By Joseph Ametepe
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Scripture reveals that every important event in the life of the Lord Jesus found Him in earnest and effective prayer to God. For example, our Lord prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21). He fasted for forty days and forty nights after His baptism (Matthew 4:1-11). Soon after His public ministry began in earnest, the Lord Jesus rose very early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35). Before healing a paralytic man, the Bible spoke of Jesus' practice of often withdrawing to lonely places and praying (Luke 5:16-20). The Lord Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12). He prayed before asking His disciples these questions: "Who do the crowds say I am?...Who do you say that I am?" (Luke 9:18-20). He prayed before walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). It was in prayer that Jesus was transfigured (Luke 9:29). Jesus prayed before teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus prayed to the Father, thanking Him, before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-42).After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Andrew and Philip told Jesus that some Greeks were desiring to see Him. This became an occasion for Jesus to pray to the Father to glorify His name. The Father responded immediately from heaven saying: "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again" (John 12:28). Jesus prayed that Simon Peter's faith might not fail after Satan had asked to sift him (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus prayed in the Upper Room before crossing the Kidron Valley on His way to Gethsemane (John 17:1-18:1). He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before facing His betrayer and the cross. He prayed more earnestly on this occasion that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:39-45). Just before He gave His life in sacrifice for our sins on the cross, Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). May I ask: What role does prayer play in the important events of your life? If you look back on the major decisions of your life, would you say they were made after much prayer?
While it is clear that Jesus prayed to the Father about every important event in His life, we often miss another essential part of our Lord's prayer life. That is, Jesus not only prayed to the Father, He also praised the Father. Praise is an important element of prayer. Our Lord Jesus demonstrated that praise, especially praise of the Father, is indeed an important element of prayer. Scripture records our Lord's praise of the Father in prayer at a critical moment in His life. John the Baptist, His forerunner, had just been arrested and shut up in prison. He would soon be beheaded. Also, Jesus had endured insults at the hands of the religious leaders. They hated Christ. They were hostile to Him and His ministry. He had been called a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Many in the Galilean cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had rejected Him, despite performing most of His miracles in these cities. Let's face it! For most of us, encountering these unpleasant circumstances in our lives and ministries would have plunged us into discouragement and depression. It would have led us into a state of despondency and despair. But not Jesus! He rose above these negative and discouraging circumstances to pour out His praises to the Father. In other words, in the midst of hostility and hatred, Jesus' heart overflowed with praise to His Father! How precious! How wonderful! Our Lord's praise to the Father, recorded in Matthew 11:25-27 and Luke 10:21-22, has so much to teach us about what true praise is all about. I believe the Holy Spirit recorded the account of Jesus' praise to the Father to model for believers true and effective praise of God. There is so much talk about "praise" today. We have "praise and worship services." We have "praise bands." But the question is: Is our "praise" effective? Is our "praise" truly directed to God Himself? Is God inhabiting our praises? Is God personally enthroned in our praises?
I remember an accident in my life several years ago. As an elder for prayer and missions, God placed it on my heart to lead the church to fervent and fruitful prayer. To do that effectively, I started a Sunday School Class on prayer. It was called the School of Prayer. Since prayer is best learned when we pray, the church met weekly for prayer. On one occasion, the Holy Spirit directed me to ask the congregation just to offer praises to God. I carefully explained that there would be time for our petitions and requests later. The prayer room suddenly got quiet. I knew people were feeling uncomfortable. So I led out offering praise to God exalting who He is and His goodness. One or two followed. But to my surprise, many found it difficult to praise God in prayer. It was easier for them to petition God than to praise God. This experience taught me how much believers need to learn, not only how to petition God for their needs or for the needs of others, but also to learn how to effectively praise Him. Our Lord Jesus maintained a balance in His prayer life while on earth. He petitioned the Father. But He also praised the Father. His praise of the Father, recorded inMatthew 11:25-27 and Luke 10:21-22, first of all, focuses on the Person of the Father. Secondly, it centers on the purpose of the Father. Thirdly, Jesus' praise turns to the pleasure of the Father. Fourth, and finally, His praise ends on celebrating the privileges given to Him by the Father. The purpose of this article is to help us learn what true praise of God is all about so that we can also praise Him effectively. Having given you a brief overview of this important teaching, let's now dig deeper and discover the precious lessons the Holy Spirit is so eager to teach us.
