SET-2 Season of Elijah-Cross-Moses
Jesus faced rejection from the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where he focused his preaching and mighty works of mercy. He reproached them for their unwillingness to repent and become part of the kingdom of God he established. They were benefit-oriented for their temporal needs and ignored his offer of eternal salvation. The scribes and the Pharisees who led the people were misguiding them and deviating them from the love and mercy of God. Since Jesus came as the way, the truth, and the life, his teachings and lifestyle differed from these Jewish groups. Hence, Jesus faced opposition from them. However, ordinary people, and those whom the elite groups discriminated, welcomed Jesus, and embraced his kingdom.
In this context, Jesus praised his Father in public, acknowledging the Father’s divine wisdom to hide the mysteries of the Kingdom of God from the wise and the learned, like the scribes and the Pharisees who were self-glorious. He glorified God for revealing the mysteries to the childlike, including the gentiles, the publicans, the tax collectors, and the ordinary people. Jesus had the freedom to select the recipients of the secrets of the kingdom. He invited the suffering people to find rest in him. He also offered his less burdensome yoke of God’s commandments compared to the heavy ones the scribes and the Pharisees imposed on the people.
BIBLE TEXT: MATTHEW 11:25-30
The Praise of the Father
(Mt 11:25) At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. (26) Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. (27) All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
The Gentle Mastery of Christ
(Mt 11:28) “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
While John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” The reply of Jesus was, “Go and tell John what you hear and see” (Mt 11:2-6). Jesus then testified, saying, “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11) and “he is Elijah, the one who is to come” (Mt 11:14). Jesus reproached the unrepentant towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. If his preaching and mighty works had happened in the gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, and the sinful city of Sodom, they would have repented. They will be in a better position at the last judgement than the cities that showed no repentance after his ministry (Mt 11:20-24). Compared to the wise people who rejected his message, Jesus praised God for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of God to the childlike.
The Praise of the Father
(Mt 11:25) At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
At that time Jesus said in reply
After Jesus criticized the Jewish leaders for their non-cooperation with his mission and the unrepentant towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, he clarified how God was gracious to the simple-hearted and childlike people who believed what Jesus taught. Thus, Jesus replied to an issue he himself brought up.
“I give praise to you, Father”
As the only begotten Son of God, Jesus addressed God as his Father. Jesus gave the same privilege to his disciples to call God their Father. In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, he asked them to address God as “Our Father” and to praise God, saying: “hallowed be thy name” (Mt 6:9). Jesus’ response to the Jewish leaders and the noncooperative cities was a prayer praising the Father for the positive feedback he received from the ordinary people. Jesus praised, glorified, and thanked his Father for the divine plan and the support he received from Him during his ministry.
“I give praise to you, Father”
Praise to God is the proper honor to Him, acknowledging his greatness and our submission. Through his exemplary prayer, Jesus showed how the Lord deserves our praise and we are bound to do it. The Psalmist says: “Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name; make known among the peoples his deeds! Sing praise to him, play music; proclaim all his wondrous deeds! Glory in his holy name; let hearts that seek the LORD rejoice! Seek out the LORD and his might; constantly seek his face” (Ps 105:1-4). Paul instructs: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Lord of heaven and earth,
The Bible starts with the genesis of the heaven and earth that are God’s creation through his Word (Jn 1:1-3) that took the human form in Jesus. He acknowledges the Father as the creator and preserver of heaven and earth. The psalm says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands” (Ps 19:2). “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing of his glorious name; give him glorious praise” (Ps 66:2). “For the LORD is the great God, the great king over all gods, Whose hand holds the depths of the earth; who owns the tops of the mountains. The sea and dry land belong to God, who made them, formed them by hand” (Ps 95:3-5). The people who ignore God are honoring the false gods, God’s creations like the sun and moon, or trusting in the blessings they received without acknowledging God who provides them. Jesus was also educating his listeners through his prayer of thanksgiving to the Father.
