Reasons Jesus Rejoices, Part 3
Topic: Grace Pulpit Passage: Luke 10:23-24
Reasons Jesus Rejoices (Part 3)
September 22, 2019
Well, today we wrap up our study on reasons that Jesus rejoices, so we are going to return one more time to Luke 10:21-24. This is not just a wrap-up of this short study, but it’s wrapping up really a whole series on the joy of Jesus and his disciples. It started back in verse 17 when the Gospel messengers that Jesus sent out returned from their Gospel mission, as we saw. Jesus entered into their joy, he informed their joy, he deepened their joy, and then he put the focal point of their joy on eternal, saving realities. He told them in Luke 10:20, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
You know, that is some insightful, pastoral counsel, isn’t it? “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Whatever happiness or sadness you face on this earth, joys or sorrows that you encounter in this physical, temporal world—and I think as I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on this subject lately, I see that in the modern world—and especially in our moment and in our time—people feel more isolated and lonely than ever. And it’s not just because of technology and smart phones that isolate everybody from one another, but it’s just through the ravaging effects of sin and divorce and destruction of families and all kinds of sin perpetrated against one another. It’s not just political parties that are at war with each other; these days it’s everybody. It’s at the grass roots level all the way up to the top. And all that anger and fury and wrath comes from the heart, it comes out of the mouth, and results in isolation and sadness, sorrow, loneliness—total pain.
Whatever joys and sorrows as a Christian that you face in this life, center your thoughts on this thought, that Jesus said there, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Past perfect tense—“have been written,” “have been inscribed.” Rejoice in that fact, and as the hymn says, “And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
And it’s that thought Jesus rejoiced in in that same hour, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, giving praise to God. Follow along as I read in verses 21 and 22:
*In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “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; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will [or “for thus it was pleasing for you to do”]. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”*
So Jesus praises God for who he is and what he’s done, namely, exercising his sovereign will to conceal and reveal the high salvation truth from the proud and give it instead to the humble—literally, to little babes. He praises God for why he did that, namely, because it pleased him to do so. The blessed prerogative of absolute sovereignty is this: that God does whatever he wants to do. He’s pleased to do his will.
So Jesus rejoices—and these are the outline points at the “macro” level. Jesus rejoices, number 1, in who God is—number 2, in what God has done—and number 3, why God has done it. We had a fourth point last week, that Jesus rejoices in how God has done it. That is to say, God has exercised his sovereign will to conceal and reveal saving truth, both of those things accomplished through the mystery of the incarnation—verse 22: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
So we were talking about this last time—that the Father and Son possess mutual, reciprocal, infinite knowledge because both are divine persons. They share the same divine substance, the essence of deity. What these divine persons know—the knowledge that they possess—is an exclusive sphere of knowledge. The Son is known only by the Father; the Father is known only by the Son. This is a Trinitarian sphere of knowledge, exclusively comprehended by members of the Trinity—and by them alone. Access of entry into this sphere of knowledge is the express right and ability of Trinitarian persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, if you do not occupy a place in the Trinity, you’re out—no access for non-Trinitarian persons. There are three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So that means all created things—locked out. All angels and all demons—locked out. All mankind—locked out. All creation—locked out of that exclusive sphere of divine knowledge. Why? Because no creature can bridge the infinite gap that exists between himself and his Creator unless, that is, the Son of God according to his sovereign prerogative—“all things have been handed over to me by my Father”—by his gracious will—unless he should choose to unlock the door and bring someone in.
Look at the end of verse 22 again: “[N]o one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and”—What? End of the sentence. We find a crack in the door, don’t we?—a sliver of hope, an entry point into the infinite being of divinity. At the end of the sentence is a coordinate clause of divine grace: “and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” For those the Son has chosen—to them and to them alone, this door doesn’t just crack open. He swings it wide open to the infinite, everlasting joy of the knowledge of God. To those whom Jesus has chosen—he is so pleased to reveal the glory of his Father to them. Let that settle in on your minds and hearts for a moment.