Faced with hostility, hatred, rejection, and even ridicule, by majority of those He came to seek and to save, the question is: How would Jesus respond? Would He be full of bitterness? Would His response be one of vindictiveness? Rather than being filled with bitterness and a revengeful spirit, the Lord Jesus lifted up His heart in praise to God. Please notice that Jesus' praise of His Father, first and foremost focuses on the Person of the Father Himself. Matthew writes:
"At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Matthew 11:25a).
From Luke's account of our Lord's praise of His Father, we are told:
"At that time very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Luke 10:21a).
It should be pointed out here that true praise of God is the work of the Spirit of God. In other words, genuine praise is not the work of the flesh. We must take careful note of that. The praise that is acceptable to God is one which is generated by the Holy Spirit living and working in the believer. As Jesus was full of joy in the Holy Spirit, He was led to offer up praises to the Father. No doubt, His praise was pleasing to God because it was offered in the Spirit.
True praise, offered in the Spirit, always centers on the Person of God Himself. Jesus demonstrated that so well. The expression "I praise You" (exomologoumai soi) comes from the Greek verb "exomologeo." It also means "confess," "admit," "acknowledge," or "thank." D. A. Carson states that "when this verb is used with respect to God, the person praying acknowledges who God is, the propriety of His ways, and the excellence of His character." This is exactly what the Lord Jesus is doing in His praise. He is acknowledging who God is and the excellence of the Person of God the Father by addressing Him as "Father" (pater) and "Lord of heaven and earth" (kurie tou ouravou kai tes ges). Indeed, these are particularly appropriate titles. Why are they appropriate titles? Here is why! The former title "Father" indicates Jesus' Sonship and prepares us for verse 27 where He speaks of the privileges given to Him by His Father. The address "Father" also reminds us of the character of God. He is the Abba Father (Romans 8:15). He is the holy Father (John 17:11), not the pope. He is the righteous Father (John 17:25). He is the merciful Father (Matthew 6:36). He is the forgiving Father (Matthew 6:14). He is the gracious Father (Colossians 1:2). He is the good Father (Luke 18:19). He is the generous Father (Matthew 7:11). He is the faithful Father (1 John 1:9). He is our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32). He is the Father whose name is to be hallowed (Luke 11:2). He is the Father who knows what we need (Luke 12:30). He is the living Father (John 6:57). He is the loving Father (John 14:23; 16:27). He is the caring Father (Matthew 6:26). Addressing God as "Father" in praise is meant to invoke in our hearts all the excellency and majesty of His character. It reminds us of who God really is. God is Father in His authority over all and in His love for members of His family.
The latter title "Lord of heaven and earth" recognizes God's sovereignty over the universe and prepares us for the rest of verses 25-26. There, we will learn that God is sovereign to conceal or reveal as He wills. In other words, Jesus is admitting that God the Father is in control. He is in command. He is in charge of the affairs of heaven and of earth. No one, absolutely no one, can be compared to Him in this regard. He is in a class all by Himself. In fact, God is not taken by surprise by the events happening in heaven and on earth. Why? He sits on His throne as "Lord of heaven and earth." And may I say to you that no situation in your life right now has taken God off-guard. He is in control over any and all circumstances that you are facing today and will be facing in the future. So Jesus is here joyfully acknowledging God the Father not only for His special Sonship-relationship to Him, but also for being the Sovereign and Supreme Ruler of the universe. In other words, Jesus is delighting in who the Father is and in His complete control over the affairs in heaven and on earth. God the Father is not only the Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19, 22), the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalms 115:15; 121:2; 134:3), but also the Lord of heaven and earth. Actually, the expression "Lord of heaven and earth" is used only one other time in the New Testament besides its use in Matthew 11:25 andLuke 10:21. In Acts 17:24, while addressing the Areopagus in Athens, Paul, in the Spirit, stated that God the Father is the Lord of heaven and earth. In other words, he was declaring to the Athenian philosophers that God's sovereignty rules over the entire universe. There is none like Him in this regard.