for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned
The wise and the learned that Jesus referred here are the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Scribes were experts and interpreters of the Holy Scripture and hence the public considered them as learned. The Pharisees were the elite Jews who had separated themselves from the ordinary people in their strict religious observances. The Sanhedrin comprised members of these groups and the Sadducees, who considered themselves as learned and wise in religious matters. Though they were preparing themselves and others for the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom, they could not recognize that in the teachings and mighty works of Jesus.
for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned
According to Jesus, the Scriptural learning and worldly wisdom of the scribes and the Pharisees did not help them understand the divine secrets of the kingdom of God. Their pride and over-esteem made them blind to recognize the Messiah who came as the Savior and humble servant of God.
Paul wrote to Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside’” (1 Cor 1:18-19). According to Isaiah, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own view!” (Isa 5:21). “Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the LORD and turn away from evil” (Prov 3:7). God revealed his secrets of salvation not to the self-righteous and proud, but to the meek and the humble of the heart.
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Who are the childlike? In the present context, they are those who have spiritual qualities with resemblance to children’s characteristics.
Like children, they are not self-reliant. They trust in God.
Like children who believe in what the parents say, the disciples believe in what Jesus taught.
Like obedient children, the disciples practice what Jesus teaches.
Like children, they are aware of their helplessness, and they trust in the power and support of God.
Like children, the disciples must be innocent.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus placed a child in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me” (Mt 18:1-5). Thus, Jesus gave importance to the humility in children, and even identified himself with the qualities of a child. Jesus had all the fine qualities of a child in his relationship with his Father. The apostles are the typical examples of the childlike. Trusting in Jesus, they left everything they had, accompanied him with trust, faith, and obedience.
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Jesus revealed the secrets of the kingdom of God more to his disciples than to the public. Jesus clarified, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted” (Mt 13:11). Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand’” (Mt 13:13; Isa 6:9-10).
Besides God’s revelations in the Old Testament, He revealed the identity of Jesus to John the Baptist when he baptized Jesus, proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 13:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22). When Simon Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed his to you, but my heavenly Father” (Mt 16:16-17). The Father again revealed Jesus to Peter, James, and John during the transfiguration of Jesus with a voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 17:5). Hence, revelation came from the Father during the Old and New Testament times, and from Jesus during his earthly life.
Paul wrote to Corinthians: “Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:26-29).
(26) Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
Jesus revealed through his prayer that it was God’s will to hide the mysteries of the Kingdom of God from the wise and the learned, and to reveal them to the childlike. That is the Father’s kindliness to the humble and obedient children of God. During the Old Testament times also, God communicated his plans of salvation to the humble and obedient people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets.
In the canticle of Mary, she presented how God lifted the humble. “He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness … His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:48-53).
Jesus always honored the will of his Father. He knew that the Father, in his wisdom, was gracious and honored the humble and faithful people. Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father. Paul wrote about Jesus, “he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During his agony in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). When Jesus subjected to the will of the Father, God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen him (Lk 22:43).
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus included “thy will be done” for us to wish and pray. Like Jesus subjected to the will of the Father, he wants us also to be submissive to His will.
(27) All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
Jesus revealed his authority over everything in the world that his Father benevolently entrusted to him. “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him” (Jn 3:35). After the resurrection of Jesus, he appeared to the eleven disciples in Galilee on a mountain and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Mt 28:18-19).
No one knows the Son except the Father
The Son is unique because he is the second person of the Holy Trinity. His birth was from a virgin; he came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world; he taught with authority; his mighty works were par excellent than any other prophets; he willfully took up suffering and death, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven in the presence of his disciples. Understanding Jesus was far beyond reasoning. With faith alone, we shall comprehend him partially in this world. While introducing himself as the good shepherd, Jesus said, “the Father knows me and I know the Father” (Jn 10:15).
