Prayer and thanksgiving create space for us to offer ourselves in gratitude to God. We give thanks for those who have come to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 9, we see a critical turning point in the life of Jesus.

Up to this point, Jesus has been seeking clarity and direction in regard to his ministry. Now, in Chapter 10, we see Jesus sending his followers out to fulfill the ministry he has been called to do.

Before we look at the prayer in verse 21, let’s look at the context of the prayer.

The Context of Jesus’ Prayer

Luke has Jesus giving instructions to 70 of his followers.

These instructions reflect the mission of the church where the early Christians must come to terms with requirements of sharing the good news with outsiders, outcasts, non-Jews, all known as Gentiles. Luke tells of the disciples being sent out, their return, and their report to Jesus. It is interesting to note that Luke does not give an account of Jesus visiting the towns and villages.

Could it be that the emphasis here is upon the “being sent” and not upon the results?

Being Sent

First, Jesus tells them why they are being sent.

“The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

The seed has been and is being sown; the followers of Jesus reap the harvest, the results. It is important to understand that the whole body of Jesus, all of Jesus’ followers, is charged with the mission, not just full-time Christian workers. Many followers, not just the Twelve, are actively engaged in preaching, healing, and helping. All are involved in prayer and material support for the church’s mission.

Packing Instructions

Second, Jesus gives them instructions on what to take with them and the urgency of their mission. With the words, “Go! Be warned…I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves. Carry no wallet, no bag, and no sandals,” Luke pictures those in mission as absolutely dependent, defenseless, and vulnerable.

With the words, “Don’t greet anyone along the way,” Luke is symbolically speaking of the urgency of the mission. To not speak to strangers or fellow travelers would be outrageous. The implication is don’t waste time in idle conversation. You have work to do.

The Response

Third, Jesus gives them instructions on how to respond to those who accept them and reject them.

“Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house.’ If anyone there shares God’s peace, then your peace will rest on that person…Whenever you enter a city and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you” (Luke 10:5-8).

These instructions were literally contextual. During the time of Jesus, there would have been a period of military buildup and political unrest. “May peace be on this house” would refer to the followers of Jesus who rejected the military revolt against Rome, who loved and prayed for their enemies, and refused to participate in the war.

During the time of Luke’s writing, those words would have lost their political connotation and referred to those followers of Jesus who shared the peace of God by participating in the Christian community. But even at that, the words were still connected to the life and ministry of Jesus.

Prayer and Thanksgiving

In verses 17-20, Luke refers to one of the characteristics of the Christian community. “The seventy returned with joy…” They are excited, “Lord, even the demons submit themselves to us in your name.”

It is at this moment, at the return of the 70, that Jesus prays. What does prayer have to do with it?

At that very moment, Jesus overflowed with joy from the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and shown them to babies. Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.”

It is interesting that this story is found in both Luke and Matthew (Matthew 11). I think it is interesting because in Matthew the story follows Jesus being rejected. In Luke, the story follows Jesus being accepted. It is the same story, but in one gospel it comes after failure and in another gospel, it comes after success.

The seventy disciples have returned from a successful mission. Although Jesus begins to rejoice in the Holy Spirit, he warns them, “Don’t rejoice that you have been successful. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, the point is not your success but your faithfulness.

The Holy Spirit Takes Center Stage

To understand what Jesus is saying, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is important in the life, work, and ministry of Jesus. Luke uses phrases like, “led by the Spirit,” “filled with the Spirit,” “in the power of the Spirit.”

Not only in the gospel but in the Acts of the Apostles, prayer and Holy Spirit go hand in hand. Luke talks about the Holy Spirit more than all the other gospel writers combined. It is Luke who has Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit.

Remember Luke’s gospel begins with the Holy Spirit creating inspired speech. Before Jesus is born, Mary his mother, Elizabeth and Zachariah, Anna and Simeon are each inspired by the Holy Spirit. There are Spirit inspired songs being sung, bursts of praise, prayers, insights, revelations, and blessings.

Holy Spirit and Thanksgiving

In this scripture, thanksgiving is an expression of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives thanks, not for the many acts his followers have performed but, for the many persons who have come to faith in God.

In Luke, Matthew, and Paul, the Holy Spirit brings faith. In Matthew, the words, “You are the Christ. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you,” are words that express, “You did not come to this conclusion by your own observation.”