Jesus' praise of the Father begins by focusing on the Person of the Father-who He is. The Bible reveals a great deal about who God is and His character. He is awesome (Nehemiah 1:5). He is all-powerful (Genesis 17:1; Jeremiah 32:17). He is all-knowing (Psalm 139:1-6). He is all-wise (1 Timothy 1:17; Romans 11:33). He is eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27). He is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12). He is changeless (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12). He is spirit (John 4:24). He is alive (Exodus 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). These attributes of God which focus on the Person of God Himself, and more, should fill our hearts and flow from our lips as the Spirit leads us to pour out our praises to Him.
We live in a culture saturated with self-adulation, self-admiration, self-approval, and self-appeasement. In the name of being trendy, relevant, and attracting "seekers," some churches design praise and worship services that focus on feeding the "self-focused" spirit of our age. Praise songs are more about "Me, Me" "I, I," "My, My." After all, this is what people are all about in our culture. They want their "self-centered" spirit appeased, stroked, and pampered. If praise is not about "me" feeling good, or how happy "I am," or how satisfied "I am," or how "I" need to be pampered and patted on the back, then I have not attended a "praise service." But Jesus' example shows that true praise is not about "me." It's not to be "me-centered." It's all about the Person of God Himself. It focuses on God the Father, and of course, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It centers on who the Trinity is. It occupies itself with the character of Person of God Himself. True praise delights in extolling who God is and the excellence of His impeccable character.
Joe Stowell writes:
"I love to help people wake up to the fact that when life is "all about me" it backfires. But when it is all about Jesus, even our greatest accomplishments become like dung, compared to the surpassing value of knowing and experiencing Him." -Joe Stowell:-Moody Handbook of Preaching.
This thought can be applied to praise as well. When praise is all about "me" it backfires. But if it's all about the Person of God, who He is, the propriety of His ways, and the excellence of His character, it rises like a fragrant aroma to the throne of God and delights the heart of God.
The question now is: How would you characterize your life of praise? Is it an "all about me" kind of praise? Or is it an "all about God" kind of praise? Is it praise that is the work of the flesh? Or is it praise that is the work of the Spirit? Is it a praise that is inhabited by God? The next time you are launching into praise, pause and ask yourself the above questions. After that, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to praise God by focusing on who He is and the excellence of His character. He will certainly answer that prayer for you. You will see a change in your life of praise and He will give you a renewed longing to praise God in this way. Not only that, you will discover that your life of praise will move from duty to delight.
At this point, I would like to point out to you that even in the model prayer our Lord taught His disciples, you would observe that it started by focusing on the Person of God the Father Himself. In other words, it begins with the praise of the Father. "Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Matthew 6:9b). It is always a joy for me to see in the Scriptures that Jesus practiced what He preached. He taught His disciples to begin their prayers with the praise of their heavenly Father. Now, He demonstrated it to them. Please remember that true praise centers on the Person of God Himself. True praise should never be focused on ourselves. When our praise is focused on God Himself, we are deeply satisfied and joyful. This is much better than getting an emotional high or a "feel good" feeling about ourselves that doesn't last. Jesus' joy was full and deeply satisfying when His praise centered on the Person of the Father. That will be our daily experience if we rely on the Spirit to lead us in a God-centered praise.
The Lord Jesus not only praised the Person of His Father, but also the purpose of His Father. True praise focuses on the purpose of God. The Lord Jesus knows that God's purpose alone prevails. God's plan, not man's, will be established. In Proverbs 19:21, the Bible says: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand." Too often our praise of God is about our purpose, our program, our plan. But that was not the case in Jesus' praise of the Father.
As stated earlier by D. A. Carson, when the verb "exomologeo" is used with respect to God, the person praying acknowledges who God is, the propriety of His ways, and the excellence of His character. When Jesus praised God as "Father and the Lord of heaven and earth," He was acknowledging who God is and the excellence of His character. But now, He focuses on the propriety of His ways, specifically His purpose.