Since Jesus was God who took human shape, only the believers could understand him. The revelation on the Son and faith in him are gifts from God to His chosen people. The scribes and Pharisees, who had only a minimum understanding of the Messiah, misunderstood Jesus Christ and misguided the people.
and no one knows the Father except the Son
John the Evangelist recorded, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (Jn 1:18). He continued, “The one who comes from above is above all. … He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy” (Jn 3:31-33). During the bread of life discourse, Jesus said, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father” (Jn 6:46). Hence, only Jesus could reveal the Father with full knowledge.
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
Jesus had the freedom to select those who should listen to him and benefit from his mighty works. Though Jesus denied no one who approached him for help, he had to avoid cities like Nazareth, Gadarenes, and a Samaritan village. The people of his native place in Nazareth took offense at Jesus. Hence, “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk 6:5). After Jesus healed two demoniacs in Gadarenes by expelling the demons to a herd of swine, “the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district” (Mt 8:34). On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus had to pass through a Samaritan village. He sent messengers ahead of him to prepare for his reception there. The villagers declined to welcome Jesus because his destination was Jerusalem. So, he journeyed to another village (Lk 9:51-56). Because of the negative attitude of the Jewish leaders, he could not convert and offer them salvation.
When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, he instructed them, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:5-6). “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet” (Mt 10:14). “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt 10:23). Hence, Jesus does not want a forced evangelization. He and his church offer the means of salvation. The people have the freedom to accept or reject it.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared only to the people of his choice. Paul wrote, “He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me” (1 Cor 15:5-8).
The Gentle Mastery of Christ
(Mt 11:28) “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
all you who labor and are burdened
Jesus came to the world when the spiritually blind leaders were leading the spiritually b23:ind people (Mt 15:14). He told the crowds and his disciples about the scribes and the Pharisees who sat on the chair of Moses: “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:1-4). These leaders had criticized Jesus for not following strict practices of the Sabbath and traditional observances. However, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). Jesus wanted to clean up the man-made traditions and burdensome laws. He brightened the spirit buried underneath the unnecessary observances. Unlike others who preferred to take care of the ninety-nine in the sheepfold when one was lost, Jesus went in search of the lost one (Lk 15:4-7). That made Jesus different.
Come to me
People were confused about who was right: Jesus or the Jewish leaders. They thought the scribes and the Pharisees were preparing them for the Messiah and leading them to God. When Messiah came, they opposed him. However, Jesus taught he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). He welcomed the public sinners, the tax collectors, the sick, the demoniacs and others who were suffering, disregarded, or hated by the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus welcomed such less fortunate people to him for their spiritual and physical healing and peace. He expressed God’s love in action.
and I will give you rest.
While the scribes and the Pharisees hated the sinners and the sick, Jesus gave them recovery, consolation, and peace. Thus, they could find hope and peace in the words and actions of Jesus.
Life became burdensome because of the sin of the first parents. After their sin, God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:17-19). Jesus came to compensate for this original sin and to restore the stage before the fall. He offered his life as a ransom for our salvation.
(29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
Take my yoke upon you
Yoke is a wooden beam or frame tied to the humans or animals to pull heavy objects. That was an old practice of farming and moving wagons or carriages.
In the Biblical sense, the yoke is a metaphor for slavery or captivity because the owners forced the slaves to work with the yoke on them. It could also mean a heavy burden imposed on the people. During the reign of Solomon, he levied an oppressive tax on the people for his construction projects. After the king’s death, “Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and they said to Rehoboam, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us. If you now lighten the harsh servitude and the heavy yoke your father imposed on us, we will be your servants’” (1 Kgs 12:3-4). Jeremiah made thongs and yoke bars and put them on his shoulders (Jer 27:2) to warn the people of Judah about the upcoming slavery in Babylon for them.
