How do we know?

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 the childlike. 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.” (Mt 11:25-27)

The “wise and learned” are not named, but I suspect they are the folks in the towns mentioned in yesterday’s gospel: “Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!’”  Too wise and learned to be taken in by that huckster from Galilee.

Yet some folks do recognize Jesus. But on what basis? Clearly not superior religious status or individual intelligence. As Jesus makes clear, it is by revelation, as the gift of the God to those who are open and unpretentious. The childlike have no status in society, thus no recognized basis for claiming knowledge of God, yet they are the very ones to whom the divine revelation is given as a gift of the Father’s gracious will (v.26).

It is important to note that Jesus is not depicted as a religious genius who has discovered the divine mysteries. Simply put, Jesus is the beloved Son who is on intimate terms with the Father.  It is the divine initiative of the Father who has given all things (v.27) to the Son.  This is not a message or a relationship that Matthew suddenly thrusts upon us as an assertion on the part of Jesus.  Matthew’s narrative has prepared the reader by means of preceding declarations about Jesus.

  • Immanuel, the Son miraculously born to Mary, signifies the unique saving presence of God with his people (1:23).
  • Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ baptism mentions the pleasure the Father takes in the Son in words echoing Isaiah 42:1 (3:17; cf. 17:5).
  • Satan was unable to shake the Son from his resolve not to test the Father (4:1–11).
  • Jesus did miracles to show that the Father had given the Son of Man authority to forgive sins on the earth (9:6).
  • In times of persecution, the disciples must confess the Son if they wish the Son to confess them to the Father (10:32–33, 40).

But one would be hard pressed to speak of the Son in terms more exalted than those used in 11:27, which uncompromisingly yet elegantly says that saving knowledge of God the Father comes only through the revelation of Jesus, the exclusive mediator of salvation. And that is a scandal to the “wise and learned.”

Someone once told me that there are only three choices about Jesus.  He is either liar, lunatic, or Lord. Only one of the “job descriptions” saves.


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