Jesus' praise of the Father's purpose is found in these words:
Jesus is here praising the Father because He knows that His sovereign purposes cannot be frustrated. True praise that honors God and gladdens His heart is always concerned about God's purpose. It seeks to elevate God's plan above all others. It exalts God's purpose rather than man's. No one does this better than the Lord Jesus Himself. Here, He praises His Father for being free to conceal and reveal as He wills. In other words, Jesus acknowledges God's sovereign purpose of concealing and revealing things.
The Greek verb translated "hidden" comes from "krypto." It also means conceal, cover, keep secret, withdraw from sight or knowledge. It is used here in the sense of preventing something from being seen. The Greek verb translated "revealed" comes from "apokalypto." It also means disclose, uncover, or bring to light. It speaks of divine revelation of certain supernatural secrets. Jesus spent time praising the Father for His purpose of covering up and bringing to light. The wise and intelligent (or prudent) are prevented from seeing the truth of the Messiah and His gospel. Yet they are uncovered to followers of Jesus as infants, or babes, or little children, that is, the humble and repentant listeners. To such listeners Jesus revealed the Father and taught the lessons of discipleship. Actually, the expression, "the wise and intelligent" identifies sarcastically not only the Jewish religious leaders, but also those in the Galilean cities of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum, whom our Lord denounced before pouring out His praise to the Father.
A vivid illustration of the Father's purpose of hiding things from the wise and intelligent and revealing them to babes is found in John's Gospel. In John 9, the Pharisees, the wise and intelligent, rejected Jesus and reviled the blind man who had been healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. But it was the blind man, an infant, who had the awesome privilege of experiencing the self-disclosure of Christ. He became one of the few people on earth who personally was told by Christ Himself that He indeed is the Messiah. Here is the account of Christ's self-disclosure to an infant and concealing from the wise and prudent.
"Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking to you." And He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains"" (John 9:35-41).
What a glorious day it was for the blind man, a babe, to receive not only physical sight, but also spiritual sight! What a blessed day it was for him to behold and believe in the Messiah! He became one of the few people who confessed their faith personally to the incarnate Christ. But what a gloomy day it was for the proud and self-sufficient Pharisees! Although they had physical sight:-20-20 vision, they remained spiritually blind.
William MacDonald throws more light on this.
"He did not imply that God had high-handedly withheld light from the wise and prudent. The cities had every chance to welcome the Lord Jesus. They deliberately refused to submit to Him. When they refused the light, God withheld the light from them. But God's plans will not fail. If the intelligentsia will not believe, then God will reveal Him to humble hearts. He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty (Luke 1:53). Those who consider themselves too wise and understanding to need Christ become afflicted with judicial blindness. But those who admit their lack of wisdom receive a revelation of Him "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).-Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1245.
D. A. Carson also writes more on the concealing and revealing purpose of the Father for which Christ praised Him.
"The point of interest is not their education, any more than the point of interest in the "little children" is their age or size. The contrast is between those who are self-sufficient and deem themselves wise and those who are dependent and love to be taught. For revealing the riches of the good news of the kingdom to the one and hiding it from the other, Jesus uttered his praise to his Father...God remains the one who reveals and conceals. Yet we must not think that God's concealing and revealing are symmetrical activities arbitrarily exercised toward neutral human beings who are both innocent and helpless in the face of the divine decree. God is dealing with a race of sinners (cf. Matthew 1:21; 7:11) whom he owes nothing. Thus to conceal "these things" is not an act of injustice but of judgment...The astonishing thing about God's activity is not that God acts in both mercy and judgment but who the recipients of that mercy and judgment are: those who pride themselves in understanding divine things are judged, those who understand nothing are taught."-The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p. 275.
William MacDonald writes again on Jesus' praise of the Father's purpose.
"Jesus thanked the Father for ordaining that if some would not have Him, others would. In the face of titanic unbelief He found consolation in the overruling plan and purpose of God."-Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1245.