Instead of the heavy yoke the scribes and the Pharisees imposed on the people, Jesus invited his listeners to accept his lighter yoke. That is the new covenant of sacrificial love that he established. Yoke of Jesus is not a forced labor, but our freewill submission to him obeying his teachings.
We are under the yoke when someone or something controls us. It can be an addiction, sin, or people who manipulate us. So, Paul warned Corinthians, “Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14). “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). We cannot avoid “yoke” altogether because we must rely on others and systems in our lives. If we pull the yoke with Christ as our pair, he will help us move forward with ease. Then it will be a relief than a burden. He is the support whom we can trust and who will guide us to his Father, our ultimate destination. Thus, Jesus offered a lighter and helpful yoke to replace the burdensome religious practices of the Pharisees.
learn from me
The teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees were misguiding like the blind leading the blind. They gave their own interpretation of the law and imposed that on the people, making their lives burdensome with unnecessary practices that God did not intend. According to Jesus, “they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen” (Mt 23:3-5). Thus, the practice of Mosaic Law, including observance of the Sabbath and ceremonial washings, became burdensome. They were blocking the passage to salvation. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter” (Mt 23:13). Their negative approach toward the poor and the sinners made them abandon like lost sheep. “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36).
Teachings of Jesus, unlike that of the scribes, was with authority. So, the crowds were astonished at his teaching (Mt 7:28-29). Only Jesus could tell the truth about God and heaven. “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life” (Jn 6:46-47). During the last supper, Jesus said to Thomas: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Hence, Jesus invited the people to listen to him and learn from him the truth rather than the false teachings of the then religious leaders. “Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (Jn 8:31-32).
I am meek and humble of heart
This is in contrast to the attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus said, “They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’” (Mt 23:5-7). Jesus was humble from birth to death. “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). He washed the feet of his disciples during the last supper to show himself as a role model to the apostles.
Jesus had compassion for the people who were sick, suffering, and in distress. He used his divine power to heal the sick, multiply food to feed the hungry, raise the dead, and calm the sea. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick” (Mt 14:14). Once “Jesus summoned his disciples and said, ‘My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way’” (Mt 15:32). When Jesus saw a widow whose only son’s funeral procession was taking place, “He was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Lk 7:13). He then regained his life. At the death of Lazarus, Jesus saw his sister Mary and the Jews who had come with her weeping. “He became perturbed and deeply troubled. …And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him’” (Jn 11:33-36). Thus, Jesus shared the sentiments of the people.
and you will find rest for yourselves.
During his agony, Jesus found relief in his prayer. He subjected to the will of God and gained strength and glory from the Father. When Jesus realized his hour has come for his suffering, death, and glorious resurrection, he expressed in public, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again’” (Jn 12:27-28). At the garden of Gethsemane, he said to the apostles, “My soul is sorrowful even to death” (Mt 26:38). However, by subjecting to the will of God, he gained relief from the Father.
Jesus promised peace for those in trouble if they approach him in faith and hope. Jesus told his disciples, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:32-33). The resurrection and ascension of Jesus guarantee our victory as well, provided we follow him. That hope gives us relief and peace. The promise of Jesus is like God spoke to Israel through Isaiah: “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isa 41:10).
Paul wrote: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Peter advised the young Christians: “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7).
(30) “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
While the yoke of the scribes and the Pharisees was heavy, Jesus offered another one that was easy and light to carry. They made the observances of the commandments too tough that people found them difficult to practice and those lacked love and mercy of God. Thus, the essence of the commandments and genuine spirit behind them were missing. “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn 5:3).
When Jesus said his yoke was easy, it referred to how it would be beneficial to the one who carries it. Jesus summarized all the commandments of God in one word: love. That means the love of God and fellow humans. That lightens the burdens of the heart. Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus has carried the burdensome cross for us. He invites us to follow him with a lighter cross that is easy to carry when we accompany him with ours. The yoke we carry will be the natural difficulties we face when we work for the kingdom of God or our Christian responsibilities in the family and in the society.