Here is the context for the Holy Gospel: In the rest of chapter eleven, Christ was facing opposition.
He described those who opposed Him as children sitting in the marketplace, calling out, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance. We mourned to you, and you did not lament.” This means that some Jews did not receive the teaching of either John the Baptist or Christ. Instead, they took offense at the behavior of Jesus and John. John did not eat or drink, and they said, “He has a demon.” Christ ate and drank, and they said, “A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
Christ went on to describe the opposition of cities that rejected Him. Chorazin and Bethsaida witnessed many of His miracles, but they refused to repent. The people of Capernaum thought that they were spiritual and destined to be exalted to heaven. But they would be brought down to Hades, according to Christ, because they did not pay attention to His mighty works.
Surely people were noticing the increasing opposition Christ faced. Perhaps they were whispering that, in spite of His impressive wisdom, Christ was getting nowhere with His preaching. Whole towns ignored Him, and some people were increasingly critical or outright hostile to Him.
So we come to the Holy Gospel. Christ seems to be answering such criticisms. The so-called wise people of the world were not receiving Him. But instead of being sad and moping around, Christ praises His Father in heaven. The Father had hidden the truths of the Kingdom of heaven from the wise and prudent, and had revealed them to little babes.
Now, it is not that the people who reject Christ are really wise. If they were, then they would receive Him and repent and listen to His teaching. But since they do not, then their wisdom is really only an appearance of wisdom. It is a wisdom that the world likes, but is not wisdom in the sight of the Father. Instead, these are people with the world’s wisdom, but not the Father’s wisdom.
But do not draw the conclusion from this passage that the Father or Christ do not want everyone to be saved. Christ says, “Father, you have hidden this from the wise.” This is not to say that the Father keeps people from being saved. He does not even want the worldly wise people to perish. He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. But no one will be saved by false wisdom. To be saved, they must not trust their own wisdom, but the Father’s. So as long as they are clinging to their own wisdom, they make themselves blind to the truth of the Father, which is Christ. The Father allows them to remain blind, indeed, He increases their blindness so that perhaps they can realize how blind they are.
In the end, anyone who is saved is not saved by any quality in themselves. Human wisdom does not make a person any closer to the kingdom of heaven. The opposite is false as well. A person who is foolish in the eyes of the world is not necessarily any closer to the kingdom. No one can be saved by their own qualities, whether it is wisdom or foolishness.
But the foolish have this advantage: If they realize that they are not wise, then perhaps they will know that they need something outside of themselves. Such humility will at least not cling to its own pride to the exclusion of the Gospel. So such people may yet repent and believe.
As long as the so-called wise cling to their wisdom, they will push away the Gospel. They need a complete change of heart to repent and turn to the Father. Yet even this the Spirit of God can do through His Word.
Are we ashamed to be seen as babes by the world? Are we ashamed to be thought of as foolish and stupid? Make no mistake: The sinful people of this world will think of you as idiots if they know you are Christians. They may be friendly to you if think that you don’t REALLY believe that fairy tale stuff, as they see it. Or they may act like they do not care what anyone believes, although they really do, whether they know it or not. Or they may act friendly to your face but have contempt for you secretly in their heart. But one way or another, they will think of you as mental babies. They hated Christ, they will hate you.
Be prepared to be treated with contempt. Be prepared to be looked down upon because you trust in Christ.
On the other hand, do not take this passage as a call for you to strive to be deliberately foolish. You have plenty of folly in your human nature to spare; we all do. You do not need to add to it. Do not, for example, make yourself deliberately ignorant of the Word of God. Then you may make friends with the world. But you will be pushing away Christ. Instead, seek the true wisdom, but make yourself foolish with regard to the world’s ways.
Sometimes the so-called wise people are in the church. Sometimes they think that they have Christianity all figured out, and they have mastered all that they ever need. These self-wise people locate wisdom inside themselves, rather than in the Father. Be careful of this, because it is a seductive trap for Christians.
To be a babe in the faith means always knowing that your Father is the wise one, not you. Although you strive for wisdom, it is only His wisdom that is passed to you through His Word. Of yourself, you are always foolish. Apart from your Father, you are liable to stumble into all kinds of foolish paths.
So even if you should feel that you have attained all the wisdom that you think you can, then pray, “Father, I thank you because I know that all I have is from you, and of myself I am nothing.” Or better yet, pay attention to your life and see all the foolish things you do. Then you will not bother to even think about what you have attained. Instead, then your prayer will be, “Father, I am amazed that you have not cast away such a great fool as myself. But be patient with me and forgive my foolishness.” That is a better prayer. To such humble hearts, the Father reveals Himself and gives repentance and the true Wisdom, which is His Son.
Christ, the Wisdom of God, says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This is the usual way of translating the verse. It highlights that Christ, the humble One, will give you rest because He is so gentle and lowly. He does not afflict the humble and weak. Instead, He gives rest and a light yoke.
There is truth here, but the more likely translation reads, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, THAT I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” What we are to learn is what Christ is like. He is gentle and lowly. He did not come to crush sinners as we deserve. He did not come to boast and glory in Himself. Far from being one of the worldly wise people, He was not ashamed to be thought of as a fool, and far worse things. He faced the shame, all to purchase us as His possession.
Christ was willing to be seen as foolish because He followed the wisdom of His Father, which leads to rejection and suffering. He could have shone out to the world with all His majesty, and every knee would have been forced to bow down. Then there would have been no shame, no pain, no crucifixion, and no resurrection. But for those things He came. The Wisdom of God followed the strange path that seemed least wise to our common sense. He followed it to the goal, which is salvation and eternal life for us.
Therefore we find rest for our souls because Christ is gentle and lowly in heart. We learn from Him that we have a better life coming, which is the fruit of Christ’s humility. We learn that we can face the same kind of path as Christ – first shame in this life, then a life of glory to come. We know that all we suffer is temporary.
So your rest is coming. It will not always be so in this life. His easy yoke and light burden do not always feel that way to us. But be patient and follow the path. It is the best path, upon which your dear Lord first traveled. Keep your eyes on Him and learn from Him. He will show you that He took the heaviest part of the burden. He will show you His gentleness by which you know that He will not destroy you. These burdens you suffer now are from the gentle hand of Him who loves you more than you can imagine. He sympathizes and knows your pain, and far worse besides. He also paid a tremendous price for you. He will not cast you aside as if you are some cheap trinket of little value. No, He followed the path of shame because He treasures you. Therefore you can endure your burdens with the knowledge of His love.
And this same Lord give you His gifts of patience and endurance through His Spirit, as you learn from Him. Amen.
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