In the model prayer which our Lord taught His disciples, they were to be concerned about the purpose of God, not their own purposes. He taught, "Your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10a). Again, we see the Lord Jesus practicing what He preached. He praises the Father for His purpose, plan, and program.
Now the question for you is: Is your praise of God about your purpose, your plan, your program? Or is it really about God's purpose, God's plan, God's program? Praise that blesses and gladdens the heart of God is not about our plans and programs, however popular they may be with people. The praise that rises as a sweet smelling fragrant aroma to the throne of God centers on the purpose of God, even if that purpose is not popular with men. We also need to ask ourselves this basic question. Where do God's people discover God's purpose? We won't find it in what the culture touts. God's purpose is not found in what the media says. There is only one place to find the purpose of God. It is in the Word of God. As we interact with the Word of God through the Spirit of God, God will reveal His purpose to us. The more our hearts are filled with His Word, the more they will overflow with praise for God's purposes. Sadly, one of the reasons for the lack of praise that is centered on God's purpose, is that God's people are not sitting regularly at the feet of Jesus to reveal God's purposes to them. It is estimated that only 8 percent of Christians read their Bibles consistently. Much of that is attributed to the fact that we live in a fast-paced world. Hurry is the order of the day. We rush on with the rest of the world instead of running into God's presence, resting in His presence and receiving from Him. When was the last time you sat at the feet of Jesus to reveal God's purpose to you? When was the last time you rose from such an encounter to pour out your heartfelt praises to God for His purposes shown to you?
Next in His praise of the Father, the Lord Jesus focuses on the pleasure of the Father. He praises His Father for doing His good pleasure. It is interesting to note here that far from bemoaning or finding fault with His Father's sovereign purpose of revealing and concealing, Jesus actually delights in acknowledging it. Jesus praises the Father because this was His good pleasure. Jesus is revealing here that whatever pleases the Father pleases Him as well. What a special relationship and union between the Father and the Son! This is how Matthew records this:
The Greek word translated "well-pleasing" is eudokia. It also means, good-will, pleasure, good pleasure, favor; desire, purpose, choice. Jesus is here praising His Father's good-will, good pleasure, desire or choice. Please note that the immediate context of this passage is our Lord's strong condemnation of the Galilean cities of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum for their failure to respond to His witness and His works of power. And yet, He had no problem praising the Father for doing what is pleasing to Him which includes His judgment on the unbelieving. When it comes to judgment, we shy away from praising God for executing His righteous judgment. Our Lord did not shy away from doing so. But please understand that Jesus is not expressing pleasure in the death of the wicked. Scripture makes it clear again and again that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but that they should repent and live (see Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11). Jesus is simply expressing pleasure in the fact that the Father does what pleases Him. If sinners repent and turn to Him, He saves them. If sinners refuse to repent, the Father gives them countless opportunities, desiring for them to turn from their sinful and wayward ways. But those who choose to continue to rebel against His offer of repentance and forgiveness will finally have themselves to blame. Why? They have been offered grace upon grace. But they chose to reject it. In that case, God cannot be blamed. He has been patient and forbearing. Jesus praises the Father for that.
It is interesting to note that in the Gospel of Matthew, the Father repeatedly spoke of how well-pleased He is with His Beloved and Blessed Son. First, after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Father spoke from heaven. "This is My Beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Also in Matthew 12:18, the gospel writer quoted the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Father's pleasure with the Son. "Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased." And then on the Mount of Transfiguration the Father spoke again of being so pleased with His Son. "While he [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him" (Matthew 17:5). Now, we hear the Son praising the Father for doing what is well-pleasing in His sight. What an endearing relationship between the Father and the Son!
"It is often in a person's prayers that his truest thoughts about himself come to the surface. For this reason the thanksgiving of Jesus recorded here is one of the most precious pieces of spiritual autobiography found in the Synoptic Gospels."