Paul, in I Corinthians 12, wrote, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” For Paul, being wise and having intelligence is not equal to having faith or being a Jesus follower.

In Luke, the words, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth” is an expression of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Jesus and in the mission of the 70. The words, “you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and shown them to babies,” is a common expression for those whose faith depends upon God.

Saying that these things are hidden from the wise and intelligent does not discourage education or serious reflection. But it does offer rejection of our claims that we can attain knowledge of God and God’s ways by our own achievement.

For Luke, we know God because God has graciously revealed Godself to us, first through Israel, then through Christ, and then to and through the church. Our faith is not based upon our own calculations. Our best efforts and best thinking is simply responding to God’s invitation to love. Afterall, it is planted there by God in the first place. We do not arrive at faith because we have worked out our proofs. The proofs might support where we arrive, but proofs are not the way of faith.

What does prayer have to do with it?

It is in prayer that Jesus gives thanks to God for the faith given to his followers. You and I give God thanks for our faith in and through prayer. It is through prayer we thank God for the opportunity to put our faith into action by loving and serving in the name of Jesus.

As with Jesus, we will be tempted to think we can love and serve on our own. But through prayer, we will keep our focus. Through prayer, we will offer God the praise and give thanks for what God is doing in us and through us.

In this prayer, Jesus is giving thanks for those who have come to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. Who are what are you giving thanks for today? Perhaps you’ll give God thanks in prayer today.

 

read “We Have Received Power” – Part 1

We Need Help

For me, the more important something is, the harder it is to say. When something is profoundly important to me, the first thing to go is my voice.

I confess you to you, that for me to witness, to say something about God, about Jesus, or about my faith, I need help. For me to put my faith into action, I need something more than my good intentions and the backing of the crowd.

When I read about Jesus and the work of those early disciples from Luke’s perspective, I see that Jesus promised to give me and you the power to witness. That means that you and I, to be faithful to our call as followers of Jesus, we will have to witness past a lot of obstacles, barriers, and silences.

Pentecost

On the Day of Pentecost, there was a lot of excitement. Simon Peter stood up and got carried away. He stretched out his arms and said, “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2:39).

His message was all-inclusive.

It was for everyone.

A little later the Holy Spirit led him to the home of a Roman soldier, Cornelius. I can image Simon Peter saying, “Lord, I have never been in the home of an Italian, a Gentile, in all my life.” And God responds, saying, “Peter, on the Day of Pentecost you said…” And Peter replies, “O God, I was only preaching.”

We need help in our witness.

Casting Out Demons

Do you remember when one of the disciples said to him, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us”? Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:46-48) Were those early disciples separating themselves into groups of “who is for” and “who is against”?

We need help in our witness.

Teaching

Remember the story of Jesus teaching? There was a group of mothers bringing their babies to be blessed by Jesus.

When the disciples saw what was happening, they sternly ordered the mothers not to come to Jesus. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:15-17).

Was the early church trying to decide whether they should extend their witness to persons who could not teach, give, or who weren’t prospects for ministry? Was it too costly to include everyone?

We need help in our witness.

Baptizing

Remember Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch?

Deuteronomy 23:1, (Bias paraphrase) “Any man who by surgery or accident who cannot father children does not have a place in the assembly of God.” The scripture is clear.

Philip encounters the eunuch on his way to Jerusalem. The eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him if he understands what he is reading. The eunuch replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

Then he invited Philip to get in the chariot. Philip tells him about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch asked, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Philip baptizes him. (Acts 8:26-40).

Overcoming Barriers

How was it that those early disciples and the church moved past the barriers of race, gender, nation, and condition?

How were they able to witness past the barriers?

It was by the power of the Holy Spirit! And unless you and I have the power of the Holy Spirit to witness, we will give up in the face of difficulty.

That is the reason I need help. I need the power of the Holy Spirit to be a faithful witness to the resurrection.

Our Next Step

Please continue to pray that I will take people by the hand, walk them around the edges of their inheritance, tell them of the unsearchable riches of God’s love and grace, and then be quiet. I need help to be a witness. Pray that I will receive power to be a witness starting right where I am.

Remember, I am praying the same for you!

Over the past several weeks, you have prayed that I am a faithful witness to the Resurrection. Today, as I write to express my gratitude for your prayers, I also write to ask for your help.

Through prayer and responding to God’s call to love you and to resource and equip you for ministry, I have grown to recognize and to understand that I cannot be a witness to the resurrection without help.

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