He’s like an older brother to us—Jesus is—who is the only Son of his eternal Father, the only begotten Son. So we, then, coming into the Father’s house, are like adopted children, and we’re being introduced by the Son into a brand new family. We’ve been passed around from foster home to foster home. We’ve been a ward of this state, under the authority of Satan himself. We’re outcasts. We’re aliens and strangers to covenants and promises. We have no hope because we have no God in the world.
And then God did something. He sent his Son, and his Son chose to reveal the Father to us. And Jesus, our older brother, when he brings us in, he brings us all in, to everything. He rejoices to show us around the house, as it were, to reveal all of its hidden delights, to uncover all of its secret treasures. He tells us where the food is, opens up all the cabinets. There’s not a hint of jealousy on Jesus’ part. There’s not the slightest bit of reluctance or hesitancy. There’s no will on his part to withhold anything from us because the Son knows, better than anyone, that the Father’s love is infinite and eternal. So it’s for the glory of the Father, whom he rejoices to glorify. He loves to talk about the father. He loves to rejoice in his Father, in his Father’s will, his Father’s exploits, his Father’s acts, his Father’s testimonies—everything. He rejoices in the Father. And so it’s for the glory of the Father, and it’s for the joy of the Son to make all things known to his chosen siblings—us, adopted into the family, whom the Father has adopted by his predestinating grace.
That takes us to a fifth and final point in that larger outline. Jesus rejoices—number 5—in who God has chosen and in the privilege that is theirs. Look at verses 23-24:
*Then 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.”*
Now, we’re going to unpack those verses, and if you’re here today, and if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ—if you have embraced the Gospel, if you rejoice in following Christ in a self-denying, cross-bearing life, if you rejoice in following Jesus as the absolute and only sovereign Lord of your life, rejoicing to do whatever he has commanded you—then guess what? In the Holy Spirit, in praise to God, Jesus rejoices over you. He rejoices over you. You have every reason to look past any temporal matter and find joy and encouragement and all assurance in what Jesus rejoices in in these verses.
So as we finish our study today, it’s been my three-fold prayer, number one: that your faith will be anchored deeply in the conviction of the truth. I pray that your faith will be anchored deeply in the conviction of the truth. Number two—I pray that your love will be strengthened in salvation joy, that you will deeply love the Lord who saved you. And number three—I pray that your hope will be spurred on by an insatiable longing for Christ. Peter said, “Even though you haven’t seen him, you love him.” You rejoice in expressible joy and hope of the Lord. I want you to rejoice in the One that your eyes have not seen and look forward to the day when your eyes will see.
So with that in mind, let’s get into our outline. Point 1: Jesus rejoices in the amazing privilege of visual perspective. Notice in verse 23 how all believing privilege starts with this eyewitness testimony, what those particular eyes had seen. So Jesus says there in verse 23, “Then turning to the disciples he said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.’” He turned to the disciples; he turned aside to these disciples. So we have the seventy-two messengers, of course; we have the twelve Apostles, of course. At this point we also want to understand that there are female disciples present, too, some of whom are named, actually, back in Luke 8:2-3. And Jesus turned to them. He turned away from the larger crowed that was present, before whom he had just given praise to God. He turned away from them—among that crowd is an unbelieving lawyer—verse 25—we’re going to meet him next we come back to this passage. But he sought a private audience with his disciples. And he wanted to deliver to them a private, intimate beatitude. This one is for their ears only: “Blessed”—it’s that word “makarios”; it means “privileged,” even “honored,” to be “especially, uniquely endowed with divine favor,” and therefore happy, content, filled with joy. That’s the idea of blessedness.
