Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

by Bear Wade

Rest-less Grown-upness
Matthew 11:16-19 and 25-30
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Today’s date is July 6, 1996
Programming the Pericope in the revised lectionary for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (July 7, 1996) Matthew 11:16-19 and 25-30

The assigned text skips over the five verses of woes addressed to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for their failure to repent despite the mighty works done (by Jesus) in them. Tyre, Sidon, Sodom would have repented, but these cities of the chosen people did not. Result: Woe to them “on the day of judgment.”

These verses bypassed in the assigned reading make “perfectly clear” the consequences for “this generation” of their ignoring John the Baptizer’s call for repentance, and Jesus’ own “mighty deeds.”

The first 15 verses of chapter eleven immediately preceding the pericope are devoted to the Baptizer. Here Jesus acknowledges John as his ally in the business of “the kingdom.” So John’s ministry of repentance as linked to Jesus’ own ministry contexts the lectionary text.

The verses immediately following, 12:1-8, are about the Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath signals rest, and “rest” is what Jesus claims to offer in the final verses of chapt. 11. Thus his Lordship of the Sabbath is not merely his being the Lord of what is lawful to do or not to do on the seventh day of the week. Even more he is Lord of the Sabbath in that he brings to fulfillment God’s promise of rest, God’s rest for “all who labor and are heavy-laden.” Heavy laden with what? Answer: with the burden of living always under the scrutiny of “doing what is lawful”–both on the Sabbath day and every other day.

Another motif that runs through the text is the contrast between children (or babes) and wise and understanding grown-ups. One specific point where this contrast surfaces is in who does/ who doesn’t “Know” God as “Father.” The former do, the latter don’t.

With those background reflections in mind the following Law-diagnosis and Gospel-prognosis surfaces.

D-1 Rest-less grown-upness.
Living with no “Sabbath-rest.” Wise and understanding, but from that wisdom scorning John’s call to repentance, or Jesus’ friendship with sinners, neither mourning with John, nor dancing with Jesus.
D-2 No Sabbath-rest in the heart.
Their need for repentance “hidden” from them. Not only that they don’t desire to change, but their need for change actually blocked out from their wisdom and understanding, more likely “hidden from them” because of their wisdom and understanding. Missing out on repentance results in missing out on Jesus, his yoke, his burden. Un-yoked to Jesus leaves one with….
D-3. No Sabbath-rest in the primal God-relationship.
Forms of that as expressed in the text: God’s gracious will is hidden. Knowing God, but not knowing God as Father. No safe space on the “day of judgment”(24). 

The new prognosis when Jesus nevertheless breaks through–

P-3 = Good News for the D-3 dilemma
Jesus becomes Lord of God’s Sabbath operation by bringing the Rest that no others have ever brought, rest for those constantly laboring and heavy-laden. Especially those heavy-laden by the pressure to “do what is lawful.”. He is “gentle and lowly of heart,” and therefore no threat, but attractive, to all those burdened down and broken down from D-1 all the way through to the D-3 dilemma. He is the executor of the “Father’s gracious will.” In 12:7 Jesus cites Hosea 6:6 as the grounding for his work, the “meaning” of which “this generation…does not know.” God desires mercy. How could they not “know” the meaning of those three words? Their reaction to Jesus shows that they do not “know” God’s mercy. Apparently they “know” Hosea 6:6 as law, that God wants us to be merciful. The don’t know it as gospel:that God wants to be merciful to us. I.e., that God sends Jesus to be Lord of Sabbath, to get all burdened down sinners home free to their Sabbath-rest. By yoking himself to tax-collectors and sinners Jesus accepts the lethal fate that such folk bring with them. He steps in for them on their day of judgment with his own Good Friday. That sort of “wisdom” is justified on Easter Sunday. Thus Jesus reveals God to them (us) as Father–and, even more, brings us home to Abba. This is the content of Jesus’ claim to exclusiveness–no one except the Son, this Son, is authorized to do this. Other Messiahs don’t even claim implement such an agenda. 
P-2 Taking his yoke and internalizing it.
Trusting God as Father, by trusting the Son to whom the Father has “delivered” (entrusted) the whole business. Being “kids” at heart about the Father’s gracious will, God’s desire to be merciful to sinners.
P-1 Opposite lifestyle to D-1.
Living already now in this Sabbath Rest. Doing our daily work “yoked” to this Lord of Sabbath-rest. Continuing to “come to him” as labors and burdens intersect our lives. Befriending the tax-collectors and sinners that we encounter. Lightening other people’s burdens and heavy loads by joining them in the bearing thereof and facilitating them in unloading their loads onto the Master Burden-bearer. Not smug or detached so that we cannot dance with those who dance and mourn with those who mourn. “Rest for your souls” in Biblical language is “Sabbath-rest for Living.” I.e., Sabbatheology for daily life from Sunday through Saturday.
E. Schroeder


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