************ Sermon on Matthew 11:25 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 10, 2019
"Hidden from the Wise"
Difficult Passages #23
To understand the difficult text in front of us this evening we need to look at five different words or phrases.
I At That Time
First, we start with the phrase, "at that time." What time? What is Matthew referring to? Go up a section in Matthew. The heading in our pew Bibles says Woe on Unrepentant Cities. Jesus pronounces woe on Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He pronounces doom and judgment. Why? Because these cities saw Jesus' miracles and did not repent in sackcloth and ashes.
"At that time ..." We need to look at the broader setting too. Jesus has recently sent out the Twelve to proclaim the message of the Kingdom (Mt 10). Before they leave, Jesus warns them about the opposition of men.
"At that time ..." We need to bear in mind the different reactions of the people to Jesus at that time. There is criticism, doubt, indifference, rejection, and blasphemy. The early days of popularity have passed. Opposition is forming and getting stronger. Our Lord knows that soon there will be full scale rejection on a national level.
"At that time ..." This is soon after Jesus has unleashed a blistering critique upon the religious leaders of Israel.
"At that time ..." What Jesus says in our text explains all of this -- the unrepentance, opposition, and rejection of the people and their religious leaders.
II These Things
Second, Jesus mentions "these things." What things are these? It isn't reading, writing, or arithmetic. It isn't geography, science, or history. It isn't philosophy or psychology. It isn't the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.
Go back to the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. What are we told after His baptism and temptation by the Devil?
(Mt 4:17) From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."What are we told after His crucifixion and resurrection?
(Acts 1:3) After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about [what?; and spoke about] the kingdom of God.
"These things" are things pertaining to the Kingdom. This is the one thing Jesus always talked about. After His baptism and temptation, after the cross and the grave and the resurrection, what Jesus talked about was the Kingdom. The Kingdom sums up all the teachings of Jesus. Whether Jesus was talking about God, salvation, the Messiah, obedience, prayer, regeneration, the Holy Spirit, missions, discipleship, fruit-bearing, it all was talk about the Kingdom.
III Hidden from the Wise and Learned
A Third, Jesus says these things are "hidden." The news of the Kingdom, the good news of the Kingdom, has been hidden. You heard me right: Jesus says the Gospel of the Kingdom is hidden.
Hidden. Meaning what? In the Bible, to quote from Paul in 1 Corinthians 2, this means what the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard. It is outside of the realm of scientific study. The eye can't see it. The ear cannot hear it. It is not available to external perception. It can't be discovered, weighed, or measured. Nor can the mind conceive it. It is not the product of an overactive imagination. It is God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
B These things are hidden "from the wise and learned." Does this mean it is hidden from intelligent people? Do you remember the "Dummy" books. "Windows for Dummies." "Word for Dummies." "Excel for Dummies." Is this the religious equivalent? Is this the "Gospel for Dummies." Is that how we are to understand what Jesus says about hidden from the wise and learned? Is Jesus telling us that the Gospel is not for smart people?
Who are the wise and learned? The religious leaders of the Jews -- the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees and Sadducees -- these were the wise and learned people of the day. What did these wise and learned men do with these things? They rejected what Jesus said about Himself and the Gospel and justification and sanctification and even glorification. They thought they knew everything they needed to know. They thought they were wise and learned and could learn nothing more. So they closed themselves to the revelation of God in Christ.
We can go forward a few years to the Apostle Paul in Athens. He met another group of wise and learned men. These philosophers loved to argue and dispute with each other. Paul told them about Jesus crucified and Jesus resurrected. When they heard this, some of them sneered, but others wanted to hear more. The end result? "A few men became followers of Paul and believed" (Acts 17:34). A few men. Not most men. Not many men. A few men. A few, just a few, of the wise and learned men.
C So what does it mean that these things are hidden from the wise and learned? It means they are hidden from people who think they can discover the truth by reason alone, by intelligence alone. These things are hidden from those who are dependent on their own wisdom and intelligence. These things are hidden to those who cling to the wisdom of the world. The Gospel is hidden from every person who thinks they are so smart they don't need the truth.
Look at the people of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum as an illustration of what Jesus is talking about. They saw. They witnessed. They heard. Miracle after miracle was presented to them. Teaching after wonderful teaching was said to them. They had all the evidence they needed. They had all the proof they needed. But they didn't believe. They wouldn't believe. They refused to believe these things. So they were not part of the Kingdom. It is John's Gospel that best explains what is going on:
(Jn 12:37-40) Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (38) This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (39) For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: (40) "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them."