We’ve seen four beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount as we studied through Luke 6:20-22. Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, despised. Another one is in Luke 7:23: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” We’re going to find another beatitude in Luke 11:28: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
There is a notable difference between those beatitudes and this one. Jesus does not pronounce blessedness upon these disciples in a direct way. The pronouncement here is indirect. He blesses not them but their eyes, and inasmuch as they possess the right eyes, through the medium of vision they themselves are counted as blessed. By calling attention to the organ of sight—the eyes—Jesus is focusing on the unique privilege of these particular disciples because they’ve been granted the privilege of being eyewitnesses to all that had happened. They had a visual perspective that’s really unparalleled and unrepeatable. There was only one time that Jesus came to suffer for sins. This was it. So they were there in an unrepeatable event, seeing things that are not going to happen again.
We know from Acts 1:22-22 that there were at least some of these seventy-two in addition to the Twelve who’d been with Jesus ever since the baptism of John—from that time all the way to the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven—they saw all of this. If we were to review what’s already been seen in Luke’s Gospel, it’s amazing the kinds of things that they had seen. We realize that theirs was an absolutely astounding privilege.
It started with the baptism of Jesus; they saw the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descending on him in bodily form like a dove. They heard a voice from Heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” And that incredible moment of divine revelation opened a floodgate of revelation and power in Jesus’ ministry. Some of these disciples—Luke 4:36—might have been there to see Jesus cast out the demon from the Capernaum synagogue, and it says there that they were amazed, amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits and they come out.”
Peter—all who were with him on the boat—Luke 5:9—were astonished at the large catch of fish they had taken. They saw Jesus now as something completely different than they had seen him just minutes ago. Once they’d witnessed that miracle, that power, they recognized they were in the presence of holiness. When Jesus forgave the sin of the paralytic—healed him—Luke 5:26 says, “Amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled [controlled] with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’” They saw Jesus raise the widow’s son from the dead at Nain—Luke 7:16. “Fear seized them all; they glorified God, saying, ‘God has visited his people.’”
In a squall on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus rebuked the wind, the raging waves. They ceased; there was a calm, flat surface of water. They were afraid at what they’d just witnessed—Luke 8:25. They were terrified in the storm—even more terrified in the presence of this holiness—and “they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water and they obey him.’” The disciples watched Jesus rescue a boy from demonic possession. Luke 9:43 says, “All were astonished at the majesty of God, and they were all marveling at everything he was doing.”
Blessed are those eyes, indeed! Such amazing sights that those eyes had seen! Such incredible things they’d witnessed—supernatural acts happening right in front of their eyes—all at the hands of Jesus, taking place before their very eyes. This is the unique privilege of these eyewitnesses.
When Jesus turned to these disciples, privately pronouncing blessedness upon their eyes, we need to notice—you probably can’t see it as much in the English—but I’ll tell you that he used present tense verbs. Present tense verbs. It doesn’t sound as clean to our ears to be translated that way, but we can more literally render the statement here: “Blessed are the eyes that are seeing what you are seeing”—as in continuously seeing in an ongoing experience, as in “There’s still more to come.”
As amazing as the experiences of the recent past had been to these disciples, the best was yet to come. I like the way John MacArthur summarizes it when he says this: “The things they were privileged to see include the great truths that the Messiah had come, the salvation of God had been revealed, the work of redemption accomplished, the promise of Kingdom offered, all the Old Testament prophecies, promises, and covenants fulfilled in Christ, who would make the final offering for sin. Satan had met his conqueror, demons were completely dominated, disease vanquished, nature submissive, death defeated through Christ and forgiveness and eternal life granted to all who believe.” That’s what their eyes saw.
The astounding miracles that they had already seen—all those things were validating the work and the words he had yet to speak and accomplish, things that they would see in the near future. And Jesus is saying, “Blessed are the eyes that are seeing that, too—all of it.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6—he unpacked the Gospel, there. And he said that eyewitness testimony is really an essential matter of faithful Gospel proclamation. He told the Corinthians:
*For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received [and then we’re familiar with the content that follows]: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.*
But then Paul emphasizes after that the eyewitness testimony. He appeared to Cephas and then the Twelve. He appeared to more than 500 brothers at once. He appeared to James and to all the Apostles, and last of all, the risen Lord Jesus appeared to Paul. Two verses on the substance and the content of the Gospel: Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Four verses on post-Resurrection appearances to eyewitnesses. Paul is definitely highlighting the vital importance of eyewitness testimony.
