Matthew 11:25-27

THE ACCENT OF AUTHORITY

Matt. 11:25-27

At that time Jesus said: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and the clever, and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for thus it was your will in your sight. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wishes to reveal his knowledge.”

Here Jesus is speaking out of experience, the experience that the Rabbis and the wise men rejected him, and the simple people accepted him. The intellectuals had no use for him; but the humble welcomed him. We must be careful to see clearly what Jesus meant here. He is very far from condemning intellectual power; what he is condemning is intellectual pride. As Plummer has it, “The heart, not the head, is the home of the gospel.” It is not cleverness which shuts out; it is pride. It is not stupidity which admits; it is humility. A man may be as wise as Solomon, but if he has not the simplicity, the trust, the innocence of the childlike heart, he shuts himself out.

The Rabbis themselves saw the danger of this intellectual pride; they recognized that often simple people were nearer God than the wisest Rabbi. They had a parable like this. Once Rabbi Berokah of Chuza was in the market of Lapet, and Elijah appeared to him. The Rabbi asked, “Is there among the people in this market-place anyone who is destined to share in the life of the world to come?” At first Elijah said there was none. Then he pointed at one man, and said that that man would share in the life of the world to come. Rabbi Berokah went to the man and asked him what he did. “I am a jailer,” said the man, “and I keep men and women separate. At night I place my bed between the men and the women so that no wrong will be committed.” Elijah pointed at two other men, and said that they too would share in the life to come. Rabbi Berokah asked them what they did. “We are merry-makers,” they said. “When we see a man who is downcast, we cheer him up.
Also when we see two people quarrelling with one another, we try to make peace between them.” The men who did the simple things, the jailer who kept his charges in the right way, the men who brought a smile and peace, were in the kingdom.

Again, the Rabbis had a story like this: “An epidemic once broke out in Sura, but in the neighbourhood of Rab’s residence (a famous Rabbi) it did not appear. The people thought that this was due to Rab’s merits, but in a dream they were told … that it happened because of the merits of a man who willingly lent hoe and shovel to someone who wished to dig a grave. A fire once broke out in Drokeret, but the neighbourhood of Rabbi Huna was spared. The people thought it was due to the merits of Rabbi Huna,…but they were told in a dream that it was due to the merits of a certain woman, who used to heat her oven and place it at the disposal of her neighbours.” The man who lent his tools to someone in need, the woman who helped her neighbours as she could had no intellectual standing, but their simple deeds of human love had won them the approval of God. Academic distinctions are not necessarily distinctions in the sight of God.

“Still to the lowly soul
He doth himself impart,
And for his dwelling and his throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.”

This passage closes with the greatest claim that Jesus ever made, the claim which is the centre of the Christian faith, that he alone can reveal God to men. Other men may be sons of God; he is The Son. John put this in a different way, when he tells us that Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). What Jesus says is this: “If you want to see what God is like, if you want to see the mind of God, the heart of God, the nature of God, if you want to see God’s whole attitude to men–look at me!” It is the Christian conviction that in Jesus Christ alone we see what God is like; and it is also the Christian conviction that Jesus can give that knowledge to anyone who is humble enough and trustful enough to receive it.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Chapters 11-28)

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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