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.”
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 is what you were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed 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 those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Okay, let’s kick off the day with a good old-fashioned pop quiz. Only one question: How many distinct prayers do we have recorded coming from the mouth of Jesus?
Now, to be fair I’m going to make this an open book quiz and give you until tomorrow to come up with the answer. And I’ll give you a head start. Today’s text gives us one of those prayers.
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 is what you were pleased to do.
Let’s get the bigger picture of what’s going on in the text today. Jesus is enjoying a Holy Spirit joy explosion. Think of it as a divine end-zone dance after a game-winning touchdown. Had high-fives and chest-bumps been invented back then, Jesus and the Seventy-Two would have been doing them at this point in the story. The Seventy-Two were telling stories of crushing demons (note the explicit qualifier, “in your name”). Jesus speaks of his seeing “Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Somewhere over on the sidelines, Team Satan were working the referees for an excessive celebration penalty’to no avail.
This exuberant celebration marks the successful transferability of the authority of Jesus to other people. I mean, it wasn’t a sure thing, was it? Something tells me Jesus may have been holding his breath a little bit. Would these men and women actually be able to operate in the gifted authority of the Son of God? Their coming back with this news was a big deal. In the midst of it all, Jesus couldn’t even contain the joy. He wanted the Father to share in this signal moment of celebration. In what clearly ranks as his most exuberantly joyful prayer, he shouted out, 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 is what you were pleased to do.
I call this one “The Prayer of Great Reversal.” Jesus is turning the world upside down—no, right side up. The kingdom is breaking in, and the underdogs are winning. Let’s take a closer look at the prayer.
It looks like the “wise and learned” are taking it on the chin. Wouldn’t that be a good thing’to be wise and learned? Rather than good or bad, I think the issue is one of danger. The great danger of becoming wise and learned is of turning wisdom and learning into a form of status and prestige. You know the familiar saying, “Knowledge is power.” It’s true. Will my or your learnedness or expertise be for us a source of pride or humility? And that all depends on how we understand from whence our learning and wisdom comes. Watch where Jesus takes it next: All things have been committed 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 those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Divine revelation is not a product of religious study. Divine revelation is the fruit of a devoted relationship. Don’t hear me wrong. Study is a given. It’s just a question of whether study finds its roots in a relationship characterized by loving devotion or proceeds from a self-determined pursuit to gain power, prestige, or position. We all know people, pastors, scholars, and leaders on both sides of that equation.
It’s why the Bible says over and over and over things like, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV).
Dr. Luke, our guide through the gospel, is a great example of one whose wisdom and learning have come in the relationship way of a disciple of Jesus.
So back to the open book quiz we opened with today about the prayers of Jesus. Rather than jumping to Google or concordances or Bible dictionaries or power-scanning the pages of your Bible, try this. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit in such a way as to reveal and remind you of Jesus’ various prayers. Be still before him and rehearse the story of the gospel in your mind’s eye. See what comes. This is the stuff of a devoted relationship. From this holy grounded-ness, it’s no holds barred. Go for it.
And don’t forget to read Jesus’ most exuberant prayer out loud today. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with joyful exuberance in doing so.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.
How important is it to you to be known as a knowledgeable or learned person? Why does that matter so much in the world’s value system? Why might our humility be more important to Jesus?
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