Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


A good way to open today's worship service might be to ask: Are there any here today who have never been weary? Never had to carry a heavy heart burden? Okay, you're free to go.

Year A

Sunday Between July 3 and July 9 Inclusive
Proper 9, Ordinary Time 14

Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, The Message   or   Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

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The link between these two passages from Matthew may be "children" and "wisdom."

Verses 16-19 come at the end of a section where Jesus has explained the relationship - and differences - between himself and John the Baptist. In these verses, he comments on the response of "this generation" to them both.

What has been the response of this generation? They are like children.

This would be heard as insult. As Malina and Rohrbaugh comment (Page 67, see footnote below):

Children lack wisdom or know-how, and their untrained behavior is often inappropriate. They sometimes do not know enough to dance at a wedding or mourn at a funeral.

And so, whether John fasts or Jesus eats and drinks, both are condemned, for this generation does not know how to see what it is looking for.

But, as Jesus says, wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. That is to say, John and Jesus are vindicated by what has resulted from their teachings and actions.

One has fasted; the other has eaten and drunk. But both have garnered a following and been given honour by the crowds.

Now this is precisely what is raising the anxiety of the Jerusalem elites - the wise and the intelligent ones.

In their not so humble opinion, the crowds following John and Jesus are like children: ignorant and untrained. Unaware of the delicate power politics required to keep the Roman military occupation "peaceful." The popularity of backwoods hillbillies from Galilee is seen as a threat to social stability - and to the privileged positions for the elites. (And their fear is well-placed as Rome will attack Jerusalem and destroy the Temple 40 years later in response to a peasant-led revolt.)

Verses 25-26. The Jerusalem elite authorities would hear these words of Jesus as a direct challenge and threat.

Verse 27. This verse sounds like a direct quote from the Gospel of John - which makes it highly unusual. But the sentiment described here is exactly what was widely understood: Like father, like son.

Verses 28-30. A good way to open today's worship service might be to ask:

Are there any here today who have never been weary? Never had to carry a heavy heart burden? Okay, you're free to go. 'Cause today we're gonna rest. We're gonna learn from Jesus's heart a way of life that is gentle and humble. And we're gonna set down the heavy burdens that life has given us, and take up the easy one of Jesus.

David Ewart,,
Short, easy to use, faith inspiring explanations of the meaning of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for your sermon, homily, bible study, or reflection.

Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 75-77, and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (NRSV)

   16 "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 
        17 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; 
            we wailed, and you did not mourn.'
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

   25 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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

   28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (The Message)

   16 "How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, 17 'We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.' 18 John came fasting and they called him crazy. 19 I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riff-raff. Opinion polls don't count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

   25 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. 26 Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."

   27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

   28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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