Our Lord does not condemn intelligence. What He condemns is intelligence corrupted and perverted by pride and self-reliance. It is not intelligence which shuts people out of the Kingdom. Nor is it intelligence which gets people into the Kingdom. There is no salvation for proud people -- like the Pharisees -- who think they know it all and have it all.
IV Revealed to Little Children
A If the Gospel of the Kingdom is hidden, how are we to understand the invitation of Jesus in verse 28 to come to Him? Or, what about the words of Isaiah 55 and Revelation 22 inviting the thirsty to drink from the water of life?
The Gospel of the Kingdom is hidden from the wise and learned but -- here is our fourth point -- it is revealed to little children. It is little children who are invited to come to Jesus. It is little children who are invited to drink. So, who are the "little children"?
The Greek word for "little children" means a very small child, a suckling. This baby has no intelligence, no education, no strength. It is helpless. It can't speak. It can't eat solid food. It nurses from its mother. It is dependent -- totally dependent -- on others for food and drink and diaper changes and clean clothes and baths. If you ignore or leave this baby it will die.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is revealed to these little ones. Jesus is telling us who are the ones who believe these things. Jesus is telling us who are the ones who enter into the Kingdom and salvation. So, who are the ones who enter into the Kingdom? Who are the ones who enter into salvation? They are the dependent, not the independent. They are the humble, not the proud. They are the helpless, not the self-reliant.
The comparison Jesus makes is not between smart and dumb people. Nor is it a comparison between those who are educated and uneducated. It is a comparison between those who think they can save themselves and those who know they can't. It is a comparison between those who are self-reliant and those who are totally dependent upon the Lord and His grace.
Who are the "little children"? Anyone and everyone who looks for salvation by grace. Anyone and everyone who depends upon the Lord and not themselves for forgiveness. Anyone and everyone who is justified not by works but by Jesus. Everyone who accepts the Gospel of the Kingdom.
B But, but, it is not their choice, their act, their decision, their research that leads them to this point. Jesus says these things are "revealed" to them. The Gospel of the Kingdom is revealed. The Good News of the Kingdom is revealed.
That word "revealed" is so profound and so deep. The word itself implies that someone does the revealing. What is said in verse 27 explains this:
(Mt 11:27) "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.What are we being told? No one knows about the Gospel of the Kingdom, about salvation, unless God's Son reveals it to him. Remember, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined, the Kingdom message. It needs to be revealed.
This is the work of Christ's Spirit through the Word. We who believe have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit Who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely revealed to us. The man without the Spirit does not accept these things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they can only be spiritually discerned (cf 1 Cor 2:10-16).
C Let me tie this in with Mission Emphasis. February is Mission Emphasis month in Trinity. That doesn't mean this is the only month we do missions or think about missions or pray about missions or have offerings for missions. It does mean we try to pay special attention to the need for missions.
Because the Gospel of the Kingdom is hidden it needs to be proclaimed. Men can't discover it on their own. Men can't conceive of it on their own. The Holy Spirit does this through the church. So the church's job, your job and my job as Christians, is to tell people the good news about the Kingdom. So the calling of Christian parents is to tell their children and grandchildren all about Jesus. Whether people are in or out of the church, they need to be told the good news of the Kingdom. Because otherwise it remains hidden.
V I Praise You
Fifth, we end by looking at Jesus' word of praise. Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth ..." He uses a title for God that is all encompassing. A title that indicates God is sovereign and in control. Lord of heaven and earth means Lord over everything because there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- that is outside of heaven and earth. So Jesus thanks the Father for being in charge.
In charge of what? Jesus thanks the Father for being in charge of hiding and revealing the Gospel. Jesus thanks the Father for doing this according to His "good pleasure" (Mt 11:26).
So what is Jesus really saying? He is saying God -- not man -- God determines who is worldly wise or who is like a little child. God determines who lives by works or who lives by grace. God determines who is blind and who can see. God determines to whom the Kingdom is hidden and to whom the Kingdom is revealed.
This is nothing new for us who are Reformed. We are talking about predestination and election and choosing.
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."
Let me end with the perfect illustration of what Jesus is praying about. Let me show you the difference between the man who is worldly wise and the man who is like a little child.
(Lk 18:10-14) "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. (12) I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' (13) "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' (14) "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
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