Verses 17–24

Christ sent forth the seventy disciples as he was going up to Jerusalem to the feast of tabernacles, when he went up, not openly, but as it were in secret (John 7:10), having sent abroad so great a part of his ordinary retinue; and Dr. Lightfoot thinks it was before his return from that feast, and while he was yet at Jerusalem, or Bethany, which was hard by (for there he was, Luke 10:38), that they, or at least some of them, returned to him. Now here we are told,

1. What account they gave him of the success of their expedition: They returned again with joy (Luke 10:17); not complaining of the fatigue of their journeys, nor of the opposition and discouragement they met with, but rejoicing in their success, especially in casting out unclean spirits: Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Though only the healing of the sick was mentioned in their commission (Luke 10:19), yet no doubt the casting out of devils was included, and in this they had wonderful success. 1. They give Christ the glory of this: It is through thy name. Note, all our victories over Satan are obtained by power derived from Jesus Christ. We must in his name enter the lists with our spiritual enemies, and, whatever advantages we gain, he must have all the praise; if the work be done in his name, the honour is due to his name. 2. They entertain themselves with the comfort of it; they speak of it with an air of exultation: Even the devils, those potent enemies, are subject to us. Note, the saints have no greater joy or satisfaction in any of their triumphs than in those over Satan. If devils are subject to us, what can stand before us?

II. What acceptance they found with him, and how he received this account.

1. He confirmed what they said, as agreeing with his own observation (Luke 10:18): “My heart and eye went along with you; I took notice of the success you had, and I saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven.” Note, Satan and his kingdom fell before the preaching of the gospel. “I see how it is,” saith Christ, “as you get ground the devil loseth ground.” He falls as lightning falls from heaven, so suddenly, so irrecoverably, so visibly, that all may perceive it, and say, “See how Satan’s kingdom totters, see how it tumbles.” They triumphed in casting devils out of the bodies of people; but Christ sees and rejoices in the fall of the devil from the interest he has in the souls of men, which is called his power in high places, Eph. 6:12. He foresees this to be but an earnest of what should now be shortly done and was already begun—the destroying of Satan’s kingdom in the world by the extirpating of idolatry and the turning of the nations to the faith of Christ. Satan falls from heaven when he falls from the throne in men’s hearts, Acts 26:18. And Christ foresaw that the preaching of the gospel, which would fly like lightning through the world, would wherever it went pull down Satan’s kingdom. Now is the prince of this world cast out. Some have given another sense of this, as looking back to the fall of the angels, and designed for a caution to these disciples, lest their success should puff them up with pride: “I saw angels turned into devils by pride: that was the sin for which Satan was cast down from heaven, where he had been an angel of light I saw it, and give you an intimation of it lest you, being lifted up with pride should fall into that condemnation of the devil, who fell by pride,” 1 Tim. 3:6.

2. He repeated, ratified, and enlarged their commission: Behold I give you power to tread on serpents, Luke 10:19. Note, To him that hath, and useth well what he hath, more shall be given. They had employed their power vigorously against Satan, and now Christ entrusts them with greater power. (1.) An offensive power, power to tread on serpents and scorpions, devils and malignant spirits, the old serpent: “You shall bruise their heads in my name,” according to the first promise, Gen. 3:15. Come, set your feet on the necks of these enemies; you shall tread upon these lions and adders wherever you meet with them; you shall trample them under foot, Ps. 91:13. You shall tread upon all the power of the enemy, and the kingdom of the Messiah shall be every where set up upon the ruins of the devil’s kingdom. As the devils have now been subject to you, so they shall still be. (2.) A defensive power: “Nothing shall by any means hurt you; not serpents nor scorpions, if you should be chastised with them or thrown into prisons and dungeons among them; you shall be unhurt by the most venomous creatures,” as St. Paul was (Acts 28:5), and as is promised in Mark 16:18. “If wicked men be as serpents to you, and you dwell among those scorpions (as Ezek. 2:6), you may despise their rage, and tread upon it; it need not disturb you, for they have no power against you but what is given them from above; they may hiss, but they cannot hurt.” You may play upon the hole of the asp, for death itself shall not hurt nor destroy, Isa. 11:8, 9; 25:8.

3. He directed them to turn their joy into the right channel (Luke 10:20): “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, that they have been so, and shall be still so. Do not rejoice in this merely as it is your honour, and a confirmation of your mission, and as it sets you a degree above other good people; do not rejoice in this only, or in this chiefly, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven, because you are chosen of God to eternal life, and are the children of God through faith.” Christ, who knew the counsels of God, could tell them that their names were written in heaven, for it is the Lamb’s book of life that they are written in. All believers are through grace, entitled to the inheritance of sons, and have received the adoption of sons, and the Spirit of adoption, which is the earnest of that inheritance and so are enrolled among his family; now this is matter of joy, greater joy than casting out devils. Note, Power to become the children of God is to be valued more than a power to work miracles; for we read of those who did in Christ’s name cast out devils, as Judas did, and yet will be disowned by Christ in the great day. But they whose names are written in heaven shall never perish; they are Christ’s sheep, to whom he will give eternal life. Saving graces are more to be rejoiced in than spiritual gifts; holy love is a more excellent way than speaking with tongues.