Our Lord's praise of the Father's pleasure reveals His truest thoughts about Himself. He will delight in what delights the Father's heart. His praise will always be about the good pleasure of the Father. He is concerned about what satisfies the Father. He is all about adoring, acknowledging, admitting, appreciating what pleases the Father. He is not so much consumed about what pleases Him, even though He had the purest of motives. If there was ever a time to live for what pleased Him, it was in the Garden of Gethsemane. But there, He surrendered to His Father good pleasure, humbly and wholeheartedly declaring: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39).
We live in a "please me" generation. It is a generation of "lovers of self," and "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:2, 4). Sadly, most praise and worship services are all about what suits my style. They are tailored to what pleases "me." What satisfies "me." What delights "me." What makes "me" feel good. We seldom think about what pleases God. What satisfies God's heart. What delights His heart. Please listen! For our praise to make a difference at the throne of God, it must seriously be lifted up with hearts that delight in acknowledging God's good pleasure in all things. Why? True praise is concerned about the pleasure of God. The Lord Jesus demonstrated this so well. He not only does what pleases the Father, but He also delights in praising the Father's good pleasure. I believe with all my heart that because our Lord faithfully committed Himself to doing what pleases the Father, it was so easy for Him to delight in praising the Father's good pleasure. Similarly, as believers, we must, through the Holy Spirit, dedicate ourselves to doing what pleases the Father. Then, praising Him for doing His good pleasure will be the great delight of our heart. When was the last time you came before God acknowledging, appreciating, and adoring Him for doing what pleases Him? Would you say that your heart is consumed about the pleasure of God? If not, why not? Scripture teaches that, "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases" (Psalm 115:3). It also says, "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps" (Psalm 135:6). Again it declares, "But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does" (Job 23:13). How do you respond to such Scriptures? Do you respond with praise? Or does this cause you to think of God as a dictator who is only into Himself? Such Scriptures should cause us to pour out our hearts in praise to God, not pout. Why? When God does what pleases Him whether in judging the unrepentant or in blessing the repentant, He is glorified. He does all things well. His works are done in righteousness.
Again, looking back on the model prayer Jesus taught His early disciples, we learn that God's people are to be concerned about what pleases God. "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10b). The Lord Jesus praised the Father for doing His good pleasure, thus practicing what He preached. He has left an example for us to follow. Let's rely on the Holy Spirit to delight in offering praise to God for doing His good pleasure!
As the Lord Jesus brings His praise of His Father to an end in His brief but blessed prayer, He could not help but praise Him for the privileges He had given Him in His incarnation. Please listen to Jesus' praise of the Father for the privileges He has been given.
"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27; cf. Luke 10:22).
This verse is one of the most profound claims of Christ. In other words, it is a Christological claim of utmost importance. It reveals "the sovereignty of the Son of God, both in his relationship with the Father and his revealing the Father to mankind."- Hughes and Laney: New Bible Companion, p. 469.
D. A. Carson writes:
"After declaring that the Father gives true understanding of "these things" to "little children" (vv. 25-26), Jesus now adds that he is the exclusive agent of that revelation...The reciprocal knowledge of Son and Father where the Father is God presupposes a special sonship indeed. And this unique mutual knowledge guarantees that the revelation the Son gives is true. Not least astonishing about this reciprocity is the clause "No one knows the Son except the Father."...In this exclusivistic context it makes a claim no mere mortal could honestly make. There is a self-enclosed world of Father and Son that is opened to others only by the revelation provided by the Son. This revelation is not only factual (the Son reveals "these things") but personal (the Son reveals "him" -the Father)...Just as the Son praises the Father for revealing and concealing according to his good pleasure (v. 26), so the Father has authorized the Son to reveal or not according to his will. The text places enormous emphasis on Jesus' person and authority."- The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 277.
