Matthew 11.16-19 & 25-30. Romans 7.15-25.
It is a sad an inevitable fact of life, that some people just won’t get what you try to teach them. Every parent knows this. Every teacher, youth worker, doctor and priest know this. There is some quirk of the human brain which means that even the very best ideas are not automatically picked up. Tell them about basic hygiene. They don’t get it. Tell them the planet is over-heating. They don’t get it. Tell them gambling, drinking and drugs will ruin them. They don’t get it. They find themselves caught up in the classic dilemma that Paul outlines to the Romans…the conflict between behaving how I know I should behave, and the way I actually behave. (Rom 7.15-25)
This morning’s gospel reading is just part of a much longer section in which a whole host of people entirely fail to ‘get’ Jesus, and what he’s talking about. First there is John the Baptiser, who had baptised Jesus and had even heard the voice of God calling from heaven that this was His son. But even after that, John still didn’t get it. He had to send some of his disciples to Jesus, to ask “Are you the Messiah we were promised? Or should we wait for another?”
The towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum – where Jesus had time and time again performed mighty miracles which declared the dawning Kingdom of God – they didn’t get it. They rejected him.
And then in the gospel reading we heard today, we see that scholars and the wise could explain much, but they missed the living Wisdom of God in their midst. They didn’t get it. For a start, they didn’t get why Jesus didn’t do the things they thought he would do. As Jesus said, they were ‘like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn” ’. In other words – you just haven’t done the things you were expected to do!
You see, Jesus turned out to be something very different from the Messiah they were expecting. For Jesus, Rome, or Roman occupation, just wasn’t the issue – even thought it was very much THE issue for the leaders of the people. When challenged to incite the people to rise up again Rome, and to stop paying their taxes, he simply said “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. Jesus knew that empires will rise and fall – by his time in history, the world had already seen the Egyptian, Greek and Babylonian empires rise; and then crumble. No, the overthrowing of empires was just not on Jesus agenda. He was much more concerned about the issues in people’s individual lives – issues which were stopping them from living their lives to the full.
Jesus’ solution to the world’s problems was actually very simple…so simple that it could be grasped by a child, or by someone with child-like faith. Which is precisely why, in the Gospel reading, Jesus thanked his father that he had hidden ‘these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants’ (Mat 11:25) What was it he said on another occasion? “Unless you receive the Kingdom of Heaven like a child, you will never enter it” (Mat 18:3, Mk 10:15, Lk 18:17)
Jesus' solution was simple…almost childishly simple. It wasn’t about complex theological somersaults. It wasn’t about over-throwing political powers. It didn’t rely on complex philosophy for its underlying truth.
It was very very simple.
So what was it? What was the amazingly simple message that Jesus had…a message so simple that an infant could grasp it? It was this…Love God and One Another.
That is it. Understand that basic, fundamental truth, and you’ve grasped the very heart of Jesus’ message to the whole of humanity. Love God and One Another. That’s it. Nothing more. Done and dusted.
So what does this mean for us? It means that everything we do, as individuals and as a church, needs to be set against the yardstick of Love.
Shall I continue to nurse the bitterness I feel, because someone overlooked me, or insulted me? What does love have to say?
To what should I give my money, my energy, my time? What does Love have to say?
Shall I buy goods made in sweat-shops by wage slaves, to save a few quid? What does Love have to say?
Shall I buy that new car, or take that expensive holiday, when I know the money could transform the lives of hundreds of children? What does love have to say?
What one thing can I do today that will increase Love in the world?
And for us as a church – what does Love have to say about the right time to open a building, while a worldwide pandemic is still declared?
What does love have to say about the way we spend our collective money? Shall we, for example, pay the people who serve us the cheapest wages we can get away with, or pay them the Real Living Wage? (Which is what we do, by the way).
If we get these choices right, living by the yardstick of Love, then Jesus promises his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. “Come to me, he says, all you who are carrying heavy burdens of worry about this and that…and I will give you rest.” Focus on me, and on my central message of Love, and you will find rest for your souls”.
Do you get it?. Amen.