Download MP3: Rejoice, Jesus is better! (Dave Bish)
Luke 10v17-24 (Arborfield Church, July 1st 2007).
"I will try my utmost" - says Gordon Brown. Whatever else he does as our Prime Minister he commits to that. What about us? What should we make of our lives? Should those be our words too - that we will try our utmost, or is there something else.
We've heard much about King Jesus over the last few weeks and the volume is being turned up. As we move into chapter 10 we've passed a key turning point. And we must not miss that. Jesus' destination appears on the horizon, 9v51. "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem" What does Jesus see? In 10 chapters he will arrive in Jerusalem. Not as a tourist but to die. Jesus goes very deliberately and voluntarily to his death. Far from being a tragic mistake or unfortunate footnote in his story it was the reason he came. He came to do one thing. To die, rise and ascend for the forgiveness of sins and the establishing of his rule. He has done it. He is doing it.
On the road our priorities are set. Our eyes set upon his destination. Our hearts filled with his majesty. Our lives fixed upon him. Let nothing divert us from him.
1. Jesus is better than anything you can do (v20)
Jesus spoke to those who were following him and told them to go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Speaking of Jesus everywhere. In v1 he sent out seventy two of his followers. Workers sent into a harvest field. Their message was v9, "The Kingdom of God is near you". Where there is a Kingdom there is a King. This King stakes his claim up on each of us. He looks at every part of our lives, public and private, work and rest, saying: "that's mine!"
King Jesus tells his disciples that some will reject them, and therefore reject him. But, v11 - the kingdom of God is near. His rule announced. They return, v17, and say "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name". It sounds impressive, and it was. They spoke of the rule of King Jesus and his enemies have fallen.
Jesus says as much in v18, affirming what they've said. Jesus says - "I saw satan fall". How? "like lightning from heaven". We've seen lightning strike. It's emphatic. Immediate. Decisive. Irrevocable. This is the kind of authority, v19, that Jesus gives his disciples - authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, which is to say, satan. This is the authority Jesus has. This is the authority he gives. What - a - King!
Yet, v20. He says - "do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you". They've seen all these amazing things. Why not rejoice?! They've been given such great authority. But Jesus says - don't get your joy from that. Why not? Because, v20 - "...rejoice that your names are written in heaven".
They can find a better joy. They must find a better joy. Something better than their accomplishments. They already have the best source of joy -their names written in heaven. Their names carved into the walls of heaven. Securely recorded for eternity. Chew on that! Doesn't that make you want to rejoice!
Contrast this with the legal expert we meet in v25. He comes to Jesus. Speaks to Jesus. And asks: "what must I do to inherit eternal life?". Put another way - "how do I get my name written in heaven?" He understands much, yet we see that he has come to: v25 - test Jesus v29 - to justify himself.
Here we find some of Jesus' most famous teaching The Good Samaritan. A familiar story about sacrificial love. But, Luke and Jesus have something more to show us. This is a parable which means it's a story designed to expose the hearts of those who hear it. This man is told to be like those he hated. Even Jesus' disciples, in 9v54, had asked to call down fire on the Samaritans. To be like a Samaritan is unthinkable. He considers himself to have kept God's commands but this is too much. A similar incident occurs with a rich man at the end of Jesus' road to his death - in 18v26. There, and here, we are to ask: who then can be saved?
And Jesus will say - no-one can live so impeccably. You cannot try your utmost. And even if you could, it's not what God requires of us. It misses the point. What is the point? You can't write your own name in heaven. It's not a reward for good deeds. It must be written there by Jesus, in his blood. Making you welcome in his home forever. Doesn't that make you want to rejoice?
Immediately after, Luke brings us to the house of Martha, in 10v38. Jesus had said in 10v6 that true disciples would welcome Jesus into their homes. Martha does. But, v40, she's distracted with preparing the food. Jesus is the front room but she's busy in the kitchen. She misses the wood for the trees. Could we do the same? Could we be so concerned about doing for Jesus that we forget Jesus himself?
It might be evangelistic exploits or service in the church. It might be legal expertise or theological study. It might be practical service or professional excellence. All of them good things in God's world and yet something is better.... What? v20. Having your name written in heaven. Not "I will try my utmost", but "Jesus has done it all". He's written us into heaven. Fix your heart on that with great joy.
2. Jesus is better than anything you can know (v24)
Do you see how Jesus could make light of the exploits of his disciples?
Look with me at v23-24 Jesus speaks to his disciples. What does he say? They are greatly blessed. God smiles on them. Why? v24, for they see what prophets and kings wanted to see, but didn't. The wise and the powerful, the scientists and the scholars longed to know what they know. The great and the good still haven't found what they're looking for. Yet, these ordinary people - v21, these little children have, v24 - seen and heard. Seen what? Heard what?
Look at v21-22. Jesus directs his disciples to a greater source of joy, and He rejoices too. Full of joy through the Holy Spirit. Why? v21, Why? For, v21, hiding 'these things' from the wise and learned, and revealing them to little children. And so by the Holy Spirit, the Son abounds in praise for his Father.
What is hidden? What is revealed? He says, v22 - all things have been given to Jesus by the Father. So much so that : "No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son". God hidden. God revealed. Only the Father knows the Son. Only the Son knows the Father. How then can we know God at all?
V22, there is an exception! The Son knows the Father as do: "those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him". This is what humanity has always needed to know. We cannot find God - but, v21, it is the pleasure of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit to reveal themselves to little children. Like these disciples. Like us.
Remember, Luke arranges what he writes carefully to give us certainty about the all surpassing worth of Jesus. So, let us return to Martha's house and see how this looks. We saw Jesus challenge Martha, v41, for missing Jesus in her concern to show hospitality.
In v42 Jesus speaks of Mary and commends her. Why? Because v39 - Mary... "sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said." She sat and listened to Jesus' word. No doubt he taught her about the Kingdom of God. And about it's King and his necessary death. She is worlds apart from the lawyer and his self-justifying questions. She does what he could not. She sits and listens to what Jesus says.
So it was Jesus' pleasure to reveal himself to her. And in v42 he speaks to Martha - "only one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better" What is required of us? Do what Mary did. Nothing more. The Christian life is not to be one of weariness, of much doing or discovering. It is already done! There is nothing wrong with serving, nor with evangelism or investigating the wonders of God's world. But, let the Son reveal himself, and his Father. And so, share in his joy in the Holy Spirit.
We might say he's not revealed himself to me! That could be the case. But, look again at what Mary did. She sat and listened to Jesus' teaching. We can too - in the Bible - God's word written. About what? About Jesus' destination. About his death in Jerusalem, by which our names are written in heaven.
So, day by day, let us sit at Jesus' feet, let us survey his cross. Let us feel the weight of trying lift off our shoulders. Let us feel the all surpassing joy of heaven. Amen.