4. He offered up a solemn thanksgiving to his Father, for employing such mean people as his disciples were in such high and honourable service, Luke 10:21, 22. This we had before (Matt. 11:25-27), only here it is prefixed that in that hour Jesus rejoiced. It was fit that particular notice should be taken of that hour, because there were so few such, for he was a man of sorrows. In that hour in which he saw Satan fall, and heard of the good success of his ministers, in that hour he rejoiced. Note, Nothing rejoices the heart of the Lord Jesus so much as the progress of the gospel, and its getting ground of Satan, by the conversion of souls to Christ. Christ’s joy was a solid substantial joy, an inward joy: he rejoiced in spirit; but his joy, like deep waters, made no noise; it was a joy that a stranger did not intermeddle with. Before he applied himself to thank his Father, he stirred up himself to rejoice; for, as thankful praise is the genuine language of holy joy, so holy joy is the root and spring of thankful praise. Two things he gives thanks for:—

(1.) For what was revealed by the Father through the Son: I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, Luke 10:21. In all our adorations of God, we must have an eye to him, both as the Maker of heaven and earth and as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him our Father. Now that which he gives thanks for is, [1.] That the counsels of God concerning man’s reconciliation to himself were revealed to some of the children of men, who might be fit also to teach others, and it is God that by his Son has spoken these things to us and by his Spirit has revealed them in us; he has revealed that which had been kept secret from the beginning of the world. [2.] That they were revealed to babes, to those who were of mean parts and capacities, whose extraction and education had nothing in them promising, who were but children in understanding, till God by his Spirit elevated their faculties, and furnished them with this knowledge, and an ability to communicate it. We have reason to thank God, not so much for the honour he has hereby put upon babes, as for the honour he has hereby done himself in perfecting strength out of weakness. [3.] That, at the same time when he revealed them unto babes, he hid them from the wise and prudent, the Gentile philosophers, the Jewish rabbin. He did not reveal the things of the gospel to them, nor employ them in preaching up his kingdom. Thanks be to God that the apostles were not fetched from their schools; for, First, they would have been apt to mingle their notions with the doctrine of Christ, which would have corrupted it, as afterwards it proved. For Christianity was much corrupted by the Platonic philosophy in the first ages of it, by the Peripatetic in its latter ages, and by the Judaizing teachers at the first planting of it. Secondly, If rabbin and philosophers had been made apostles, the success of the gospel would have been ascribed to their learning and wit and the force of their reasonings and eloquence; and therefore they must not be employed, lest they should have taken too much to themselves, and others should have attributed too much to them. They were passed by for the same reason that Gideon’s army was reduced: The people are yet too many, Jdg. 7:4. Paul indeed was bred a scholar among the wise and prudent; but he became a babe when he became an apostle, and laid aside the enticing words of man’s wisdom, forgot them all, and made neither show nor use of any other knowledge than that of Christ and him crucified, 1 Cor. 2:2, 4. [4.] That God herein acted by way of sovereignty: Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. If God gives his grace and the knowledge of his son to some that are less likely, and does not give it to others whom we should think better able to deliver it with advantage, this must satisfy: so it pleases God, whose thoughts are infinitely above ours. He chooses to entrust the dispensing of his gospel in the hands of those who with a divine energy will give it the setting on, rather than in theirs who with human art will give it the setting off.

(2.) For what was secret between the Father and the Son, Luke 10:22. [1.] The vast confidence that the Father puts in the Son: All things are delivered to me of my Father, all wisdom and knowledge, all power and authority, all the grace and comfort which are intended for the chosen remnant; it is all delivered into the hands of the Lord Jesus; in him all fulness must dwell, and from him it must be derived: he is the great trustee that manages all the concerns of God’s kingdom. [2.] The good understanding that there is between the Father and the Son, and their mutual consciousness, such as no creature can be admitted to: No man knows who the Son is, nor what his mind is, but the Father, who possessed him in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old (Prov. 8:22), nor who the Father is, and what his counsels are, but the Son, who lay in his bosom from eternity, was by him as one brought up with him, and was daily his delight (Prov. 8:30), and he to whom the Son by the Spirit will reveal him. The gospel is the revelation of Jesus Christ, to him we owe all the discoveries made to us of the will of God for our salvation; and here he speaks of being entrusted with it as that which was a great pleasure to himself and for which he was very thankful to his Father.

5. He told his disciples how well it was for them that they had these things revealed to them, Luke 10:23, 24. Having addressed himself to his Father, he turned to his disciples, designing to make them sensible how much it was for their happiness, as well as for the glory and honour of God, that they knew the mysteries of the kingdom and were employed to lead others into the knowledge of them, considering, (1.) What a step it is towards something better. Though the bare knowledge of these things is not saving, yet it puts us in the way of salvation: Blessed are the eyes which see the things which we see. God therein blesseth them, and, if it be not their own fault it will be an eternal blessedness to them. (2.) What a step it is above those that went before them, even the greatest saints, and those that were most the favourites of Heaven: “Many prophets and righteous men” (so it is in Matt. 13:17), many prophets and kings (so it is here), “have desired to see and hear those things which you are daily and intimately conversant with, and have not seen and heard them.” The honour and happiness of the New-Testament saints far exceed those even of the prophets and kings of the Old Testament, though they also were highly favoured. The general ideas which the Old-Testament saints had, according to the intimations given them, of the graces and glories of the Messiah’s kingdom, made them wish a thousand times that their lot had been reserved for those blessed days, and that they might see the substance of those things of which they had faint shadows. Note, The consideration of the great advantages which we have in the New-Testament light, above what they had who lived in Old-Testament times, should awaken our diligence in the improvement of it; for, if it do not, it will aggravate our condemnation for the non-improvement of it.