Why is this so important? What is he trying to tell us? Just this. The Christian faith is not based upon the musings of some enlightened guru. It’s not. Our faith isn’t resting on the shifting sands of mystical thinking. It’s not the subjectivity of merely human belief. It’s not even a matter of collective human opinion—even human regard for an incredible man, Jesus. Christian faith is a matter of eyewitness testimony. It’s a matter of empirical observation by means of the same five senses of perception that you and I use every single day to live our lives.
Premodern people, modern people, post-modern people—whatever category you put yourself in, whether two, three, eight thousand years ago—whatever time you want to add to it, or first century people or twenty-first century people—all of us are here united in the experience of human-ness. All of us are subject to the same reality of living by the five perceptions of sense. We rely on the testimony witness in a courtroom. We’ll send people to jail based on eyewitness testimony. We’ll actually in some states pull the lever, and people die because of eyewitness testimony—capital punishment. We rely on the experiences of others, testimony of history—we read history books. A person was there and they’ve written it down, and we record that in history books. We accept that as pretty compelling. Eyewitness evidence, eyewitness testimony—they were there, they saw it, this is what they said. We even rely on the experiences of others when we go shopping. Amazon reviews—anyone buy, or not buy, a product based on an Amazon review? Of course!
It brings us back, really, to the purpose of Luke’s Gospel. Luke 1:1-4:
*Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.*
What’s he saying? “I talked to people who were there. I talked to them. I recorded what they said, and then I visited and interviewed somebody else…and then I interviewed somebody else, and I went around Palestine, and I went around Antioch. I was with Paul, asking him, downloading everything.” He got a lot of information. So much information wouldn’t fit into Luke’s Gospel. John tells us—John 21:25—“There are also many other things that Jesus did,” so many that a comprehensive written record is literally impossible. John said, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” “[B]ut these are written”—John 20:31—“so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
And this takes us to a second—a vital second point, here. It helps us to see how this blessedness extends from the eyewitnesses to us all. Jesus rejoices in—number two—the saving privilege of spiritual perspective. The saving privilege of spiritual perspective. We’ve talked about visual perspective, visual perception. Now spiritual perception and perspective.
Again—verse 23—Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Listen—that is how we are partakers. We ourselves are partakers of this beatitude. This is how this beatitude applies to us as well: We are one with these eyewitnesses because of the same saving privilege of spiritual sight. Like them, we have been given eyes to see, granted to us by divine grace.
Many who lived in the first century were present to see the things that Jesus did. They heard what Jesus said. They witnessed the events of his life and ministry. Many were present to experience his miracles. Some of them experienced those things first-hand, as recipients of his supernatural miracles of mercy. Lepers were cleansed. The lame were made to walk, the blind to see. They were there. It’s one of the warning passages in Hebrews that makes that so significant. Hebrews 6:4-8 identifies many of those people, those “who have once been enlightened, those who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.” Many of those partook of all that and yet did not believe. “The good news came to them as well, just as it did to us”—Hebrews 4:2—“but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” We don’t need to look any further than Judas Iscariot for an example of that, right? I mean, he was there in the inner circle to see everything from an apostolic perspective. He apostatized.
Jesus is here not identifying the eyes as the organ of unaided physical vision. He’s not talking about mere visual perception, here. The ability to see and bear witness physically—what you actually see—that’s not actually unimportant. It is necessary for giving a faithful account of the facts of history as recorded in the New Testament. But those witnesses to the facts become an eyewitness to the truth because God had given them spiritual perception. So they saw the facts—the bare facts—but then they had those facts interpreted to them by the Holy Spirit.
That spiritual perspective on all that they had seen and heard and experienced makes them eyewitnesses, and it’s not just a true representation of the facts. It’s not just an accurate account, a record of history. The issue is a right interpretation of those facts, a faithful narrative of the meaning of history. You know who also saw all those miracles and never denied them? The Pharisees. What was their interpretation of the facts? “We can’t deny the miracles. The power is there. It’s coming from somewhere else. It’s not from God. It’s from Satan. Kill him.” That’s the conclusion they came to because their eyes were not open to see the truth. None of this Gospel preaching and these Gospel miracles were united with the essential element of faith.
So when Jesus said here, “Blessed are the eyes that are seeing what you are seeing,” and when he spoke these words to his disciples in private, he was making the distinction between his disciples, who truly see, and the rest, who see things without the benefit of spiritual perception. So for the unbelieving crowds, all they see are uninterpreted facts, and they completely miss out on the real meaning—which means they completely miss out on salvation. They come to other judgments based on their own presuppositions, based on their own assumptions, based on their own biases.
That’s exactly what Jesus explained to his disciples after delivering to them the parable of the soils—the parable of the sower. Remember, the sower’s seed was sown into four different kinds of soils, which is the Word of God, right? Sown into four different kinds of hearts. Only one in four, only one in four—Luke 8:15—only one hears the Word, holds it fast in a good and honest heart, and bears fruit with endurance. That’s what Jesus explained to his disciples, and he told them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God, but for the others, they are in parables, so that seeing, they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” His parables are really an indictment on their mere physical judgment. It indicts all their presuppositions, all their biases, all their prejudices against God, their sinful thinking. That’s what the parables do—they indict all that because they come to exactly the opposite judgment.
Remember what it said at the beginning. Those with eyes to see, ears to hear—“to them it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God”—and notice the passive voice—“it has been given.” By whom? Who’s the giver of these secrets? It’s Jesus Christ, isn’t it?—verse 22. It’s Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who is the giver of this sight. Christ possesses divine knowledge by virtue of his divine essence, by virtue of his sovereign authority, by virtue of his office. He has the prerogative to give the knowledge of God. It’s a knowledge that’s been the exclusive privilege of the members of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But Christ has opened the door, and he’s brought in those whom he wants to.
Only Jesus knows who the Father is, as well as anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. That privilege comes to those—and only to those—who are the blessed recipients of divine grace. So these disciples to whom Jesus speaks privately are recipients of divine grace. They’ve been blessed not only to see with physical eyes, to be there on the occasions of his life and ministry—his miracles, his power, his words, his teaching with authority and power—but they also have the blessing of understanding, of having spiritual perception that results in their salvation. It’s based on this this gift of grace. It’s based on this saving privilege of spiritual perception. Beloved, you and I become partakers of this same beatitude.
Notice the verse again, one more time—verse 23. Jesus said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Not, “blessed are your eyes,” but “the eyes.” And so he generalizes this beatitude. He universalizes it. He extends it out to all those who possess the same eyes. In other words, the eyes of these disciples, the spiritual perception that they possess—they’re the prototype. Which means if we also possess spiritual perception, our eyes fall under the same blessedness of the same beatitude.
Listen—believing the testimony of the eyewitnesses, believing or trusting in the testimony of voices of history, weighing Amazon shopper reviews—though we all live and consider eyewitness is really a regular habit of life, it’s not the same as weighing the eyewitness testimony of Scripture, is it? The supernatural character of Scripture means the Holy Spirit is involved from start to finish. He’s at the production end, as the one who superintended the writing of Scripture, guaranteeing divine inspiration. That’s the Holy Spirit, who guarantees the writing of Scripture, superintending Scripture, guaranteeing divine inspiration—that these words are God-breathed words.
But he’s also at the other end, making sure that the message that’s communicated is received by those to whom it’s meant to be communicated. And so the communication loop is closed. He connects written revelation to those who believe, so for the eyewitness testimony of Scripture to be reliable, it required the superintending work of the Holy Spirit. It required his supernatural guarantee that the words that were written are exactly the words that God breathed.