William MacDonald also comments on this Christological verse:
"This would be a presumptuous claim from anyone else, but from the Lord Jesus it is a simple statement of truth. At that moment, with opposition mounting, it did not appear that He was in control; nonetheless it was true. The program of His life was moving irresistibly toward the eventual glorious triumph. "No one knows the Son except the Father." There is incomprehensible mystery about the Person of Christ. The union of deity and humanity in one Person raises problems that boggle the human mind. For instance, there is the problem of death. God cannot die. Yet Jesus is God and Jesus died. And yet His divine and human natures are inseparable. So although we can know Him and love Him and trust Him, there is a sense in which only the Father can truly understand Him..."Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." The Father, too, is inscrutable. Ultimately, only God is great enough to understand God. Man cannot know Him by his own strength or intellect. But the Lord Jesus can and does reveal the Father to those whom He chooses. Whoever comes to know the Son comes to know the Father also (John 14:7)."-Believer's Bible Commentary, pp. 1245-6.
Please notice that the Son praises the Father for three specific divine privileges given to Him. No one, absolutely no one, in all the entire universe could claim that such privileges have been given to him. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter, and Paul, all could not claim such privileges. Let alone the pope and other so-called world religious leaders.
The first privilege the Son praises the Father for is that "all things have been handed over to Me by My Father." Here "all things" (panta) includes authority and judgment. In John's Gospel, the Lord Jesus repeatedly asserts that all things have been given to Him."The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand" (John 3:35). "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). John 13:3 speaks of Jesus "knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands." Also, in Matthew 28:18, sometime before His ascension, the Risen Lord declared to His disciples that "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Jesus' claim that all things have been handed over to Him is indeed a powerful one.
The verb translated "have been handed over" (paredothe, passive form of paradidomi), also means entrust, commit, give (over), deliver. Jesus is acknowledging and adoring the Father for entrusting everything to Him. He is praising the Father for committing into His hands all things. What a privilege that has been given to the Son in His incarnation!
The second privilege Jesus praises the Father for is the unique mutual knowledge existing between the Son and the Father. The Son is fully known by the Father and the Son fully knows the Father. The Greek verb translated "knows" is epiginosko. It also means understand, recognize, acknowledge, know well, know exactly, completely, through and through. The thorough mutual knowledge between the Father and the Son cannot be claimed by anyone else. This exact or complete knowledge guarantees that the revelation Jesus gives is true and trustworthy. It is reliable. It is dependable. No one's revelation of God comes close to that of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of God's nature (Hebrew 1:3). Jesus later speaks of the mutual knowledge between Him and the Father in John's Gospel as well as between Him and His true disciples. He declares, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father" (John 10:14-15). Now, someone asks, "I thought you've just mentioned that the reciprocal knowledge between the Father and the Son is a special and exclusive one. So why do we read here that Jesus knows His true disciples just as the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father?" That's a good question! The Greek verb translated "knows" in this passage is ginosko. It also means come to know, understand, perceive, discern, to have knowledge. It is not the same as epiginosko which speaks of complete and thorough knowledge. The Father and the Son have complete knowledge of each other. However, we do not have such knowledge of them. That is the difference here.
The third privilege Jesus praises the Father for is that He is the One who alone reveals the Father to those He chooses from time to time. He reveals the Father, not merely to satisfy learned curiosity or to reinforce the self-sufficiency of the proud, but to bring "infants" (v. 25) to personally know the Father (v. 27), and to give the weary rest (v. 28). In other words:
"Christ claims here that the task of executing divine will has been committed to Him-a claim that would be utterly blasphemous if Jesus was anything less than sovereign God Himself."- John MacArthur: MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1144.
In his early testimony of Jesus, John the Baptist made this declaration in the Spirit: "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). John the Baptist's declaration in the Holy Spirit agrees with Jesus'. That is, Jesus, God's only Begotten Son, is the only One who reveals the Father to mankind. Since Jesus also made the claim "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30), it follows that whenever Jesus reveals the Father to anyone He wills, He is also revealing Himself. In other words, to know the Son is to know the Father, (John 14:7), to see the Son is to see the Father, (John 14:9), to believe in the Son is to believe in the Father (John 14:1), to hate the Son is to hate the Father (John 15:23-24), to receive the Son is to receive the Father (Matthew 10:40). He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father (John 5:23). Truly, Jesus is the One who alone reveals the Father to those He wills. And whenever He chooses to reveal the Father to anyone, He essentially is revealing Himself as well. It is a "win-win situation" of epic proportions!
