Reasons to Rejoice from Luke
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

 A couple of Sundays ago in our small group study, we looked at some of the unique traits found in Luke's gospel.  It introduces different parables.  It stresses that the Gospel for all: outcasts, women, Samaritans, prodigals.  It is the most comprehensive gospel.  It shows how Jesus can transform social relationships.  It stresses the Holy Spirit, prayer, and helping others.  One other trait is its emphasis on joy and rejoicing; these words are used about 20 times.  Someone made this good comment about joy: “Joy is not easy to describe to those who only know happiness in life.  Happiness is the good feeling you have when you get what you want.  Happiness is short-lived and leaves when the circumstances in life change. ... There is no secret to possessing joy.  The Bible reveals joy as a fruit of God’s Spirit.  In other words, joy is the result of God’s Spirit working in our lives to guide our thinking, our actions, and our relationships.  As we live according to God’s guidance, the fruit of joy grows in our lives.  So joy does not come by accident, but by obedience to God” (Chau).  This morning we want to look at ten reasons for rejoicing found in Luke's Gospel.

First of all, rejoice because God hears our prayers!  This was the case with Zacharias.  Notice what is said in 1:13-14: “But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and you wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.’”  Since Zacharias was praying in a public setting, he was probably asking God for Israel's redemption.  That prayer would be answered through answering a previous request—that of a son.  Verse 7 tells us this couple was advanced in years, and it would take a miracle for them to have child.  Surely, Zacharias had requested many times that God would allow them to have a son.  Now God was ready to fulfill both of Zacharias' requests!  This would certainly be a joyful occasion for this couple, and for many of their neighbors too.  God is about to be gracious b y providing Israel's redemption through the long-awaited Messiah and His herald, who were Jesus and John.  How long had Zacharias prayed for a son and for Israel's redemption?  Probably for decades.  Jesus urges us to be persistent in prayer too (Luke 18:7).  Here's an interesting experiment that you can do.  Keep a record of your prayers, and then keep a record of how God responds to them. You might discover God has some very interesting ways of answering your requests!  Rejoice because God does hear our prayers!

Secondl
y, rejoice because God uses ordinary people to promote His will!  This was what God did in using Mary to bring His divine Son into the world.  Notice the words of her song in 1:46-48: “And Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant.  For behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed.’”  In this song, we see Mary's joy, reverence, and gratitude.  Mary is contemplating God's wonderful mercy, and His choosing to use her, one no higher in status than a slave, to carry out His will to bring the Messiah into the world.  Her “prophecy that all generations would call her 'blessed' was a true one, and it shows that she fully realized the world-shaking import of what God was going to do through her” (Coffman)!  Isn't it wonderful how God throughout history has used ordinary people to promote His will?  In the New Testament, we see how uses ordinary men like Andrew, Philip, Barnabas, Epaphras, and Philemon to promote His will.  Even in our own day, God worked mightily through ordinary people; David Lipscomb, George Benson, Ira North, Ivan Stewart, Otis Gatewood, Jimmy Lovell, and Bob Hare were men through whom God worked to advance His kingdom!  God can use you too if you will allow Him to do so.  Rejoice because God uses ordinary people to promote His will!

Next, rejoice because God provides a Savior!  This was the angel's good news found in 2:10-11: “Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”  For centuries, the prophets of the Old Testament had been foretelling about a Messiah to come that would establish a kingdom and bring freedom to the Jews.  The angel announces that he is bringing some good news which will bring great joy to all people in the world!  That good news is that the long-awaited Savior, Messiah, and Ruler has come into this world!  Savior means the Liberator, Who frees mankind from the bondage to sin!  Messiah means the Promised King, Who would establish the long-awaited kingdom of God that would endure.  And Lord means the Supreme Ruler (in fact, this was the term used for God in the Old Testament)!    God was fulfilling His plan to reconcile the world back to Himself and to restore the fellowship that had been lost in Eden.  The Word made flesh had finally entered into history!  Jesus of Nazareth is that Savior, Messiah, and Supreme Ruler!  The apostle Peter affirms in Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  It is now up to each person to decide if they will allow Jesus to save, to rule, and to reconcile their lives.  Rejoice because God provides you and all others too a Savior!

Next, rejoice because God knows your name!  In chapter 10, Luke explains how Jesus sent out 70 of His disciples in pairs to work in cities before His arrival.  In verse 17, these men return to Jesus with joy because they have been able to cast out demons in Jesus' name!  Jesus makes an interesting response to them in verse 20: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” The apostle John writes in Revelation 3:5: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”  Revelation 20:15 states: “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  From these passages, we see: that Christians’ names are written in the Book of Life; that names can be blotted out if one proves to be unfaithful; and that those whose names are not written there will not be saved but condemned to experience God’s eternal wrath!  Isn’t it amazing that the God of the universe knows each of us by name!  We noticed in our study of Mark this past week what an angel told the women who came to Jesus’ tomb in Mark 16:7: “But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as he said to you.”  Did you catch what was said?  “The disciples—and Peter.”  Yes, God wanted to Peter to know personally that even though he had denied Jesus, he was not out of the ballgame yet!  Don’t you know these words must have been a great comfort to Peter!  And that same God, who knew Peter and his shortcomings, gives grace to us to keep our names in His book until the Judgment!  Rejoice because God knows your name and preserves it!