For the eyewitness testimony of Scripture to be received and believed, on the other hand, it requires the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Paul himself saw himself and his fellow Apostles—his fellow ministers—as those whom God used to make that connection. He said—1 Corinthians 2:12—“We impart the things freely given to us by God.” And he said—verse 13—“They are in words not taught by human wisdom. They are in words taught by the Spirit, interpreting [or connecting, or joining together, welding together] spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
So we do, too, beloved. We take divine words taught by the Holy Spirit, written down in holy Scripture, and we take those words and join them to those who are spiritual. It’s what we do every single Sunday. It’s what we do many times during the week with Bible studies. It’s what we do in morning meetings, afternoon meetings, women’s Bible studies—it’s going on here all the time. We’re connecting spiritual truth from God’s Word to spiritual people, living people—those who’ve been regenerated and been born again by the Holy Spirit. Those with eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to embrace and understand—we’re joining those things together. They are life-giving.
And then we go out into the highways and the byways, and we start proclaiming that Word, speaking that same Word out, and you know what happens? Those whom God has chosen—their ears perk up. They start to listen. They come near, and they say, “You know what? I’ve never heard that before, but something about that is true, rings true to me. Tell me more.” You start unpacking the Gospel to them, and you know what happens to all those whom God has chosen? They believe.
It doesn’t matter who the vessel is that brings it. If it’s truth, it will connect to those whom God has chosen—if it’s Gospel. That’s what we do, too. We join spiritual truth, spiritual words to those whom the Spirit has regenerated—those who have new eyes to see, new ears to hear, new hearts to understand and believe and obey the Gospel.
So, Christian—so, believer, repenter: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you are seeing.” Because not everyone can see what you see. Only those to whom spiritual sight has been given. The gift of salvation is by the sovereign choice of Christ, by the predestinating purpose of God’s election—Ephesians 1:4—“who chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” It’s been planned for a long time.
So Jesus rejoices in the eyewitnesses. The believers who physically accompanied him in his ministry rejoiced in his ministry, whose testimony of him became the foundation of the faith, the very writing of Scripture. He rejoices in all those who’ve been saved through that testimony as well—that is us.
Third point: Jesus rejoices here in the providence of God, namely—number three—the surpassing privilege of historical perspective. The surpassing privilege of historical perspective. Take a look at verse 24—it’s just incredible here. Jesus said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see”—why is that?—“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.” Jesus wants these disciples—and by extension all of his disciples, which means all of us as well—to understand the surpassing greatness of their spiritual privilege. For each of us, occupying our own particular place on God’s timeline of redemption and revelation, we partake of a vast, rich heritage of spiritual truth.
And, by the way, this tacitly affirms—teaches—the progressive nature of divine special revelation. In other words, that’s just a fancy way of saying that what was revealed to the ancients, though true and accurate, was over time brightened, sharpened, and clarified in subsequent generations by subsequent revelation. So the culminating point of all divine revelation is in whom? I’m leading you to the answer, right? Christ. Hebrews 1:1-2: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us”—through whom?—“by his Son.”
God’s special revelation goes way back—way, way back. For example, Abraham and Job saw the truth of God’s salvation from a distance. To Abraham God revealed Genesis 12:3: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And somehow Job knew—Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Wow! True truth! But we have to admit it’s from a shadowy distance. He didn’t know clarity about that Redeemer—who it was who would stand on the earth. It was a bit murky at that time.
You get to Moses, though, we start to sharpen the focus. He saw the truth of God’s salvation with a bit more clarity, especially in the light of the perfect law of God—the Torah—revealed to him. In Deuteronomy 18:15, he said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from among your brothers”—that is, he will be Jewish—“It is to him you shall listen.” So we know the Messiah is the quintessential prophet of God. Moses said he was going to raise up a “prophet like me from among you.”
By the time we get to David—even clearer. God promised David—2 Samuel 7, the Davidic Covenant—he promised that his physical offspring would reign on his family throne, but not reign temporarily as a physical king who would die. He’d reign as a king forever—an eternal king. So not only does the Messiah occupy a royal office as David’s son in David’s royal line, but because he will reign forever, he must be an eternal person. This is the only one who fits the description of God’s King in 2 Samuel 7—“the only begotten son of God.” So the Messiah is the anointed King whom God has chosen. He’s a divine person.
