At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
If you look at the words and events surrounding these two short paragraphs you will notice that these words may seem rather out of place. Jesus has talked about sheep among wolves, the betrayal among family members, the sword that he brought, delight in a cup of cold water, and judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and worse. We learn that John the Reformed Charismatic Presbyterian had serious doubts about Jesus and Jesus’ high praise of John. And we learn of the wit and wisdom of children. We learn of judgment on towns who had rejected Jesus. All of this is on one side.
On the other side we learn about Jesus who is accused of being a Sabbath scoundrel, in league with Beelzebul, more judgment, a ‘small’ miracle and the plot to destroy Jesus that followed, demon possession, the rejection of his family, and the simple nature of those who cannot even understand parables (!). Then John loses his head. It all makes for a great story—contains all the stuff we like: action, horror, drama, comedy, suspense. All this stuff we like, but there’s that point in the middle where Jesus inexplicably prays and talks about finding rest for the soul.
There’s a lot of sermon fodder in chapters 10-13, but this prayer in the middle bugs me. So does, for that matter, this business of Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden. You and I know how hard that yoke is and how heavy that burden is: could it be worse on the other side? And his intense statement about knowing the Father bugs me—it’s far too exclusive a club. And his thoughts about little children in the prayer bug me too—what do kids know? Jesus is saying something like, “What don’t kids know?”
Ultimately, however, I think that is the point: he is talking about recognizing something, someone in our midst, isn’t he? John may have been confused, but he was on the right track. Jesus says to him, “John, look what’s going on! The blind can see. The lame can walk. The unclean are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are alive. The good news is everywhere.” Then he says even children can figure this bit of nonsense out for themselves, “We play a flute, but you sit still. We sing a song, but you do not weep.” Jesus is shouting out: “Here I am! The One you have been waiting for and you are all missing it! You are so caught up in your own world that you cannot sing or dance or laugh or mourn. What sad people you are indeed.”
He says: “I did miracles in your cities and you missed it. Twice in these verses he gives props to Sodom and Gomorrah (10:15, 11:24)—ironically, the two places most Christians nowadays point to in order to prove God’s hatred of all things gay. Yet Jesus says those who lived in those places will get along better than most others. Strange. Strange that Jesus believed those who were most worthy of judgment and condemnation would most readily grasp what those who are right and good miss.
Then Jesus breaks out in praise and prayer: “Father I am glad for children. I am glad they have open eyes and see what adults do not. I am glad, happy, thrilled that you have revealed these things to those who can grasp them.” This stuff is so simple that even children can get it. Or, in the childlike heart and mind—the not too uppity—God reveals his good will and good pleasure. And the wise and learned ignore it.
I sense in these verses a joy that cannot be contained and yet is only marginally loosed. You sense it in Jesus: Go back and tell! Go back and dance! Go back and Praise and Pray! And when you get done reading about all the sickness and judgment in the world, come to me for rest. When you get sick and tired of trying to figure things out using all your wisdom, all your smarts, all your disbelief in the outrageous, come to me and I’ll help you figure it out; I’ll show you want you are looking for but will never find. I love Jesus’ short prayer here because it confirms what many of us know and believe but refuse to accept: wisdom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“In some objectifiably verifiable and convincing way, we want God to demonstrate his own existence. Deep in our hearts, I suspect that this is what all of us want, unbelievers no less than believers. And I have wondered sometimes what would happen if God were to do just that. What would happen if God did set about demonstrating his existence in some dramatic and irrefutable way?” (Frederick Buechner, “Message in the Stars”, in Secrets in the Dark, 16-17
Life, or whatever Jesus is talking about here, cannot be figured out by ignoring miracles or pretending they do not happen. It cannot be figured out by not dancing or not singing. It cannot be figured out by not eating or by not drinking. It, that is, ‘these things’, cannot be figured out by an appropriate ABAB single subject reversal study model. It cannot be figured out by hard work or by carrying around burdens we are not meant to carry. Jesus is saying here something to the effect of: If you want to figure out ‘these things’ they will only be made known as the Father reveals them in foolishness, and even then, to be sure, through me. Jesus says: I am revelation.
Something in here says to me: you cannot think your way to God. In a way, you have to embrace foolishness, wrap yourself in absurdity, traipse along with incredulity at this God who takes delight in revealing himself not to the wise and learned, but to the most foolish of the foolish: children (Gk. naypios; infants). This is God’s ‘good pleasure.’ This is the God who does things all backward like. God reveals himself to infants; God reveals himself in Jesus; God reveals himself through things we cannot believe or understand.
Thus Jesus concludes: God reveals himself in mercy, gentleness, humbleness. Can God do that? Why does God reveal himself to us in ways the world does not understand, in ways that we can scarcely appreciate, in ways we hardly approve?
If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
–Rich Mullins, Let Mercy Lead