“ 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.”
– Luke 10:21, NIV
Jesus had sent (Luke 9:1) the twelve disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God. He gave them power and authority (dunamin kai exousian) to heal the sick and to command the demons. Whereupon, the twelve disciples (Luke 9:6) “began going about among the villages, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.”
Later, Jesus appointed (Luke 10:1) seventy other disciples and sent them out two and two to minister. The seventy returned (Luke 10:17) with joy saying, “Lord even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” In His reply, Jesus said, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
Apparently, the disciples were putting too much emphasis on their newly acquired power over demons. Although God was using them, they should not put this first. Their primary source of joy should be that their names were recorded in heaven.
As Luke tells us, Jesus Himself was full of joy. Matthew 11:25, in the parallel passage, says, “At that time Jesus answered and said.” Luke says that Jesus “rejoiced greatly in (en) the Holy Spirit, and said.”
Cause of Joy
An interesting question is, “What was the cause of this joy?” Did the Holy Spirit inspire the joy? We will begin with the view that He did.
First, as Robertson writes (p. 1): “This holy joy of Jesus was directly due to the Holy Spirit.” Similarly, Marshall states (p. 433), “Here the meaning is that Jesus was inspired with joy by the Spirit (Acts 13:52).” In Acts 13:52, Luke writes a similar comment with regard to the disciples.
Second, Jesus rejoiced over the harvest. Robertson (p. 1), says, “It is joy in the work of his followers, their victories over Satan, and is akin to the joy felt by Jesus in John 4:32-38 when the vision of the harvest of the world stirred his heart.”
A different view is offered by Turner. He suggests (p. 265) Christ’s joy was due to the significance (Luke 10:18) He attached to the report of his disciples. Therefore, the Spirit is to be understood, not as the cause of the joy, but as the source of charismatic wisdom which enables the joyful perception of the significance of the report of the disciples.” This approach, however, only puts the causative role of the Spirit further upstream. The Spirit gives charismatic wisdom and the charismatic wisdom gives joyful perception. The role of the Spirit in giving joy remains.
Another approach to Luke 10:21 is suggested by Menzies (pp. 158-159). He maintains that Luke’s emphasis is not on the Spirit inspiring joy in Jesus. Rather, the clause about joy “was an appropriate way for Luke to describe prophetic activity.” The word rejoice refers to the declaration of praise. In other words, the Spirit inspired Jesus to prophesy joyfully. Menzies believes that the Semitic structure of the verse, which parallels rejoice and said support this view. As examples of the New Testament use of the Greek word agalliao (rejoice), Menzies (p. 158) cites, “the joyful praise of Mary (Lk. 1.47), Jesus (Lk. 10.21) and David (Acts 2.25) in response to God’s salvific activity in Jesus.”
Turner and Menzies both minimize the direct role of the Spirit in inspiring joy. According to Turner. The Spirit inspired Jesus with charismatic wisdom and that was accompanied with joy. Similarly, Menzies holds that the Spirit inspired joyful prophetic speech. However, we need not deny that the Spirit inspired joy to recognize His role in inspiring prophetic speech and in providing charismatic wisdom.
Hawthorne, Gerald F. The Presence and the Power. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke. Exeter, The Paternoster Press, 1978. Menzies, Robert P. Empowered for Witness. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Turner, Max. The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts. Peabody: Hendrikson Publishers, 1996.
Turner, Max. Power from On High. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 1996.
Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery