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Jesus' Revelation to Infants – Br. Curtis Almquist

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Matthew 11:25-27

‘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…’

Who are “the wise and intelligent” to whom Jesus is referring?  Any one of three groups who held power.  One, the scribes and Pharisees who were the educated, Jewish elite.  Second, the Greeks, whose intellectual prowess was recognized even by Rome.  And thirdly, Rome, which was the occupying and controlling force in Palestine.  To a Roman ear, when Jesus, the peasant, prays aloud to the God whom he calls “Father,” – Papa – I thank you, Papa, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things – his revelation – from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants – Jesus is an idiot to the Greeks[i], blasphemous to the Jews, and treasonous to the Romans because Caesar, only Caesar Augustus, was called “God from God.”[ii]

Jesus presses the point.  In Matthew’s Gospel, just beyond where we read today, Jesus is asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[iii]  Matthew also remembers that little children were being brought to Jesus.  He lays his hands on them, blesses them, and says, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’[iv]

Children in Jesus’ day did not have worth in their own right as children.  At best, their worth was in their potential as an adult. Children who were not promising because of their birthright, not promising because of their brightness, or their appearance, or their gender (females being inherently inferior) – were like chattel.  Jesus’ point in raising up a child in his arms is not about our educating children, nor about our encouraging the best out of children, as important as that all is.  Jesus’ point is far more radical and subversive.  Jesus publicly embraces a child with care – which in itself was a “lowly” action reserved for women.  Is it a boy or girl?  The gender would have made a difference given the cultural norms, but we’re not told because it does not matter to Jesus.  Jesus commands his disciples to welcome children, all children, which, because children are the lowest rung, means we as his followers are to welcome everyone.[v]   Everyone has a place within God’s embrace, which is a drastic reversal of the norms.[vi]  Jesus radically confronts the existing structures of power and privilege and piety: Jesus (not Caesar Augustus) represents the God of Gods, and children represent Jesus.

There’s a lifetime of lessons we can draw from this Gospel teaching: that everyone, everyone, is welcomed by Jesus’ embrace; that children must have a claim on our attention: their protection, their education, their provision, their future.  We just need to include ourselves among them, we who are called “children of God,” no matter our age.  As important it is to use our God-given minds, to study hard, and to think deeply, and to glean the wisdom of age, God’s revelation is always going to happen at a lower level, in ways of knowing that may defy explanation and examination and yet what we know, absolutely, to be true in our heart.  If you get stuck in your head and cannot figure it out, take Jesus at his word.  Surrender to Jesus’ revelation which will come to us only in our
powerlessness.  Powerless as an infant.


 

[i] The English word, “idiot,’ from Greek idiotes, “layman, person lacking professional skill.”

[ii] John Dominic Crossan in God and Empire, writes that, before the birth of Jesus, Caesar Augustus was titled “Divine,” “Son of God,” “God from God,” “Lord,” “Redeemer,” “Liberator,” and “Savior of the World.” (p. 28.)

[iii] Matthew 18:1-4.

[iv] Matthew 19:13-14.  See also Mark 9:30-37.

[v] Eugene Boring in Mark: A Commentary. (p. 281)

[vi]Hans-Ruedi Weber in Jesus and the Children. (pp. 34, 37)

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4 Comments

  1. Larry Butler on September 17, 2017 at 15:47

    We all seem to develop our own personal false god as we grow up. This involves layers upon layers of assumptions motivated by fears of weakness or inadequacy, and this is socially reinforced by others who are wanting to construct alliances of agreement in the service of similar personal protection. I once told my father that I thought that real maturity involved getting past the facile construction of self-seriousness to a place where the light can penetrate. Wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove. Tricky, arduous, but it can be done and it can always be improved upon.

  2. Ruth West on September 17, 2017 at 09:59

    Thank you, Br. Curtis, for reminding us of this truth. .We know that Jesus has called us to “an upside down religion,” that is, just the opposite of what the world embraces. He came from the throne above as a helpless infant; He called the fishermen, the uneducated, the children, women, and those who were looked down on by the Jews. Now he calls the weak to confound the wise. He rode into town, not on the expected white steed wearing royal finery, but on a donkey, before his crucifixion on the altar, the cross. Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, the Messiah, accepts all of us, the lowliest, the rejected, the weakest, the poorest. He truly is Lord of all! Ruth West

  3. Barbara Smith-Moran, SOSc on September 17, 2017 at 09:35

    This is a reply to Fr. Curtis’s msg, “Revelation,” the “Brother, Give Us a Word” of 9/17/17. Fr. Curtis writes, “As important as it is to use our God-given minds, . . .God’s revelation is always going to happen at a lower level.” As a scientist, I would say, Not always! Others in the Society of Ordained Scientists will argue with me that they have received glorious revelations of God and God’s creation in the laboratory, the clinic, in mathematical calculation, and insight during study. This is what leads scientists on–the joy of discovery that the faithful think of as finding God’s self-revelation to prepared minds.

  4. Barb Yatsevitch on July 20, 2013 at 04:53

    I delight in these messages and delight even more that I too am a ‘child of God’ though 86 1/2. I hold Tom Shaw in my prayers and all those he Loves, In Our Lord’s Healing, Mending and Loving Love, Barb

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