Further, David prophesied—Psalm 110:1-2—“The LORD”—that’s the word “Yahweh,” the divine name—“Yahweh says to my lord”—it’s a title of sovereignty, “Adonai”—“Yahweh says to my Adonai”…wait a minute! David’s on the throne of Israel. Who’s he talking about? It was Jesus’ question, too. “Yahweh says to my Adonai, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies”—Psalm 110. Then in addition to the Messiah’s royal office, we come to the inescapable conclusion that the Messiah possesses a divine nature as well. David goes further in Psalm 110:4 revealing the eternal priesthood of the Messiah: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” The writer to the Hebrews unpacks that beautifully.
So Moses said the Messiah is God’s final prophet. David said the Messiah is God’s eternal King, which means final King. He’s also his eternal priest, which means final priest. We recognize those as the three offices of Christ, right?—prophet, priest, and king.
Going back, you remember what Job revealed—ancient times—revealed something about redemption. We get to Isaiah—it’s the high-water mark of revelation about the atoning work of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:3-5:
*He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.*
Amazing thing—it’s brought full clarity to us. What the Old Testament saints would have assumed was that the suffering servant and the royal servant are two separate people. They’re not. They’re brought together on one person—Christ. It’s what they didn’t know.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel added their witness—Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36—that talked about the nature of the New Covenant, secure redemption, everlasting forgiveness—which so changed the nature of the redeemed person that they would by divine regeneration receive a new heart, a new spirit, and—get this—the Holy Spirit of God would live in them in order that they would walk in perpetual obedience to God’s law.
We could add Daniel’s prophecy of bodily resurrection. We could add Micah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s birthplace. We could add Joel’s prophecy of the coming Holy Spirit. We could add many other Old Testament voices, but all those Old Testament witnesses—none of them had the kind of clarity that Jesus’ disciples had. The things they saw fulfilled, heard explained, personally experienced—none of them knew what we know today. So when Jesus’ says, “Many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,” he’s giving us two categories of high and holy privilege. “Prophets” represent sacred privilege. “Kings” represent secular privilege—so all the privileges of sacred and secular men. The riches of divine revelation, the treasures of earthly kingdoms—whatever Jesus’ disciples see, hear, understand exceeds all of it.
Notice these are spiritually minded prophets and kings that he’s talking about here. They’re not false prophets or wicked kings, but spiritually minded. How do we know that? Because Jesus tells us that these particular prophets and kings “desired to see what you see, desired to hear what you hear.” It’s the verb “thelo,” expressing a wish, what one wants—the desire of the heart. Jesus said something similar on a different occasions, one that Matthew records. Very similar—the word that he used there is even stronger. Matthew 13:17: “For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see…and to hear what you hear.” That is a different verb; it’s not “thelo”—to want, wish, or desire. This is the verb “epithumeo”—it’s translated in a positive sense in that text as “longing, earnestly desire.” In a negative sense it talks about the power of sinful desire or lust.
So, prophets, kings, they earnestly longed, desired, wanted so badly to see and hear the things that the disciples saw. It’s that same contrast in verse 21: “what’s been hidden and the wise and understanding revealed to little children.” These are good and godly men, spiritually minded prophets and kings with all their privileges. So for prophets, they had the special privilege of special revelation, authoritative instruction and teaching, divine wisdom coming through them to people, and then they teaching it to the kings—David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, Josiah—good and godly kings. They had the privilege of ruling in power, wealth, and wisdom. They had the law of God at their fingertips and the best teachers in Israel to inform their instruction and their laws and their rules and their ordinances in the land.