Commenting on this profound verse, J. C. Ryle eloquently writes:
"We may truly say as we read these words, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain" (Psalm 139:6). We see something of the perfect union which exists between the first and second Persons of the Trinity; we see something of immeasurable superiority of the Lord Jesus to all who are nothing more than human. But when we have said all this, we must confess that there are heights and depths in this verse which are beyond our feeble comprehension. We can only admire them in the spirit of little children, but the half, we must feel, remains untold. Let us, however draw from these words the great practical truth that all power over everything that concerns our soul's interests is placed in our Lord Jesus Christ's hands...He carries the keys: to him we must go for admission into heaven. He is the door: through him we must enter. He is the Shepherd: we must hear his voice and follow him if we do not want to perish in the wilderness. He is the physician: we must apply to him if we want to be healed of the plague of sin. He is the bread of life: we must feed on him if we want to have our souls satisfied. He is the light: we must follow him if we do not want to wander in darkness. He is the fountain: we must wash in his blood if we want to be cleansed and made ready for the great day of account. Blessed and glorious are these truths! If we have Christ, we have all things (1 Corinthians 3:22)."-The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, p. 87.
True praise celebrates the privileges given to believers by God. This is what the Lord Jesus demonstrated here. He praised the Father for the privilege of committing all things into His hands. He exalted the Father for the privilege of the special mutual knowledge that exists between the two of them. Jesus adored His Father for bestowing on Him alone the privilege of revealing the Father to infants, or babes, or little children.
Scripture reminds believers that God has given us many privileges. It says that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ-His choice of us, His love for us, His adoption of us through Jesus Christ, His grace bestowed on us in the Beloved, His redemption of us, His forgiveness of our sins, His salvation, His seal upon us with the Holy Spirit of promise (see Ephesians 1:3-14). Other privileges include His peace (John 14:27 ), His promise to provide our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), His promises to protect and preserve us (Matthew 6:13a), His promise to guide us (Psalm 32:8), His promise to shepherd us (Psalm 23:1), His promise to answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7-11), His promise not to fail nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), His promise to rescue us from every evil attack and bring us safely into His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18). For these privileges and many more, do you, like the Lord Jesus, find time to lift up praises to your heavenly Father? When was the last time you made time to pour out your heart in praise to God for all the privileges He has given to you because of your relationship with Him? Do you take God's privileges for granted? It is sad that many Christians take God's privileges such life, home, health, financial security, good jobs etc., for granted. We think they should be there for us all the time. We erroneously think that we deserve them. Our attitude is that we have a right to them. But when some of these privileges are temporarily taken away from us, we throw a fit at God. We begin to demand that they be restored to us. When, actually, the first thing we should be doing is fall on our knees in humble repentance for taking God's privileges given to us for granted. The Lord Jesus, the supreme example of lifting up pure and unadulterated praise to God, did not take the privileges given to Him by the Father for granted. He let the Father know how much He appreciated each and every privilege bestowed on Him. Let's allow the Holy Spirit to teach and train us to follow His model from this day forward. He has shown us the right way. We have no excuse.
From Jesus' praise of His Father in prayer, we've learned that true praise magnifies the Person of God. It focuses on the Person of God Himself. It exalts His Person-who He is, the propriety of His ways, and the excellence of His character. Next, we've also learned that true praise directs its attention on the purpose of God. God's plan, God's purpose, God's program, not man's plans and programs should be the center of true praise. Also, we've discovered that true praise delights in extolling the pleasure of God. It is concerned about what pleases God Himself, not what pleases me. Finally, we've learned that true praise celebrates the privileges given to us by God. It reminds us not to take God's gracious privileges for granted. Rather, our hearts should constantly overflow with praise to God for the many privileges He's bestowed on us because we are His children.
My prayer for you as a believer in Jesus Christ is that the Holy Spirit may use these simple truths to refine, refuel, reinvigorate, and renew your life of praising God for His Person, His purpose, His pleasure, and His privileges. May yours be praise that God inhabits (Psalm 22:3)!