Next, rejoice because God reveals His will.  After telling the disciples that their names are written in heaven, then notice what verses 21 and 24 state: “In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I thank  You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.’ ... Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.”  It is interesting to see here when Jesus rejoiced under the Spirit's guidance, He immediately began to pray aloud.  He was thankful that God had not revealed His power to the proud religious leaders of His day but to His humble disciples who were ordinary men.  The miracles they were performing show Jesus' power and authority.  Previous generations had prophets and kings who had been told there would be time when the Messiah would manifest His powers over evil, but they had only heard that such a King was to come.  These 70 disciples were experiencing firsthand the fulfillment of the prophecies made in previous generations.  They had been privileged to know Jesus and His powers firsthand!  In a similar way, we have been privileged to know God's revelation and will through a translation of the documents written by the apostles which are in our Bibles!  We to have been privileged to know things that previous generations could only anticipate!  We owe a great debt to men like John Wycliffe (1382) and William Tyndale (1525) who dedicated their lives to learning the original languages and translating the Scriptures into English.  Tyndale once said: “An English plough boy with the Bible knows more than a Pope without the Bible.”  Rejoice and be thankful that we can look into the pages of our Bible to discover God’s will for our lives!  God has not left us in the dark to grope and to stumble.  No, God has given us His Son as the final revelation of His will and He has given us His Word in our own language to serve as a light to our path.  Rejoice because God reveals His will to ordinary people!

Next, rejoice because God defeats Satan!  In chapter 13:10, there was woman who came to the synagogue that had been bent over for 18 years.  Jesus healed her, and the ruler of the synagogue became very upset and he told the people not to come to be healed on the Sabbath day.  Now notice what Jesus says and how the crowd responses in verse 15: “‘Hypocrites!  Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?  So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for 18 years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?’  And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”  Luke presents Jesus as the compassionate Lord, and this incident certainly stresses that theme.  What a contrast is drawn here!  “We must keep the letter of the law!  Come on the other days to be healed!”  Now Jesus knew that the rabbis cared for animals.  You could not draw or carry water to an animal on the Sabbath, but you could lead them to a trough to get some.  Jesus says in essence: “Now if you gentlemen can loose an animal to get some water on a Sabbath day, this dear woman who has been bound so many years, must be loosed from Satan this fine Sabbath day!”  In Jesus’ culture, loosing one’s honor was a great humiliation.  His opponents were shamed, but the crowds rejoiced as they saw Jesus acting with such merciful compassion and righteous justice.  He had truly understood the spirit of the law, hadn’t He?  Someone else notes: “The people rejoiced at all the things Jesus was doing.  This is a pattern in Luke and in Acts—the success of Jesus and His [followers] versus the failure of the opponents” (Summer quoted by Coffman).  In this incident, we see that health wins over sickness, good triumphs over evil, and God defeats Satan!  So often, the critics of Christianity always want to throw up all the injustices in the world and then ask, “Where is God?”  Why don’t they throw up all the good things and justices and affirm: “There is a God!”  You see, so often we focus on the tragedies and overlook the triumphs.  The news media will report a plane crash, but it never tells how many safe landings there were before the crash!  Here’s one time the good news got reported!  Luke shows us that through Jesus, God defeats Satan, and a woman who had been suffering for 18 years was released!  Someone made this observation: “
We are satisfied with will power instead of God’s power.  We limit ourselves to what science has discovered instead of believing that God can do the impossible.  Let me encourage you to expect that God can do the impossible.  No sinful habit is so entrenched, no financial problem is so big, no relational strain is so difficult, that God cannot help us overcome” (Chau).  Rejoice that God defeats Satan!

Next, rejoice because God welcomes the penitent!  We read the words of 15:9-10 early today of how a woman had found a lost coin and then asked her neighbors to rejoice with here, and Jesus followed that story by saying there is joy among the angels when a sinner repents!  Now look at verses 31-32: “And he [the father] said to him [the elder brother]: ‘Son, you are always with me, and all I have is yours.  It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found!’”  Someone noted that since the angels are interested in a person’s salvation, then we ought to be interested as well (Coffman)!  Someone else made this good observation about the second passage: “Jesus does not go on to tell us whether the elder son responded or not.  Nor does he say how the younger brother lived in response to his father’s welcoming love.  In leaving these points unresolved, He throws out a challenge to all his hearers, be they like the elder brother or the younger. ... God’s love is a continuing challenge to all our self-seeking” (Morris).  A loving father runs to welcome his younger penitent son, and that same father pleads tenderly for an older brother to welcome back his penitent brother as well.  There is one thing for certain that all Christians in this assembly have in common—we all know the forgiveness of a loving Heavenly Father!  We didn’t deserve it, and we didn’t earn it.  God, in His mercy, took us back in, forgave us, encouraged us to make amends as best we could, and admonished us to follow Jesus with more diligence and more courage.  What a burden was lifted at our baptism or at our restoration!  Rejoice because God welcomes the penitent!

