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“I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”

  • International
  • October 6, 2012
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This Gospel passage is made up of three sections: the reactions of the disciples on returning from their apostolic preaching; the reaction of Jesus himself to the joy they showed; and Jesus’s prayer of thanksgiving to his Father.

The seventy-two disciples returned from their missionary journeys irrepressibly jubilant. “In your name, Lord, even the devils submit to us!” The disciples had been given the gift of exorcism, and they were thrilled to see that the powers of evil succumb to the word of God. The ‘strong man of this world’ had been overcome ‘by One even stronger.’ “I saw Satan fall like lightning out of the sky,” says Jesus. Nevertheless, he counsels his disciples, it’s not external wonders which you should delight you, but the fact that God has chosen you to announce his kingdom, “that your names are writ in heaven.”

Indeed, the disciples had been given a great gift: they lived in ‘messianic times’, that time of peace and blessings come upon the earth with the “reign of God”. Many prophets and kings from earlier ages longed for the coming of the messiah and wished to see and hear him, but this privilege had been granted only now, to Jesus’s Galilean disciples.

It is then that Jesus utters a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to his Heavenly Father, a prayer which could’ve been lifted from the pages of John’s Gospel, so similar is it in sentiment to John. Jesus praises and thanks his Father for choosing such simple men to be his disciples and revealing himself to them. In doing this the Father has bypassed the learned doctors of the Law, and the self-righteous Pharisees. The Father has entrusted everything to his Son Jesus, and he re-affirms Jesus’s choice of these simple men as his disciples. The Father revealed his goodness and power to them on their missionary journey, and will continue to do so.

Both Matthew and Luke quote this passage using almost the very same words. Scholars feel that this is probably the text of an early Christian hymn in praise of the triune God – the Father who reveals himself in Jesus, and the Son who thanks his Father, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit.
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