This passage, which could be titled "the condemned and the accepted", records Jesus' condemnation upon unrepentant cities and his invitation to the weary.
v20. Jesus denounces the Jewish cities which have rejected the gospel. They have seen the signs, but have not repented. These words of reproach may well follow on from Jesus' recent Galilean mission.
v21-22. Korazin, near Capernaum, and Bethsaida, the home of Andrew, Peter and Philip, are singled out for condemnation. The "woe" (pity, alas) declares their loss. Tyre and Sidon, Phoenician cities to the North, are singled out as pagan cities which would have repented if they had received the same revelation from God.
v23-24. Alluding to Isaiah 14:15, Jesus compares Capernaum with Babylon, the epitome of evil. Their failure to repent will bring upon them the horror of "Hades"; they will be trapped in the place of the dead. Had the citizens of Sodom been given a comparable revelation from God, they would have repented and escaped the fire of divine retribution.
v25. Jesus now moves his attention from the condemned to the accepted. He addresses God as "Father", underlining his sense of sonship, and then praises Him for his sovereign act of revelation. The mysteries of the messianic age are revealed to "little children", the humble repentant ones, rather than the "wise". Only believers can unlock the secrets of the kingdom and access its blessings. This predestined act of divine sovereignty determines those who enter the kingdom. The blessings of the kingdom are not unlocked by the application of wisdom, power, status, goodness, piety......, but by humility. The "childlike", the lost and broken before God, those who seek divine mercy and forgiveness, only they "go home right before God."
v26. Jesus delights in his Father's gracious revealing and concealing, as does the Father himself.
v27. The task and authority of revealing the secrets of the kingdom are committed to Jesus by the Father. This knowledge belongs only to the Father and the Son. As a divine act of grace, the Son has decided to reveal this knowledge to those who seek it. So now, the secrets of the kingdom belong to believers, to the "little children", to the repentant ones. Note how these words are very similar in style to Jesus' words in John's gospel.
v28. Jesus now invites the "little children" to come to him for "rest". They are described as the "weary and burdened" ones. They are weighed down by law and sin. The function of the law is to expose sin, even make it more sinful. There is no relief from this burden; sin reigns and the curse of the law condemns. Jesus offers the lost and broken eternal rest in the presence of God.
v29-30. Jesus calls on the "little children" to take his "yoke", to take to themselves the divine revelation he proclaims, namely, the gospel. He calls on them to set aside the yoke of the law and replace it with the yoke of grace. Listen to the message Jesus brings, the message of the free and gracious offer of salvation to all who reach out to God through him. This revelation is kindly and gentle, it is an easy yoke (good and comfortable); a light burden. It comes from a kind and gentle man, so how could it be otherwise?
In our passage for study, Jesus says that "no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Does Jesus actually choose those he intends to reveal himself to, those who will find rest for their souls?
The notion that God determines those who are destined for damnation and those who are destined for salvation, has always disturbed potential seekers. Today, baby-boomers, a generation that tends toward the social agenda of the left, find the idea of spiritual discrimination quite repugnant.
The Jews assumed that God's selection of his children was determined because of their family association with Abraham, and that this selection was maintained by a willing obedience to the Law. Many protestants align with Calvin's notion of the effectual call, the second point of Calvinism - unconditional election: God's choice of certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world. Sacramentalists, on the other hand, hold that the basis of selection rests on a believer's inclusion in holy mother church through the sacrament of baptism. And so the theories run on.
From our passage for study we learn that Jesus chooses to reveal himself to anyone who comes to him; to the weary and burdened he promises rest for the soul. He gives "rest" to "all" who "come" to him. What the "Son chooses" to do is reveal the mystery of salvation to broken humanity; he is not into choosing to reveal divine mysteries to particular individuals. So, as far as Jesus is concerned, the criteria for selection is not based on any of the above theories, nor is it based on wealth, religious piety, wisdom, effort, v25. God has determined that repentance is the basis of selection. The criteria for God's selection is an acceptance of his gentle favor freely offered in Jesus.
1. Why is Capernaum judged?
2. Define the "weary", the "rest", and the "yoke". How is it that the yoke gives the weary rest?
3. Who does the Son choose to reveal God to? Define "reveal" first.
4. Is God into discrimination? cf. v26. Discuss.