Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;

11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

(20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum,

will you be exalted to heaven?
    No, you will be brought down to Hades.

For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’)

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;

11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Now that we are more than a few contiguous Sunday’s back into listening to St. Matthew’s gospel each week (& shall be so without interruption through to the end of this church year in late November) I would like to recommend to you all again to read the  entirety of Matthew’s gospel in a single seating or if that’s too ambitious to have it read to you, I’d commend;
Doing so will give us a sense of the whole story as Matthew relates it, with a feeling for the major themes, instead of the chopped up perhaps disconnected fragments we get week by week in the lectionary readings.

Doing so will remind us of things like that Matthew is originally writing to & for a Jewish congregation & so for example Matthew intentionally & repeatedly compares Jesus to Moses. Some Biblical scholars refer to the Gospel of Matthew as the “teacher’s gospel.” Throughout the gospel, Jesus teaches. There is a particular emphasis on his teaching ministry, culminating in his also leaving the disciples with the mission directive to go into the world and teach all nations (28:20). This will be important in helping us understand Jesus’ invitation today to “learn from me”.

It’d also be appropriate to stop & take a moment to access & situate where we are in Matthew’s story. Contextually, last Sunday we heard Jesus who had just sent out his disciples in mission (10:5) proclaim, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (10:40). He concludes by identifying his disciples as the vulnerable little ones in need of refreshment, “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple —truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward (10:42) “. Which has implications for our understanding today’s , “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (11:25) & “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will refresh you” (11:28).

What Jesus says immediately before today’s reading is, 15 “Are you listening to me? Really listening?” -(” Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”).

Prophets like Jesus, like his predecessor John the baptizer, (& the ancient hebrew prophets -like Jeremiah in last Sunday’s first reading), (& then unsurprisingly like his missionary disciples too) are predictably met with resistance. Oft’times the Word from God isn’t what people are inclined to want to hear. We can be fickle as spoiled children. “Too Hot!” or “Too cold!”. “Are we there yet? I am bored!”. “We are not amused. “I am not playing with you anymore, I am taking my toys & going home!” “Me, me, me, now”-instant gratification. “My rights, my freedoms are being imposed upon”. Not attuned to nor appreciative of the privileges & opportunities, nor responsibilities to each other we’ve really got. There is no pleasing us. And it still doesn’t take much or long for our juvenile self indulgence to emerge either as is remarkably evident in our current world circumstances today.

So we ought not be surprised when the barely below the surface fractures in human nature are exposed & erupt.

“Are we listening ? Really listening?” Sometimes the Word from God isn’t “peace & prosperity” (Jeremiah 28:9) & to be faithful & authentic (“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (10:40)) just can’t be “peace & prosperity”. & sometimes it just must be said, even though there are consequences of proclaiming such (11:2; 10:16-25 & 10:34-39). Sometimes the Word from God necessarily must be “About face! (Warning!) Change course! Turn around! Repent!” (11:2024) as unpopular & disturbing as it may be. But will we listen?.
Remember – they said that John had a demon and that Jesus was a drunkard. The worldly wise will say these things. That’s because the great work is hidden from the folks who prosper from the status quo – the folks for whom the systems around them work just fine & in whose best interest that it continue undisturbed. And so the subversive work of the kingdom is instead revealed to infants – the innocent, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, the people pushed out to the edge.

Jesus invites us, take your place alongside me in this humble, great work of transformation. But don’t worry, even while the world rages around you, no matter what happens, the good news in today’s gospel is that we aren’t alone, you don’t have to take on the whole revolution by yourself. You’re yoked with the powers that shaped, hold & shake the universe.

It is worth our noticing the shift that occurs in the second half of today’s reading as Jesus invokes prayer, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (11:25,26).
The uniquely Matthean word today (compare to Luke 10:21-22) is in verses 28-30.

Christianity, discipleship, does not presume a troubleless existence. On the contrary, ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!’ (10:24-26). The invitation to come presumes the need for relief. The invitation is to the already burdened & encumbered. The learning teacher Jesus imparts to his disciples is hard wrought by his commitment to trusting relationship with Abba. There are consequences to being God’s spokesperson/prophet. The prophet Jeremiah goes into exile along with God’s folk & continues to minister from there too. John is imprisoned & decapitated. Jesus dies on the cross.

