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Revelation reserved for the foolish, or the provocation of Jesus

KUL Heschel Center / 09.07.2023
PhotoCredit_KUL Heschel Center
PhotoCredit_KUL Heschel Center

As the Greek text says, the nepioi have insights into the revelation of Jesus. The expression has a double meaning: positive as an infant, a child, and more pejorative as simple, simple-minded, uneducated, and unwise. Saying that it is not reserved for the wise scholars of the Law but for simpletons is a particular provocation of Jesus, writes Father Andrzej Tulej, Ph.D., lecturer in Sacred Scripture at the Catholic Academy in Warsaw, in a commentary for the Heschel Center of the Catholic University of Lublin for Sunday, July 9.

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “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 little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 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. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Mt 11:25-30

Jesus’ statement is first a praise of God. The prayer is addressed to the “Father, Lord of heaven and earth” – God is not only the Creator, but also the Lord of history, and the reason for the praise is the revelation of God. Jesus glorifies God for revealing Himself to the little ones/simpletons while remaining hidden to the wise. In the Jewish wisdom tradition, the truly wise were not those who pretended to be wise in their own eyes and relied on their reason but simple people for whom the most important reference point was the fear of God.

The revelation is brought not so much by the MosaicLaw but by Jesus himself. It focuses on the person of Jesus, his words, and his deeds. The fact that the revelation is reserved not for the wise scholars of the Law but for the simple is a particular provocation of Jesus. As the Greek text says, the nepioi have insights into the revelation of Jesus. The expression has a double meaning: positive as an infant, a child, and more pejorative as simple, simple-minded, uneducated, and unwise.

The words used to describe Jesus give him authority usually only attributed to God in Jewish sources. As the One who revealed God, He occupies the position that in Jewish tradition was traditionally held by the Divine Wisdom.

Two statements express the relationship between the Father and Son: the Father “handed over,” and the Son “knows.” Jesus is the One to whom everything has been handed over from the Father – all authority and knowledge. The Father-Son relationship is also expressed in mutual and exclusive knowledge. Only the Father knows the Son, and vice versa. In their mutual cognition, the unity of Jesus with the Father is accomplished. The mystery of the Son is that through Him, God reveals Himself as Father. The Son reveals the Father to whomever he wishes. The Son reveals the Father with all His actions. His every act/deed of “power” toward people reveals God’s will and intention toward all humanity.

After Jesus pointed out the limited number of those “to whom the Son wishes to reveal” Father, he extended his invitation to all, especially the afflicted and burdened. According to the Bible, only God gives rest to the afflicted. An ordinary teacher could not make such a promise. After the harsh words addressed earlier to the Galilean cities, Jesus indicates that Israel’s access to God is still open. What weighs down are the burdens imposed on the people by the scholars and Pharisees. To those so “burdened,” Jesus Himself promises solace.

Jesus commands us to take His yoke. The yoke was usually worn on the shoulders. In Judaism, the yoke was an image of obedient submission. The Jews spoke of carrying the yoke of God’s Law, the yoke of the commandments, and the yoke of His kingdom – a yoke that was taken by recognizing that God is one and keeping His commandments. The promise about finding solace for the soul was taken from the Book of Jeremiah, where God promises to withhold His wrath if people turn to His words instead of listening to false teachers.

Why is the Law imposed by the Pharisees a burden, while what Jesus commands is “an easy yoke” and a “burden/weight light”? According to Matthew, the “lightness” comes from the fact that Jesus is the one imposing it. The evangelist is thinking of the example of Jesus, who embodied the Father’s will in his life and thus fulfilled the Law. Jesus lives what he teaches. This example he sets makes His yoke “light and easy.” Jesus, therefore, does not absolve from all moral obligations. His requirements, contained, for example, in the Sermon On The Mount (Matthew 5-7), are more radical than the requirements of the Mosaic Law. However, the Teacher who imposes them, unlike the scribes, is “meek and humble of heart.”


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