25 At that time Jesus said in reply, “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. 26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 27 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. 28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
Our gospel places us near the beginning of what most scholars accept as a new section of The Gospel according to Matthew. Since the middle of chapter 4 we have been witnesses to how Jesus faithfully carries out his commission from the Father in words (chapters 5-7,10) and actions (chapters 8 and 9). It is here in the beginning of Matthew 11 that people are challenged to discern Jesus’ identity from his actions and words – and of responding with commitment of rejection.
Opposition to Jesus. Opposition to the Messiah and his messengers has been increasingly alluded to as Matthew’s story continues (2:16; 3:7; 4:1; 5:10–12; 7:6; 8:20, 34; 9:3, 11, 34; 10:14–39). But as this chapter unfolds, the situation is unmistakably grim. Matthew 11 is comprised of three sections:
- two are focused on doubt and unbelief (11:2–19; 11:20–24)
- the third is focused on belief (11:25–30)
The encounters with doubt and unbelief are not limited to Jewish people unduly swayed by an unbelieving religious leadership (woe to the towns of Chorazin and Bethsiada in v.21; Capernaum in v.23). The doubts are also among those who perhaps know Jesus well. The Messiah’s herald, John the Baptist, is in prison, and even he was beginning to have doubts about Jesus’ ministry (11:1–3). What all share in common is that each of them have been witnesses to the words and actions of Jesus which point to the kingdom of heaven. Nonetheless, the Kingdom was being attacked by people who obstinately refused its authority (11:12, 16–24). Why? Perhaps they considered themselves wise in their own eyes and reject Jesus revelation. There are more passages as Matthew’s narrative unfolds: unbelief and doubt(12:1–21; 22–50) and belief passages (12:2, 10, 24; 18:6; 25:45).
The Audience. Our verses begin with “At that time Jesus said in reply” – raising questions as to the intended audience. The audience for our text is still the “crowds” from Mt 11:7 (the disciples “disappeared” in v.1 and do not “reappear” until Mt 12:1).
Despite the rejection in vv.20-24, some persons accept Jesus’ mission and message – and it is for this that he gives praise to God. In context these words are not a prayer of thanksgiving for a successful mission (cf. Lk 10:21-22), but are a prayerful reflection on the failure of the Galilean mission. The prayers highlights another Matthean theme: reversal. Those who are considered wise and learned are in fact not – at least in the things of the kingdom of heaven. Yet those who are childlike have understood and accepted the revelation of the kingdom in the person of Jesus.