Following the mission of the seventy, Jesus reminds his disciples that, unlike the unrepentant cities who have rejected the gospel, they stand blessed because they have received the mysteries of the kingdom revealed to them by the Father, through the Son, and therefore, they have come to experience what the great ones of Israel once longed to experience, namely, the promised day of salvation.
v21. "At that moment Jesus was inspired with joy", J.B. Phillips. The mission of the seventy disciples might not have been a great success, but the missioners themselves were enthused. People had indeed believed; Satan was brought low. So, Jesus bursts into thanksgiving. Addressing the Father, he gives thanks that repentant sinners, rather than the self-righteous, have come to experience the long-promised day of salvation.
v22. God the Father has vested all authority in the Son to both reveal and enact this promised day. When it comes to salvation, only the Son is privy to the Father's will and its realization is at his initiative and discretion.
v23-24. Jesus now turns from the larger group of missioners and their converts and makes a comment to the inner circle of disciples, probably the twelve. "How truly fortunate are those who have the privilege of experiencing for themselves what you are experiencing, of experiencing the long-promised day of salvation. The great ones of Israel longed to see this day and participate in it, to experience what you experience."
Privilege can express itself in many ways. Here we are, unworthy servants of our Creator God, showered with eternal blessings at the hand of Jesus, the Son of God. The Old Testament saints longed to experience what we experience, and yet never did. So, how should we respond in the face of such a privilege?
I want us to think about one particular response among the dozens that are available to us. It's an ancient response that is not as highly favored today as it once was. Over the years, believers have expended massive resources building places of worship, from magnificent architecture decked out with the finest works of art to simple little buildings. What we see in these churches, from the smallest to the largest, is a declaration of the glory of God, a response to the privilege that is ours in Christ. Yet, as I said, not so today, today we are more inclined to respond with social activism or evangelism than church building.
I was out driving some days ago and visited a little farming community called Kindee. There is nothing overly special about this beautiful valley other than to get there you have to drive over a very old timber suspension bridge. There are two public buildings in Kindee, the community hall and the Free Presbyterian Church. I think you could fit about 12 people in the church. There is nothing special about the church building; it's a typical Australian timer and fibro construction. What's not so typical is that it is still a church. All over Australia these little buildings are being sold off as private homes. Every time it happens the local community is up in arms. They may not attend, but it is their church. Yet, too often these days these little buildings are sold off and the money pocketed by head office.
I like to describe this sell-off as a denial of revival. By the sell-off we proclaim that we will never be a revival of faith in Australia again. It's all over; the Holy Spirit has packed up and gone home! Yet, so often the only evidence that the Christian faith ever existed in the countless small scattered communities throughout the country is the local church building with its sign out the front reminding the passing throng of divine privilege. In fact, time and again, the only public building left in once flourishing gold mining towns was the church building. And now, they are a cash-cow rather than a sign of divine grace.
The Old Testament saints would have given their right eye to see what we see. Having seen it, having experienced divine grace, let us not quickly remove every evidence of its existence.
1. In what sense is the gospel hidden from "the wise and the intelligent"?
2. What conclusion can we draw from the fact that the Father and the Son share a mutual knowledge of each other?
3. List appropriate responses to our "fortunate" state in Christ.