The invitation “come to me” cannot be understood as invitation into private isolation. The invitation “come to me” is invitation into communion/community. “Come to me all of you…” plural. Jesus builds community. Jesus is the hub of the community of disciples. Giving even greater depth to “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (10:40). This community particularly includes infants – the innocent, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, the people pushed out to the edge. Jesus who invites is specifically identified by the company he keeps! “Friend of despised, traitorous taxcollectors & reputed sinners”(11:19). This is identifying mark of the community of his disciples.

The command to “learn from me” (mathete ap’ emou) is related to the word for “disciple” (mathetes). The invitation to discipleship, however, is more than cognitive learning or overcoming a gap in knowledge; it is the adoption of a way of life, an apprenticeship, a discipline. And this way of life is expressed in terms of doing and being something in relation to Jesus, the Teacher. Jesus ultimately grounds the invitation in his relationship with his Father (verse 27). While the unwelcomed prophet identifies himself as friend of sinners & the despised (11:19).

Matt 11:25-26 is a Christological treasure. It reveals that Jesus is the revealer, it teaches that he is the source of abiding rest, and it tells us that he is humble and gentle. But Christology cannot be reduced to doctrine, or to facts about Jesus. It is rather an invitation to redirect our lives. When Jesus says, “learn from me,” he is calling us not just to read further in the Gospel or to mull over theological ideas but to incarnate in ourselves the virtues articulated by his words and exhibited in his actions. One learns of Jesus by doing, by living in his spirit and actualizing his imperatives. The truth of our Christological faith is in the living. To read about feeding the hungry is one thing; to feed them is quite another. As 28:16-20 has it, disciples are to do what Jesus has commanded.

The language here clearly recalls Moses’s own vocation (Exodus 33:12-17). To ease Moses’s anxiety about the uncertainty of the wilderness journey, God promises to accompany God’s people along the way: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). Being God’s people does not exclude wilderness journey but precisely the opposite. It is only through wilderness journey the people will come to know God’s faithful accompaniment.

This passage has a specific background in the hebrew scriptures. The declaration that the Father and the Son know each other in an exclusive fashion harkens back to Exodus 33, where God knows Moses and Moses prays that he might know God. In the Exodus passage, we also find the promise of rest (Exod 33:14: “I will give you rest”). Moreover, in deeming himself to be “gentle” (v. 29), Jesus is taking up a chief characteristic of Moses (see Num 12:3), and in speaking of his “yoke” (v. 29), Jesus is using a term often applied to the law given through Moses. So Matt 11:25-30, like so much of Matthew, presents the second redeemer, Jesus, as being like the first redeemer, Moses.

“Rest” may recall sabbath, Creation’s completion (Genesis 2:1-3). Rest (anapausis) in the Septuagint can refer to Sabbath rest, the rest of death, or rest from war when Israel’s enemies have been subdued. Rest also functions as an image of salvation, of what will be when the world is finally ordered according to God’s purposes and enjoys its full and complete Sabbath. In promising “rest,” Jesus promises life under God’s reign in the new world that he is bringing into being. It is not that Jesus invites us to a life of ease. Following him will be full of risks and challenges, as he has made abundantly clear. He calls us to a life of humble service.

To be yoked presumes burden, but it also presumes accompaniment.

As disciples, we do not simply attempt to duplicate the actions of an absent master; on the contrary, we rely on the ongoing presence of Jesus himself. As Matthew reminds us early on, Jesus bears the name of the one promised by the prophet Isaiah: Emmanuel, “God with us” (1:23). & likewise it is only fitting, that Matthew’s Gospel concludes not with Jesus’ departurebut with the assurance of his ongoing presence: “I am with you, even to the end of the age” (28:20). Jesus embodies God’s presence. He can make this invitation because “all authority in heaven and earth have been given to me” (28:18).

It is precisely in a life of discipleship, which includes the making of other disciples, community (28:19), that Jesus’ presence is guaranteed. Lest we forget who Jesus is, Matthew makes it clear from beginning to end: God with us, even to the end of the age!
The invitation is offered, but are we listening?

In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The Message:

16-19 “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

20 Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way.

21-24 “Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you. And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you.”

25-26 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”