone before us and set an example in their message and perseverance. Every religious revival that has born lasting fruit has been rooted in prayer. We spent a week praying for our evangelistic events this summer, but let us continue to ask the Lord to use these efforts to expand his kingdom here in Fresno and Clovis. We are all called to participate in the mission of the Church. Many are afraid they won’t know what to say, but Jesus does not give us a script. He tells us to go and share his message of peace. There is not one way to do that.
Jesus responds to their joy initially…
Acknowledging Authority Given (18-19)
18 Jesus notes that he witnessed Satan’s fall from authority. But, when did this occur?
- Is this a reference to Satan’s initial fall from heaven (Isa 14:12-15, Jude 6)?
- Is it a reference to Jesus defeating him during his temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13)?
- Is it a symbolic reference to the binding/defeat of Satan through the Gospel proclamation of the 72 (Luke 11:20-22)?
- Is this a vision of Satan’s defeat in Jesus’ death on the cross (Rev. 12:8-9)?
- Is this a foretelling of Satan’s fall at his final defeat (Rev. 20:10)?
I think Jesus is referring to a vision (i.e., Ezekiel, John) of the ongoing defeat of Satan. There is a sense in which it began at Christ’s miraculous birth. Satan attempted to destroy him as a child, but was unsuccessful then. At the start of his ministry Jesus victoriously defeats Satan’s temptations. And, of course, upon the cross Jesus defeated sin and in the resurrection he defeated death. Through the ministry of the Church, as with the seventy-two, Jesus is continuing to conquer Satanic opposition. But it isn’t until his return that he will finally put an end to Satan’s influence (22:53). And at every point in the timeline Jesus’ disciples have been an integral part of the mission. They had indeed participated in the overthrow of the opposition.
19 Jesus acknowledges the disciples’ rise to authority. Moses warned the people of God to remember the God who delivered them from “fiery serpents and scorpions” in the wilderness (Deut. 8:15). God was their protection. The psalmist speaks of angels guarding “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High” (Psalm 91:1, 11). That person receives the promise to tread upon “the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot” (Psalm 91:13). Snakes and scorpions represent spiritual depravity.
You may be reminded of the first gospel recorded in Genesis 3:15. The opposition between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the women will remain, but the final crushing blow has already been delivered by Christ upon the cross. But there is also a sense in which we—as the Church—participate in Satan’s defeat.
Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
As the beautiful feet of the church participates in the proclamation of the gospel, the powers of darkness are increasingly brought under the submission of our Sovereign Lord. None of his or our enemies can prevail over the kingdom of God. It is now the privilege of our generation to participate in our Lord’s ministry. But, from where should we derive our joy? The overcoming of darkness points to a temporary joy. And therefore, it is a lesser joy. And that is the joy for which the seventy-two had settled.
Instead of rejoicing in their temporary authority they should have been…
Rejoicing in Future Reward (20)
Calvin He does not altogether condemn their joy, as if it were groundless, but shows it to be faulty in this respect, that they were immoderately delighted with a temporal favour, and did not elevate their minds higher.
True rejoicing will build for all eternity because it is grounded in our future heavenly reward. Don’t rejoice in the subjection of the spirits, because that will be a fleeting joy. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!
It is a privilege to have one’s name written in the book of life. We ought to be filled with joy at the thought. Jesus seems to be implying that their evangelistic mission ought to be motivated by their hope. They were excited to experience and exhibit their authority, but that is a temporary and fleeting enjoyment. Those experiences would not always occur, but what would develop an everlasting joy would be the expectation of eternity in heaven.
Their confidence to persevere through earthly tribulation rests in the fact that their names are written in the book (Dan 12:1). Paul encouraged participation and support in ministry by all whose names are in the book of life (Php 4:3). Those who conquer false prophets and worldliness will never have their names blotted out of the book of life (Rev. 3:5). They have become citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem where they will gather with innumerable angelic hosts and the assembly of all the elect who are enrolled in heaven (Heb 12:22-23). And, most fundamental of all, they will be in the presence of the living God! Nothing unclean, detestable, or false will ever interrupt our enjoyment of God for all eternity (Rev. 21:27).
That is where our joy should be placed even now, before we get there, because it is a joy that can only grow as we mature in our knowledge and experience of his presence. Why would we settle for lesser motivations? Rejoicing in temporary authority will only lead to the loss of joy when that authority is no longer experienced (in this life or in the future life where all evil is purged). Our joy should be primarily stirred up by everlasting realities.
Authority, power, and wealth are fleeting privileges in this life. Marriage and family are to be enjoyed, but not worshiped. None of these things can bear the weight of all our joy. Set your joy first and foremost in the heavenly places where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. It is around His throne that all the saints will engage in everlasting worship.