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God’s Word for You

Luke 10:21-22 Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, June 18, 2018

21 In that same hour, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.

“In the Spirit” seems to me to sometimes be a New Testament way of describing someone in the act of worship (grammatically, this would be the dative of reference or sphere). Some commentaries pass over this point, and others make a quick judgment but then move on without applying it in any way.

Let’s look at other passages with the phrase “in the (Holy) Spirit.” John says that he “was in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day when Jesus appeared to him in a vision and dictated the seven letters (Revelation 1:10). Jude exhorts his readers to worship together in order to “build yourselves up… and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). The writer to the Hebrews connects the most elementary blessings of faith, perhaps including the Lord’s Supper, to sharing “in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4). Another example is Ephesians 6:18. All of these examples can be seen as references either to faith or worship. The difference is that faith is trusting God in the heart, whereas worship is expressing that trust with words or actions. But this leads us to a dogmatic question: Does Jesus Christ have faith in God? This question led my wife, my son Peter, and I into a lively doctrinal discussion last night. I stated that Jesus is truly God, and therefore is the object of faith. Kath stated that Jesus shows his faith in the Father all the time and that he has perfect faith. Peter and I realized that we were looking at Jesus from the perspective of his two natures: As true God, Jesus is the object of faith, and as true man, Jesus has (I can’t help but use my wife’s term) perfect faith. In his incarnation on earth, Jesus is both the truest believer and the one who is believed in. Jesus constantly and consistently shows his unshakable, perfect faith in the Father. His is a life of worship that is irremovable from his faith. He makes no mistakes in his worship, his worship is constant, his worship is unshakable, and his worship is telegraphed out into every aspect of his life and ministry.

So here, it seems best to understand what was going on in the context of an act of worship. In fact, this is just one of many examples in the Bible that we have of Jesus constantly in the act of worship. Here, Jesus was rejoicing over the success of his disciples and the joy he felt that they were experiencing the beginning of the formation of the Christian Church—for this is precisely what was taking place. The Jews of Galilee, Judea, and Perea were being gathered together in groups of believers: churches.

When we take this phrase with the rest of verses 21-24, we have an outline of a worship service in miniature.

  1. The context of worship is established (21a)
  2. Praise and prayer (vs. 21b)
  3. A confession of faith (vs. 21b “This was pleasing in your sight”)
  4. Scripture (Deuteronomy 29:29, within the prayer)
  5. Sermon: an explanation of what was read (vs. 22)
  6. Benediction (vs. 23-24)

He said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and you have revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, because this was pleasing in your sight.”

In this prayer, Jesus praises the Father for hiding the true wisdom of faith from the wise and for revealing this secret to little children. He is summarizing Moses’ words: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). The great scholars might try to discover God’s hidden matters, but they are hidden, and they belong to God. But the revealed things—the things uncovered for us in God’s word—are believed by those with a simple faith and even by little children.

Consider the words of Solomon:

Have I not previously written sayings for you,
  sayings of counsel and knowledge,
teaching you true and reliable words,
  so that you can give sound answers to those who sent you?

    This passage (Proverbs 22:20-21) holds up the word of God, either taught verbally or read from the Bible, as the true message of God, to be taken to heart by the hearer. This is for the benefit of the hearer, of course, but it is also for the benefit of those whom that person will turn around and speak to. In Solomon’s case, this is “those who sent you,” but Jesus makes it clear that this is true of anyone at all we speak to. The gospel works in a miraculous and powerful way. And this is God’s holy will, “pleasing in his sight.” He is pleased to work through us, and this also helps us to understand why Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” The word was doing its work, creating faith and building up the church. So here we have Father, Son and Holy Spirit all delighted in the working of the word in the world—the powerful, eternal word. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Jesus also confesses his faith with the words: “Yes, Father, because this was pleasing in your sight.” This was not evident to the disciples, so Jesus proclaimed it in their hearing. This way, they would know that Jesus trusted everything the Father does and was eager to proclaim this and share it with anyone who wanted to hear. A statement of faith such as this—a creed—can be something carefully prepared, like the Apostles’ or Nicene creeds, or can be a spontaneous declaration of faith, like Paul’s speech before Felix in Acts 24:14-15. Confessing one’s faith in worship is as valuable as confessing one’s sins. Confessing sins leads to the absolution, the proclamation of the forgiveness of those sins. Confessing our faith reinforces that faith in our hearts and builds up faith and trust in the hearts of those with whom we worship. We see that happening here as Jesus’ words built up the faith, trust, and understanding of his disciples.

22 “Everything has been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.”

Here Jesus explains what this revealed knowledge is that is believed by little children, but which is hidden from the wise and learned. It is the true identity of God. Who is the Father? Jesus reveals him. Who is the Son? The Father reveals him. A great many things are revealed about God in this relationship of the Father and the Son, things we would not have known had Jesus not revealed them to us.

The Father sent the Son to atone for man’s sins. The Father also sent the Son to teach us: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). That is to say, whoever trusts in Christ has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9). When we put our trust in Christ, we are doing what pleases the Father. When we give glory to the Father, we are walking in the footsteps and in the shadow of the Son. When we desire to obey God, we are putting our faith into practice—something impossible for an unbeliever and only possible through the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants us to worship together with other Christians, to build ourselves up, and to build up one another. This delights God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and this is God’s will for us all.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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