5 July 2020Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
'Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.' (v. 29)
Psalm: Psalm 145
The backdrop to this passage is a frustrated Jesus as he seems to be getting nowhere in his mission with people failing to understand him or respond to his message. At the start of the passage Jesus uses the striking image of children at play – whether they try to get their friends to dance or to weep – nothing they did could get them to join in. Likewise the people of the villages around Capernaum criticised John the Baptist for leading the life of an ascetic. His words and his lifestyle were hard to take. Yet when Jesus comes he is criticised for being ‘normal’, for eating and drinking with everyone. Although he has performed many astonishing deeds, the people, whom he knew well, have remained unmoved. Jesus then admonishes the people and compares them unfavourably with the cities of Tyre and Sidon – their day of judgement will undoubtedly come!
Then Jesus changes tack, giving thanks that God has revealed himself not to the wise but to infants. He then speaks of his intimate relationship with the Father – a reminder to any who had ears to hear that human beings have no capacity of their own to know God – such knowledge is a gift. The final two verses of the passage end with an invitation – beginning with the familiar words, "Come unto me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest" and ending with the words above from verse 29. Here we have a reminder of the graciousness of God despite the stubbornness of people and a reminder of the gentleness of his call.
- This passage shows the Jews of Jesus’ time, indeed in his own locality, being very unwilling to be challenged or changed – whatever way that challenge comes to them. They are fixed in their own mindset unable to discern the moving of God. In post-COVID-19 times there will be a new situation around the world and in our own locality – are we open to the moving of God’s spirit in new and challenging ways within our church communities and in our witness to the world?
- The people in Capernaum and the villages around appear to have thought their righteousness unchallengeable. They had an ingrained culture of privileged access to God. In the debate which has ensued since the killing of George Floyd there has been a renewed discussion about white privilege. In what ways might this passage add to the debate, especially with reference to verse 25?