Sermon

Sermon by Revd Peta May – 5 July 2020

Matthew 11:16 -19;   25 – 30

The good news called for a response on the part of God’s people: “Jesus called people to repent of their sin; he offered forgiveness to the penitent; and he summoned people to become his disciples. To accept the good news of the rule of God meant, accepting Jesus as Lord. This was a new way of life that Jesus had come to bring.

In his challenge “he used the Old Testament commandments to love God and one’s neighbour and filled them with new life and vigour”

Verses 16-17

Matthew’s passage this week is a powerful reminder of this Good News: The kingdom of Heaven is present among us. However, the presence of this kingdom calls for a response on the part of those to whom it has been revealed. That means us. The appropriate response is to welcome it through acceptance and participation. This passage also details the benefits of this kind of response. Those who welcome the kingdom will be set free, to enjoy a similar kind of relationship that Jesus enjoys with the Father.

Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, challenges the wise and the learned. He confronts the better-than-thou attitude of the teachers of the law. He teaches that the kingdom of heaven concerns itself not only with the rich, the powerful and the influential, but is also available to the poor, the weak and the dispossessed – the little ones.

This is revolutionary idea for those who have put themselves above the rest of us, on the grounds of how powerful they are in their own eyes. It is also revolutionary for those who have come to accept their low station in life and to pity themselves. Jesus says in the kingdom of heaven. All are received and accepted equally and unconditionally.

Jesus’ message focused on the good news of the kingdom of Heaven. Remember in the Old Testament Scriptures, the prophets of God spoke about a future era in which God would act decisively by setting God’s kingdom over Israel. The people of God came to associate this hope with the coming of a Saviour who would set them free from all the forces of oppression social, political, and economic, especially from the oppression of the Romans.

Jesus expresses distress and grief over an unresponsive generation. He laments the fact that those to whom the kingdom of heaven has been revealed have not accepted it.

Jesus does this by using a parable that depicts two groups of children. He compares the people to petulant children who refuse to co-operate, they are given music and they refuse to dance; so they are called to join mourners and show sadness, and they still refuse.

John the Baptists contempories were apposed to his self denying practice of living modestly. They labled him demon possesed. On the other hand, Jesus whole heartedly enjoyed life in the company of the despised tax collectors and sinners. This was also not acceptable to the opposition. They labelled him a glutton and a drunkard.

John lived a gloomy, sincere, stern and lonely life (as if in mourning) and Jesus lived a lively, vibrant and sociable life (as if in a wedding feast) yet “this generation” Matthew 11:16 tells us that both practices were condemned. By their actions the people heeded not the warning of impending doom (represented by John’s ministry) nor did they responded gracious to the invitation to the banquet of the king (represented by Jesus’ ministry), hence the reference to mourning and dancing (Mt. 11: 17).

V 25 – 27 Jesus spoke these words;

Jesus maintains that God the Father conceals and reveals according to his will.

People cannot grasp a Christian understanding of God and Christian relationship with God by their own efforts. They cannot discern who Jesus is, what the kingdom is, unless God shows them. He conceals these things from those who are wise in their own conceits, and reveals them to those who come with child­like trust and teachableness.

Whenever anyone comes to faith, there is a divine disclosure to that person.

Jesus claims to be the (unrestricted power of God) like a diplomat he representative the Father. He comes from the Father’s side, equipped with the Father’s power and tenacity, and displaying the compassion of the Father’s heart. He fully represents God, and he comes with God’s own claim on human hearts.

Jesus says that, only the Father fully understands Jesus. Not John, not the disciples, not the wise or little children. The mystery of his person is inscrutable this side of heaven.

Theologians have spent centuries seeking to reconcile his divine and human natures.

It is like trying to square the circle. With the limited discernment of the human mind and heart it cannot be done. It takes God to know God.

Only the Father knows the Son. What an amazing claim!

Only Jesus fully understands the Father. Great people have discovered and taught many true and noble things about God. But nobody has known God with the intimacy of Jesus, who has the privilege of calling God Abba, dear daddy.

Jesus’ claim in this passage. ‘No-one knows the Father except the Son’ (27). He does not know something about God. He know everything about God. He knows God absolutely.

It is simply breath taking.

Because Jesus shares the Father’s nature as well as ours, Jesus and Jesus alone can reveal the Father. He can show us, because he knows. He can introduce us because he belongs: Jesus is the Son.

These elements go to make up the most astounding claim that has ever been heard on human lips, that the way to know the Father. Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’, and ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  

If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. If you want to get through to God, come to Jesus.

If you want to discover the epicentre of God’s self-disclosure, you will find it in Jesus.

So Jesus, after making this claim to be the revelation of God, Jesus issues the most wonderful, warm invitation to all who feel in need of being rescued by God (28-29). Notice again the breath taking claim, ‘Come to me’ (28).

Not  ‘Go to God’ – we could not find the way.  ‘Come to me – I have come to seek you out.’

What grace, that God should come to seek us out without a word of condemnation, but an invitation, ‘Come’! That one word shows us the very heart of God.

That is his attitude to sinners.

(28-29). The yoke was the wooden collar that ran across the shoulders of a pair of oxen and enabled them jointly to pull enormous weights. Often in Judaism the image of the ‘yoke’ is applied to the law.? Jesus brings a wonderful fulfilment to that imagery. He invites the weary and harassed not to go to the law, but to come to him. We can lighten our own burdens when we are prepared to share our burden with Jesus, and enter into partner­ship with him. Jesus not only wants to welcome the sinner back, but to train the disciple.

‘Come to me’ is followed by ‘Take my yoke upon you’  I will share your burden.

The weary and the heavily burdened are particularly invited. The significance of these word are very interesting, they apply to the Greeks who were exhausted by their search for truth, which had been going on for centuries without resolution.  As for the Jews, they must have found religion a great burden. It had become a matter of endless laws regulations and duties.

All burdens are lightened when we share them. At this time of the Covid 19 pandemic we need to take our burden to our Saviour Jesus Christ in prayer. The indecisive officials, the growing poor and hungry and the mismanagement of money. Are problems we can not solve by ourselves. So praying through our saviour Jesus Christ to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit is our strongest weapon.

Through his life, example and teaching, Jesus showed that this era that the people had been hoping for had already dawned upon the earth. He showed that he is the long-awaited deliverer of God’s people. Through Jesus, God has already begun to intervene in history. But it was not in the way that the people had expected. Jesus was not a warrior. He did not use violence and force to assert his authority. Instead, he healed the sick, he provided for the poor, he befriended the outcasts, and he preached salvation.

This is God acting through the ministry of Jesus.       

This is the Good News.

Amen

Revd Peta May

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