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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Woe.

Matthew 11:20-30 starts with Jesus' "woe" to towns who didn't "repent", then has Jesus' prayer of thanks that truth was hidden from the "wise and learned" and revealed to children, and ends with an invitation to the "weary and burdened" to come to Jesus and find rest.

So yeah. We're going to see if it's all related or not.

Image source.

First, "Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent." He even makes comparisons with other "bad" towns, saying that even those people would have repented if they had seen the same miracles: Tyre and Sidon, Gentile towns of that time, and Sodom, which God destroyed back in the book of Genesis.

Discussion questions:

How are miracles connected to repentance? Jesus is saying that seeing these miracles SHOULD HAVE led to these towns repenting. Why? Because a miracle shows Jesus' power? Because it shows his compassion toward the sick? Because the ability to do miracles gives some credibility to his teaching/commands?

Was there some society-wide problem going on? Jesus talks about the concepts of repentance and judgment as they apply to an entire town. Was there some specific problem happening at a widespread, societal level?

If Jesus knew these other towns would have repented, why didn't he do miracles there? Does he just not care about Tyre and Sidon? Maybe he's just making a comparison/exaggeration and he's not ACTUALLY saying that Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they saw the miracles. Still, isn't that kind of cruel/racist to be like, "wow you're worse than THOSE people", even (especially?) if you just mean it as a comparison?

But then the next thing Jesus says: "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."

So... he gives these towns a hard time for not repenting, then turns around and is all happy about God "hiding" the truth.

Did Matthew/Jesus intend for these things to be connected? If so, that's kind of messed-up.

But anyway: Jesus says the Father has "hidden these things". What things?

Well the next few verses talk about the Son knowing the Father and revealing the Father to people. So I would say "these things" means truth about God and a relationship with God.

But I should be a little concerned about Jesus' "hidden these things from the wise and learned" bit. I am the wise and learned. Only 6.7% of the world population is college-educated, and I am part of that 6.7%. So what are you saying, Jesus?

He's saying that you don't have to be some elite rich educated person in order to know about God and to know God. Children can understand it. But see, this kind of confuses me. I've read a lot of apologetics stuff, a lot of arguments for Christianity and arguments for atheism, and I thought that I had to understand it all and figure it out, and the smartest person would be able to navigate all the arguments and evidence and come to the correct conclusion on whether or not God(s) exists, and what he/she/they are like if he/she/they do.

But in reality, everyone believes in their religion (or lack thereof) for a TON of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with the intellectual arguments. And that's fine.

The only thing is, how can God send people to hell for having the "wrong" beliefs, if you can't even necessarily get to the right beliefs through a lot of studying and arguments? (So yeah, that's one reason I'm questioning the idea of hell. Stay tuned and I might write a post about it.)

So I've kind of gotten off-topic; let's get back to what Jesus said in Matthew 11. "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Well that doesn't seem very nice, only revealing God the Father to some people...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Oh. Okay. An invitation to ALL. That's better.

And seriously, this is pretty great, these last few verses of Matthew 11. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

That's awesome. That's like my favorite verse. Right now I'm seriously wondering what it's doing in this passage about the "woes" and God hiding "things" from "the wise and learned." (Ideas, anyone?)

BUT ANYWAY like I was saying, this is one of my favorite verses. Jesus offers rest to the weary. And I believe he still offers that now.

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: What was up with John the Baptist? (Matthew 11:1-19)

Next post: From Now On, I'm Breaking the Rules (Matthew 12:1-14)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

1 comment:

  1. Although now that I think about it, the emphasis on knowledge is more in Paul's writings and the Gospel of John than the entire new testament.

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