Matthew 11:25-30

Matthew 11:25-30     Accepted by the Little Ones – Thanks His Father

(Lk 10:21-22)

Jesus had said earlier [11:18], in reference to people’s failure to discern the presence and action of God in John and Jesus, that Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.  The comments that follow would draw heavily from Israel’s heritage of Wisdom literature.

25 At that time Jesus said, “Thank you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for you have hidden these things
from the wise and intelligent
and have revealed them to the unassuming.
26 Indeed, Father, it gives you pleasure to do it.

Jesus’ prayer reflected the attitudes of the wise man, Solomon, contained in the Book of Wisdom:

For who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail;
for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labor;
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
Who has learned your counsel,
unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?”  [Wisdom 9:13-17]

For Jesus, true disciples saw themselves as unassuming.  Jesus did not downplay the importance of intelligence or wisdom, but placed it in context.  God would always remain mystery, to be reached by faith and trust.  Knowledge, however, in those who do not discern, can be used to justify closed minds.  Jesus had little time for the wise and intelligent of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (as Matthew had little for some of the synagogue scribes who had crossed his path).

The Intelligent Ones and the Little Ones

Jesus was not contrasting people according to the levels of their intellectual ability.  At any level of development, there will be some who believe that they already know the answers, and feel in control.  In their own estimation, they are wise and intelligent.  There will be others who, with greater self-knowledge, realise that, in the issues that matter, they are often out of their depth.  They may correctly feel, not only that they do not have all the answers, but that they may not even know the right questions: they stand before mystery, wrapped in wonder.  They accept themselves quite comfortably as unassuming. 

These unassuming, who gave such comfort to Jesus, had allowed themselves to be challenged by the difference, the mystery, of Jesus, and found themselves open to his truth.

Matthew was not immediately interested with the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  Nor was he directly engaging with their equivalents in the synagogues of Antioch.  His concern was to clarify the insights of this own community, and to help them come to terms with their own experience of ostracism.  As well, he sought to warn them of the real danger of considering themselves among the wise and intelligent.

Today, in the Church, much conflict and bad feeling arise still from those who, whether they belong to the so-called right or left, believe that they alone have the correct answers.

27 Everything has been handed over to me by my Father.  
No one knows the son personally except the Father,
and no one knows the Father personally except the son
and those to whom the son thinks well to reveal him.

Matthew did not intend to make a foray into Trinitarian theology.  He portrayed Jesus, rather, as Wisdom personified, according to the description found in the Book of Wisdom:

She glorifies her noble birth by living with God,
and the Lord of all loves her.
For she is an initiate in the knowledge of God,
and an associate in his works. [Wisdom 8:2-3]

He had already emphasised Jesus’ intimate relationship with God, his Father, in his account of Jesus’ experience after his baptism by John [3:16-17].  

Still speaking as Wisdom personified, Jesus then addressed his hearers – probably the crowds – in a beautifully personal invitation, expressive of the sensitive heart that fulfilled the best of Israelite prophecy:

28Come to me, all you who are worn out and burdened
and I shall refresh you. 
29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me
for I am gentle and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for your spirits. 
30 For my yoke is good and my burden is light.”

Not long before, Jesus had indicated the trials that would face disciples.  He had distinguished physical life and death from the life and death of the soul.  Here he spoke of rest for the spirit, even for those carrying heavy burdens.   Both experiences can be felt at the same time.  The rest Jesus promised was that of the person resting in the arms of God, secure and absorbed in the certainty of being loved, not learnt by intelligence but by trust and wonder.

His invitation echoed a passage found in the Book of Sirach [Ecclesiasticus]:

Draw near to me, you who are uneducated,
and lodge in the house of instruction.
Why do you say you are lacking in these things,
and why do you endure such great thirst?
I opened my mouth and said,
Acquire wisdom for yourselves without money.
Put your neck under her yoke,
and let your souls receive instruction;
it is to be found close by.[Sirach 51:23-26]

Later in his narrative, Matthew would show Jesus criticising the scribes who bind heavy and impossible burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders [23:4].  Jesus stood in sharp contrast to them.

Though he was hurt deeply by the lack of real response from the majority of his hearers, Jesus did not stop caring for them, or calling them to enter the Kingdom experience.  He was sensitive to balance biting criticism with gentle invitation.

Next >> Matthew 12:1-21