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"HE REJOICED GREATLY"
by Philip Owen

          What makes you supremely happy? Health? A big promotion and raise? The birth of a child or his later success? The pursuit of some sports activity or hobby? If we are honest, I’m afraid far too many of us would have to admit that one of the options above hit the bull’s eye regarding what provides us with happiness. Granted, believers should be thankful for these things when they do not usurp the place reserved for the Lord, yet a believer’s happiness should be tied to something higher than natural blessings.

            Luke’s Gospel offers a rare glimpse into what delighted the Lord Jesus Christ. He records that when the seventy disciples returned from their initial independent mission of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,  “At that very time He [Jesus Christ] rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit” (10:21). And in so doing, Luke provides us with some of the sorts of things that ought to engender joy in us. From the mouth of the incarnate Christ, we learn that the following things produced great joy in our Lord.

            1. God’ sovereign election. Speaking to the Father, Jesus Christ prayed: “You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (v. 21). The “these things” of which He spoke were the truths the disciples had been proclaiming concerning the fact that the Messiah, in the person of Christ, had come; therefore, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9, cf., v. 11). The Lord Jesus rejoiced that in His sovereign election, it had pleased the Father to save, not the political elite, not the socially connected, not the movers-and-shakers, but infants—a metaphor for the needy and helpless.

            2. God’s will. Not only did the Lord rejoice because of whom His Father had chosen to save but because it was His will to do so. Nothing captivated Christ’s energy, devotion, admiration, and love as did the will of the Father. Elsewhere He explained: “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him [the Father]” (John 8:29). It delighted the Son to know that His Father was pleased when His will was fulfilled. And it further delighted Him because He knew that His Father’s will was altogether good, and right, and perfect.

            3. The privilege and responsibility of fulfilling His Father’s will. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father” (v. 22)—a truth focusing on the fact that salvation would be provided exclusively in and through the Lord Jesus because no one knows the Father “except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (v. 22). It was not His ability to mesmerize crowds with His speaking or astound them with His miracles that thrilled the Lord. His joy lay fundamentally in the reality that He would fulfill the will of His Father by laying down His life as a ransom for sin.

            4. The opening of His disciples’ eyes to see and understand who He was. That to some had been granted the privilege of saving faith in Christ rejoiced the heart of the Lord. As He observed to His disciples: “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see” (v. 23). Even though at the time He spoke those words, He recognized that the understanding of the disciples was elementary at best, He knew that ultimately they and many like them would “see” Him as their one and only Savior from sin.

            Notice the priority that Christ revealed regarding the things that caused Him to rejoice. He began with the Father, followed by the privilege He felt in becoming a sacrifice according to the Father’s will, and finally to men and their salvation. We will be becoming what the Lord intends us to be when we come to maintain a similar focus, rejoicing in the sovereign will of the Father and the saving work of the Son, and then in the salvation of others. Selfish pursuits may provide a shallow temporal happiness, but only those whose focus mirrors that of the Lord will enjoy the great rejoicing that the approbation of the indwelling Spirit produces in a faithful, obedient believer. Speaking of Jesus Christ, the writer of Hebrews expresses a similar truth in this fashion: “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions” (1:9). May the same be said of us.

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