Next, rejoice because God creates a new fellowship!  In Luke 24, a Stranger walks up to two of Jesus’ disciples and asks them what had been going on.  They tell Him how their Master, in whom they had put their hopes that He might be Israel’s Redeemer, had recently been crucified and buried (there’s that theme of redemption that Zacharias had been praying for, but there are some more bookends for the Gospel that we’ll see in moment).  Then they said how some women had reported that angels told them that He was alive.  Then Jesus jumps in, gives them a lengthy explanation of the Scriptures about the Messiah, and starts to leave.  They insist that He stay with them for supper.  So now we read these words in verses 30-32: “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened , and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.  And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’”  Someone entitled a sermon: “From Heartache to Heart Burn!”  In Luke’s gospel, it is very interesting how he shows Jesus’ continual rejection: first, He was rejected by those in the synagogue in Nazareth (4:28-29); then, He was rejected outside Jerusalem by the Pharisees (19:39-40); then, He was rejected inside Jerusalem by the Sadducees, chief priests, and scribes (22:2); then, He was rejected by the people (23:23-25).  At this point, we may wonder if there will ever be anyone who will accept Jesus.  The first who do accept Him are these two disciples who have their eyes opened as they have fellowship around a table!  Someone has rightly noted: “There can hardly fail to be a deep spiritual overtone in this to the effect that the Lord is still known to His disciples in the breaking of the bread at the Lord’s Supper, which continues to be in all ages the great [unifier in fellowship of all those who are saved]” (Coffman).  That fellowship today is known as the church.  Don’t reject Jesus any longer, but submit to Him in baptism and let Him add you to His church, to the new fellowship that He established.  Rejoice, we don’t have to go it alone, for God creates a new fellowship!

Next, rejoice because God defeats death!  Jesus challenges His disciples in 24:38ff with these words: “‘Behold, My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.  But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?”’  Did you catch that little expression: “they did not believe for joy and marveled”?  Someone observed: “The disciples’ journey from deep despair to such a pinnacle of rejoicing was not without some trauma” (Ash)!  Yes, death had been defeated, and there stood Jesus with the His nail-scared hands and feet to prove it!  Someone has written this interesting poem: “Rejoice, like a woman who holds her first baby would; our enemy death will soon be gone for good!  Rejoice, like an man with cancer who has found a cure; Christ Himself opened wide heaven’s door for sure!  Rejoice, like a man who walks away unharmed from a wreck; the ship of immortality has Christ upon its deck!  Rejoice, as if all people were invited out to eat; and then invite them, for eternity will be sweet” (adapted from J. Bayly in Larson-Elshof)!  Death is painful, but death is not the final chapter!  Rejoice because God gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord; God defeats death!

Lastly, rejoice because God works with us!  The closing verses of Luke exclaim: “And they [the disciples] worshiped Him [Jesus] and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.  Amen.”  “The disciples’ sorrow over Jesus’ death had been totally reversed” (Study Bible)!  This final parting was not one of grief, but one of great joy!  The apostles knew that with Jesus’ ascension, He would be ruling as the living Messiah by God’s right hand (as Mark gospel reminds us).  And we know that this is not the end of the story, don’t we?  One commentator puts it this way: “The book comes to a close, but not to an ending.  The promise of power from above had not been fulfilled, so that the reader knows a great chapter remains to be written, and is well prepared for Acts 1 and the mighty deeds which that book records” (Ash).  They are praising God, and God in a few days begins working with them to help them take His message of forgiveness and eternal life all over the Roman Empire.  We are not alone either as we try to share our faith.  God can open doors for us, just as He opened doors for the apostles and Paul.  Macedonian calls are still being made today.  The fields are still white unto harvest.  Our requests for Bible Correspondence Courses are now up to almost 35!  Rejoice because God works with us!

One commentator made this good observation about Luke's Gospel: “Luke's is a singing gospel. ... The verb 'rejoice' occurs more often in Luke than in any other New Testament book ... This gospel finishes as it had began, with rejoicing” (Morris).  There’s the other bookends.  What a wonderful God we serve!  We can be joyful because He has enriched us with tremendous spiritual blessings; He knows us, and welcomes us, and continues to work with us!  He has given His Son so that our sins might be forgiven, and He has created the church so that we’ll have support as we strive to put into practice His revealed will.  Like the old hymn says: “All things are ready.  Come to the feast!  Come, for the door is open wide; a place of honor is reserved for you at our Master’s side!”  Rejoice, like Mary, that God can use ordinary people, and rejoice, like the angels in heaven, that God welcomes the penitent!  “Hear the invitation, come whosoever will!”