The context here is the return of the 72 disciples and their power over demons and sickness. After hearing their reports, Jesus rejoiced.
Notice that Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit. Here we see all of the members of the Trinity mentioned. Jesus rejoiced. He did so in the Holy Spirit. He and the Holy Spirit rejoiced at something the Father did. So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all mentioned.
That is opposed to Modalism, the idea that God is one but reveals (manifests) himself at different times as Father, Son and Spirit. The best known modern Modalists are Oneness Pentecostals. But here, all three persons of the Godhead interact. There is rejoicing, delegation of authority, and relational knowledge. If there were not three persons, Jesus was misleading those around him.
Why did Jesus rejoice?
He rejoiced for two reasons: first, that the Father hid these things from the wise and understanding and second, he revealed them to little children. (21) What are “these things”?
Since Jesus had just told them to rejoice in their salvation, he must mean the gospel, the good news of salvation.
God has always been concerned about the little guy. In the Old Testaments, the prophets condemned oppression of the poor, of widows and orphans and aliens. The Bible is replete with condemnations of the proud. For example, Isaiah prophesied that “the haughty looks of man shall be brought low and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day”. (Isaiah 2:11)
When John’s disciples asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, Jesus said “go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Luke 7:25)
God’s care for the poor and powerless carried forward into the ministry of Jesus. The gospel was primarily preached to the poor and the poor primarily responded to it. That is why Paul could tell the Corinthians to “consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
God revealed the gospel to those who come to him in child-like faith. The disciples were those children, those who received Jesus and believed on him.
In contrast, the religious establishment, and the political establishment, did not understand and believe the gospel and rejected Jesus. God hid the secrets of the gospel from those who thought they were wise.
Although we receive Jesus, only God gets the glory for our salvation. That is why we are saved by grace and not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus rejoiced and thanked God that he hid these things from those who were wise in the ways of the world. That may seem harsh to us, that God would hide understanding of the gospel from some. But Jesus said it was the Father’s gracious will. And Jesus always rejoiced when the Father’s will was done.
Since God is sovereign, he may reveal himself to whom he chooses. The passage says he handed that over to Jesus, the Son. And so no one knows the Father unless the Son chooses to reveal the Father to them. (22)
The Old Testament bears this out. God revealed himself to Abraham. As far as we know, he did not reveal himself to anyone else on the planet at that time. God revealed himself to Israel, but not Assyria or Egypt.
God does not have to reveal himself to anyone or save anyone. If he chooses to do so, it is an exercise of his grace.
Jesus told the disciples they were blessed to see what they saw and to hear what they heard. (23) He pointed out that prophets and kings in Old Testament days desired to see the coming of God’s salvation, but did not.
We are blessed as the disciples were. Although we did not see and hear Jesus in the flesh, he called us to himself and saved us. Then he gave us his Word to teach us more about him. We are most blessed and should, as Jesus instructed, rejoice that our names are written in heaven.
The Object Lesson: The Parable of the Good Samaritan
After teaching that God hid these things from the wise, Jesus gave them an object lesson. As he taught, a lawyer stood up and “put him to the test”. A lawyer in this context was a man who was educated in, and probably taught, the Old Covenant law.
The man asked Jesus a valid question, but evidently did so to argue with Jesus (to put him to the test). He asked “what shall I do to inherit eternal life”. (25)
Knowing the man was knowledgeable in the law, Jesus put the question back on the lawyer. Jesus asked what the law said in the opinion of the lawyer.
The lawyer knew the answer and gave it by quoting the Great Commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. This “commandment” is a combination of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. It is also a summary of the Ten Commandments. The first commandments tell us how we are to love God. The second set of commandments tell how we are to love our neighbors.
By giving that answer, the lawyer demonstrated his knowledge of the law and the requirements of the commandments, the requirements of God’s covenant with Israel. Jesus recognized this and said “you have answered correctly; do this and you will live”. (28) If the lawyer had stopped here, he would have come off looking good.
But the lawyer must have sensed something that New Testament believers know well: no one can keep the law. We all sin. So, the lawyer attempted to justify himself by narrowing the requirements. He wanted a list that made clear who were not neighbors. He asked “and who is my neighbor?”. (29)
And so the door is opened for Jesus to explain the law as God intended it to be obeyed. He told a story, a parable, to teach. In this story, a man traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem. Robbers attacked him, leaving him injured, mostly naked and half dead. (30)
Three people passed by the injured man. The first was a priest. He walked by on the other side of the road, like we often do when we see someone begging for money. A Levite did the same thing. Both of these men were special, chosen for service to God in the temple. But they did not help the injured man.
In contrast, someone very un-special came along, a Samaritan. Jews hated Samaritans. But this Samaritan had compassion on the man. He doctored his woulds, set him on his donkey and took him to an inn. There he paid for the man to stay and heal.
At the conclusion of the story, Jesus asked who proved to be a neighbor to the injured man. Notice that Jesus has re-oriented the question. The lawyer asked who is his neighbor, who do I have to love. Jesus asked who acted as a neighbor, showing love.
The lawyer answered that the man who showed mercy proved himself to be a neighbor, thus fulfilling the commandment. Jesus agreed and said to go and do likewise. Jesus was not interested in limiting the field of those we minister to. He wants us to minister to those in need. This was the opposite of the answer the lawyer wanted. Instead of narrowing the requirements of the law, Jesus expanded them.
This is what Jesus did with the sermon on the mount. He stressed the spirit of the law where the Pharisees stressed the letter of the law. We cannot judge the lawyer too harshly, however, for we do the same. We are comfortable with people like us and uncomfortable with people who are different. We want to say we will not minister to some because they are not working, or addicts, or mentally ill. Yet, the command is to be a neighbor to those in need.
So, Jesus gave us good teaching on the spirit of the commandment. But he also gave us an object lesson. After saying that God hid the message of the kingdom from those who thought they were wise, he showed us one who thought he was wise, a man steeped in knowledge of the law but who did not understand spiritual things.