The Divine Joy of Our Lord

Text: Luke 10:21-14

Date: Wednesday after Pentecost VI + 7/11/07

           Following the Gospel for this past Sunday (Luke 5:1-11), when we considered the calls of Isaiah as a prophet and Simon Peter as an Apostle of the Lord, we emphasized how personal conversion and faith comes first and then leads into mission. Without the Lord’s first coming to us with His mercy and grace, converting us to faith, we would have nothing to offer anyone else as the mission of the Church is to bring the Light of salvation to the world. This Gospel reading from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 10:21-24) follows naturally, then, as our Lord rejoices to see His mission of salvation extended through His sending of the Twelve apostles and the seventy (-two) disciples whom He sent to preach and evangelize or proclaim the Good News. They were sent, two by two, to do what Jesus did and does and is going to do: to preach the presence of the kingdom, to heal and perform miracles, and to say “peace” to houses where they are accepted with hospitality and table fellowship. As we heard of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John that they “left everything” and followed Jesus, so these seventy (-two) are sent without provisions, emissaries who have foregone the things of this world and are dependent on the care and protection of others, and, ultimately, the Lord. They have renounced home and family; their new kin are those who receive their message of peace. They are not to depend on themselves, but their trust is in the Lord of the mission and his promise that not even the devil will hurt them.

           Today we hear the rejoicing of our Lord upon the return of the seventy (-two). He says, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” The “these things” that the Lord has revealed is the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. Look and take notice of all the heretical thoughts and words and claims, the rank unbelief of so many people today! I dare say that the majority of people who even bother to consider the issue of Jesus and the Christian faith and Church view Him whom we call “our Lord” as merely a man, a good man to be sure, but only a man and not, as we believe and claim, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord and our God incarnate in human flesh, much less the Savior of the world! The kingdom of God is, before the eyes of men of this world, hidden in the flesh of Jesus. Apart from receiving him as God’s Son, however, no one—not the wise and understanding of this world, such as the religious elite of Israel—will understand much less believe and be saved.

           Therefore Jesus closes this initial mission of the seventy (-two) with the beatitude, “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.’” In Jesus, God’s Son, and only by conversion and faith in Him, they see the Father’s plan of salvation playing out and coming to fulfillment right before their eyes. Of course, their and our spiritual sight is dark and partial as we continue to struggle with coming to repentance and faith each and every day as we struggle with sin. Yet, as our Lord opened the eyes of the Emmaus disciples after His resurrection, so is the power of the Gospel to open our minds, eyes and hearts to see (that is to know and to believe) the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.

           As each of us lives out this same divine calling to leave everything, that is, to put our whole trust and reliance only in the Lord, we face, at different times, differing challenges to this calling. Especially in our world today in this nation of The United States of America, and in these prosperous times when not only our basic needs of life give us little concern but even also those things that are, after all, luxuries (automobiles, the internet, credit cards, gazillions of fragrances of deodorant and shampoo but to name a few), still there are times when our faith and reliance upon God is challenged—sometimes (as in my life in the past year, and perhaps yours, too) with strange turns of events that do, indeed, seem to threaten our basic needs of life, but other times mostly by our complacency and forgetfulness of our true needs. The issue is simply this, according to the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” that is, those who know their need of God, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That’s why, these days, those churches that faithfully proclaim the pure doctrine of the Gospel of Christ tend to be sparsely attended. For people, in general, in our day, are not aware of their need of God, are not “poor in spirit.” On the other hand, may I be so bold as to suggest that those “churches” that seem to draw larger crowds these days (with but a few exceptions) do so mainly by proclaiming something more than or other than the Gospel of Christ! The constant call of Christian discipleship, “deny self, take up your cross, and follow me,” that is of daily conversion, repentance and faith, is not a popular message, it cannot be packaged in safe, easy doses that, ultimately, do not confront our radical need, as the Apostle Peter put it, to “die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

            Jesus said, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). There is no such thing as a person who needs no repentance for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The true righteousness happens only in repentant sinners. The true joy of our Lord happens:

            When I survey the wondrous cross
               On which the Prince of Glory died….
            Love so amazing, so divine,
              Demands my soul, my life, my all! [LSB 426:1a, 4b]