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remember your true joy


The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:17-20


That one word – however – pulling the attention of the listener away from the events that just occurred, and even Christ’s acknowledgment, support, and affirmation is the paradox once again observed in Christ’s kingdom.

Luke chapter 10 opens with the story of Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples to go into every town and proclaim the kingdom of God. His instructions were simple but direct. Their main objective was to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick. He knew there would be challenges and hardships – “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” vs.3 – but he encouraged them and gave them the assurances they needed, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me…” vs.16.

And off they went, entering towns, proclaiming God’s kingdom, healing the sick, and casting out demons. When they returned, they were elated! They were so excited to report back to Jesus everything that had happened. I imagine their feelings were much like the excitement and joy we feel after we have just returned from a missions trip. We have stories and photos and slide shows and testimonies, and we just can’t wait to share all the things with all the people. We want others to share in our joy; to see what we saw and acknowledge that God powerfully used us. We want to celebrate the good that God did. We also tend to shine a light on the part we played in the story.

When the seventy-two returned there was much joy and much celebration because of what had happened.

“Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” vs.17

This is typically the moment when the audience jumps to their feet with applause. Instead, Jesus turned this moment into a teachable moment…a very important moment for the seventy-two, and for us today.

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” vs.18

What was Jesus saying here? There are two different thoughts on the meaning of this particular phrase. According to William Barclay, it can mean that while the disciples were out proclaiming the kingdom of God and seeing miraculous signs and wonders, Christ could see in the spirit what was happening to Satan; that his power had taken quite a blow.

Another thought is that this statement was warning the disciples against pride. It is understood that it was because of pride and arrogance in his heart that, once the most beautiful of all the angels, Satan was cast out of heaven. Pride was his destruction. And in this statement, Jesus was calling the seventy-two to pause and reflect.

It may be that Jesus was saying to the Seventy, “You have had your triumphs; keep yourselves from pride, for once the chief of all the angels fell to pride and was cast from heaven.”

William Barclay

Jesus spoke a great deal about pride throughout his ministry, so it would not be difficult to believe that rather than hoisting the seventy-two up on his shoulders as great champions of faith, he was warning them to guard their hearts against pride.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

Jesus knows our hearts better than we know our hearts. He sees our motivations that are often hidden behind even the best of intentions. As Jeremiah inquired, “Who can understand it?” We certainly cannot, but Jesus can…and he did. He wasn’t trying to squash their victories or shame them for feeling joyful, nor was he downplaying the incredible good that had been done, but his greatest concern was that the hearts of the seventy-two remained grounded in humility and surrender to God.

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” vs.19

The work that took place in each town and village wherein the seventy-two ministered was good that came directly from the power and authority of Jesus Christ. And it was after he acknowledged the miraculous deeds that had happened through those individuals that he switched the focus to what was truly worth rejoicing about.

“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” vs.20

The perspective is convicting.

As missionaries, we carry genuine and perceived expectations on our shoulders. We struggle with how to articulate what we are doing, how we are approaching ministry, and how to communicate our work in such a way that will cause others to be proud of us, to choose to support us, or keep people from choosing not to support us. It’s a tricky balance of telling our stories and sharing our victories without creating a small, but very real, platform of celebrity for ourselves. The truth is, I think we all struggle with this. Our wicked hearts get in the way, and while we do things in the Name of Jesus, we also do things to receive the pat on the back, the thumbs up, and the applause from the audience.

Jesus wasn’t just speaking to the seventy-two in this story. He was speaking to you and me. And while it is not a story that prohibits sharing, rejoicing, and celebrating the victories – on the contrary – it is a story reminding us that our greatest source of joy, and purpose for celebrating, is the fact that our names are written in heaven. That is truly a reason to rejoice! Our salvation is secure…our hope is eternity with Jesus. Our greatest earthly accomplishments are not nearly as miraculous as the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our souls. There is nothing we do – the greatest or the smallest things – that can outshine our salvation.

Pride bars from heaven; humility is the passport to the presence of God.

William Barclay

This is what Jesus wants us to grasp. It is by Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus that our stories and our testimonies and those miraculous moments were done. Through him, and him alone. Our salvation – this gift from God – is our treasure…and our true joy.

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” vs.21

I appreciate how Luke’s narrative of this story has captured the emotion Jesus was feeling at this moment. Jesus was feeling good! He rejoiced in the souls that had been open to the message of salvation. He was full of joy through the Holy Spirit. The testimonies and the miracles that the seventy-two brought to him were good and wonderful stories that brought joy to Jesus’ heart, and he said it was for God’s pleasure! If we, at any point in this story, only see Jesus as a joy killer, then we have misunderstood the whole thing. The simple truths were received by those with childlike faith. Again, the paradox of God’s kingdom. The greatest in the kingdom will be like children. Not because Jesus favors youth over maturity, but because those with open and childlike hearts are more receptive to Christ’s message. Jesus was happy. And therefore we, too, can be happy when God’s message is received. Yes, we can absolutely celebrate that!

As we approach the work that God has put in our hands, may we remember by whose power and authority we have been commissioned. May we celebrate the victories, but with humility, knowing that each soul redeemed, and each life transformed has been done only through the power of Jesus Christ. We are simply the stewards of his work. Pride is sneaky. Our hearts rarely detect it. This is why it is imperative for us to continuously lay our pride and our weaknesses at the foot of the cross. If we think that one act of surrender and sacrifice is sufficient, then we are lying to ourselves.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14

Remember your true joy. Boast in the work of Christ and seek humility at the foot of the cross.

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