The Greatest Joy
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (v. 20). - Luke 10:1–20
In Luke 10, we read of Jesus commissioning seventy of His disciples to go out and spread the Good News. He sent them into the land as lambs among wolves, and, anticipating resistance, He pronounced judgment upon those who rejected His disciples. From Jesus’ description of the task ahead of them, one would expect a somber attitude among the disciples. They were being sent out as lambs among wolves—not a particularly encouraging picture. They could expect a certain amount of rejection—certainly this would cause some measure of trepidation. The sense of foreboding must have been palpable. But when we pick up the narrative in verse 17, we read that the seventy returned from their mission “with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” They returned with joy in their hearts because they were successful and exerted power over the demonic realm.
Jesus, however, did not quite enter into their joy. Why didn’t He? Jesus said, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (v. 20). Our Lord obviously understood the elation of His disciples for having a successful ministry, but He warned them for having a misplaced basis for their joy. He told them not to rejoice in their success, but to rejoice that their names were in heaven. Here our Lord directs our attention to the ultimate basis and supreme foundation for Christian joy. Our joy should flow out of the assurance we have of our redemption in Christ. The greatest joy a person can have is to know that his name is written in the Book of Life.
The joy of having one’s burdens removed, the joy of having one’s sins remitted and taken away, is a tremendous relief. To know that one is forgiven of one’s sin creates joy in the heart like nothing else. That is because guilt stifles joy, and as long as we live with the burden of unforgiven sin, we will not know joy. There is no greater depressant than guilt, but as soon as we know that our names are written in the Book of Life, we rejoice because the guilt is gone and we have freedom in Christ. Guilt robs us of our peace, but forgiveness in Christ restores our broken souls. Guilt brings feelings of pain and sorrow, but redemption in Christ fills us with a joy that lasts forever.
Successful ministries come and go. Moments of delight pass as quickly as they arrive. But the joy that comes from knowing that Christ has delivered you from your sins and has written your name in the Book of Life is the only joy that can survive the ups and downs of life. Do you have this joy, or is your happiness based on the moment?
Passages for Further Study
- Psalm 126
- Isaiah 61:7–11
- Jeremiah 15:16
- 1 Peter 1:3–12