But none of their privileges at their time, in their place—none of them gained for them what they truly longed for. God withheld it from them, and he gave it instead to fishermen, tax collectors. As the writer to the Hebrews tells us—Hebrews 11:13: “All those prophets and kings died in faith, not having received the things promised but having seen them and greeted them from afar.” Why? The end of Hebrews 11, God intended—verses 39-40—“all of these, though commended through their faith, they did not receive what was promised since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us [believers] they should not be made perfect”—“teleioó”—fulfilled. Their work, their faith should not be perfected, completed.
It’s amazing! God has bound us—all believers—Old Testament, New Testament believers—you could say millennial believers, you could say eternal state believers—he’s bound us all together in the wise outworking of his providence, fulfilling his plan of redemption, giving to some one thing and to others another thing, and then making them mutually appreciative of one another, equally desirous of the things we didn’t experience, and we get to ask them about what they experience and they can ask us one day.
We’ve heard echoes of this truth in our Scripture reading this morning. 1 Peter 1:10-11:
*Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully [diligently], inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.*
Again, it’s that bringing together of the King and the suffering, the glory and the suffering, the Cross and the crown. How did it come together? How do we understand this? You and I know. These are things—verse 12—“even the holy angels longed to look into but are not able.” I like what Philip Ryken wrote. He said, “With a holy jealousy, these might kings and faithful prophets longed to know the Christ as the disciples knew him.” What a blessing it was for them to see the ancient promises fulfilled in the birth, life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. What a blessing and what a joy, indeed!
So Jesus wraps us this entire section with quite the benediction, doesn’t he? Only Jesus knows how to close a service well. Another beatitude for his privileged disciples. And get this—all this blessing spilling over from the mission of the seventy-two—let’s not forget that—their obedience and the outworking of evangelism, to take their place in the Lord’s work, in the Lord’s field in the salvation harvest.
And folks, if we’ll do the same, we’re going to experience the same joy, the same sense of privilege, excitement—in fact, we’re going to come to see how great, how far-surpassing is our privilege than that of so many prophets and kings. Beloved, we are those whom the Scripture speaks of, upon whom the ends of the ages has come, and so much has been written down for our instruction as Paul says, “upon whom the ends of the ages has come. To the prophets of old it was revealed that they were serving not themselves, but you in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” They know that now, with all certainty. This salvation—Hebrews 2:3-4—“It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
As J. C. Ryle says—I love this—“The humblest Christian believer understands things which David and Isaiah could never explain.” Isn’t that amazing! Read David. Read the Psalms. Read Isaiah. We’re in Isaiah right now in our daily Bible reading as we’re doing that together as a church—it’s such a joy. What profound insight Isaiah and David the king had.
One more word from Ryken: “Ancient kings would have laid down their crowns, old-time prophets would have left behind their ministries to know Jesus the way we know him in the Gospel, as our Savior from sin and our God forever. No one is more greatly blessed than we are, and therefore no one should live with greater joy.”
That is a good word to end on, is it not? Beloved, never be ashamed of your privilege. There’s a lot of talk these days about “privilege,” and everybody needs to be ashamed of their “privilege.” Not so with us. We have a privilege by a sovereign, holy God, and he’s given it to us. He’s given many privileges; he’s the dispenser of privileges. We’ve been given a privilege, and this comes from the Father. So you go out, get to work proclaiming this glorious Gospel so that we can see others be partakers of the same privilege, and all the while rejoicing in your special spiritual privilege by the grace of God. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we are so overwhelmed with the chorus of voices from history—kings, prophets—not insignificant people like we are, but kings and prophets, holy angels longing to look into salvation truths. We are overwhelmed at your amazing grace. We thank you that we belong to you because of Christ—his choice, his election. We thank you that we are partakers of your predestinating grace. We thank you that we sit before you in holy awe and wonder, that you would choose us. We pray, Father, that you would help us to live holy lives, that we’d be faithful witnesses of this truth, that we would be loving, worshipping witnesses to your glorious Gospel, that we would live in accordance with your wisdom, and proclaim the wisdom of righteousness. We love you and thank you in Christ’s name. Amen.