Matthew 11:25-27

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Matthew 11

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 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.

Let me ask us a few questions: How do we know that what we claim to know about God is true? How do we know anything at all about God? Can we truly say with confidence that we know this or that about God?

In asking these questions I am asking questions about revelation. Before Revelation was the last book of the Bible it was a theological truth. In fact, revelation as a theological truth makes Revelation as a book of the Bible possible, for revelation refers to God’s self-disclosure, His revealing of Himself.

In Matthew 11:25-27 Jesus speaks of divine revelation. This is important because Jesus has said many things leading up to these verses, and, indeed, He has said much more than we have recorded in scripture. Jesus’ preaching and pronouncements raises a reasonable question: How can Jesus know these things about the Father and how can we believe Jesus? In other words, what is the basis for the revelation that the Son claimed to receive from the Father and that we claim to receive from the Son? It is to these questions that Jesus now turns. In these verses we have a primer on divine revelation from the Son of the living God.

Divine revelation is hidden from those who would think they are entitled to it.

Our theology of revelation begins interestingly enough with a theology of hiddenness.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding…

The Lord Jesus begins by thanking the Father that He had hidden “these things from the wise and understanding.” What are “these things”? They would include, of course, the “things” Jesus had just said in pronouncing woes against Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (11:20-24). But “these things” refers to more than just this. It refers to all that Jesus had said. In other words, He was saying that the Father had hidden the truthfulness of Christ’s own words and person and work from “the wise and understanding.”

Jesus establishes the principle that revelation is not inherently accessible to those whom the world would think are entitled to it: the wise and understanding. We might think that the intelligent, the brilliant, and those with great insight would be able to extend their brilliance into the deep things of God by sheer force of will and gifting. But Jesus says this is not so. The wise of the earth are not entitled to revelation. In fact, none of us are, as the rest of scripture makes clear. The natural mind, the unregenerate mind, the lost mind of humanity cannot, in and of itself, receive and comprehend the things of God.

The biblical picture of revelation presents us with two categories: general and special revelation.

General Revelation

General revelation refers to a “general” or limited picture of God—His existence and attributes—that is accessible to all people as they observe the created order and is accessible internally in the conscience. Paul speaks of creation’s display of God’s power in Romans 1.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

So, yes, there is a kind of universal access to revelation, but it is incomplete and it is somewhat vague. It is evidence that there is a God and that He is powerful but it does not and cannot tell us the gospel. It is itself a gift of God to all of humanity. Furthermore, the haughty and the proud can render themselves blind even to it, to the extent that “they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

General revelation gives promptings, nudgings of transcendence, an awareness that there is a God. This can be seen whenever we discover an unreached people group. In these situations, almost inevitably these groups will be found to be practicing some form of religion or worship.

General revelation is also evident in humanity’s innate sense of right and wrong, no matter how much it might disagree on what constitutes right and wrong. Paul will go on to say this in Romans 2:

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

We may thank the Lord for general revelation even as we recognize the limited nature of it.

Special Revelation

Special revelation refers to the more specific and complete saving revelation of God in Christ. Christ is the definitive revelation of God. To know who God is, look at Jesus. The New Testament is replete with evidences of Jesus as the definitive revelation of God. Let us consider the images of Christ used by John in John 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

By modeling the first verse of his book on Genesis 1:1 John was clearly saying that this Jesus is the revelation of the creator God of Genesis.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

In v.4-5 and 9-10, John speaks of Christ as “the light” that “shines in the darkness” (images that John loves!), that “was coming into the world,” and that was yet unknown by the world. Light reveals. The natural state of lost humanity is darkness and ignorance and, into this darkness and ignorance, Christ Jesus came as the revelation of God. John continues:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus reveals the glory of God and, as John powerfully puts it in verse 18, Jesus “has made [God] known.” So Christ Jesus is the revelation of God! And, as Jesus says in Matthew 11:25, the Father has “hidden” these things from the worldly-wise. Paul argues the same in 1 Corinthians 1.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The wise, the powerful, and the mighty of the earth are blind to Jesus. In the context of Jesus’ words, the point is not that there is something ungodly about intelligence and wisdom per se. There are, in fact, many brilliant and extremely intelligent followers of Jesus! Rather, Jesus’ words concerning the blindness of “the wise and understanding” refer to the haughty, the proud, the worldly-wise and intelligent, and to those who do not think they need to have anything revealed at all.

Divine revelation is counterintuitive and subversive in who is offered to.

This point about the haughty and powerful not receiving the revelation of God is further evidenced by those to whom Jesus points as the recipients of revelation.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children

“These things” have been “hidden” “from the wise and understanding,” it is true. But they have been “revealed” to little children. Here too, the point is not literally children, though oftentimes it is, but rather the state of mind and heart that children represent: humility and faith. Once again, Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 1.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

As we construct our theology of revelation it will be very important to understand this vital truth: revelation is received in humility and faith just as it is rejected by haughtiness and pride. Those who take the hand of Jesus in faith see and know and learn more and more of who He is and what He has done and is doing for us. This is not the only time that Jesus pointed to children as models of humility and faith. In Mark 9 we read:

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Yes, this is how God’s ultimate revelation for humanity, His Son Jesus Christ, is received: as children, that is, in postures of humility and faith. Pride and haughtiness will keep us blind to the deep things of God. Humility and faith constitute an open door through which Christ enters and reveals himself.

Divine revelation is a gift of grace.

Understanding this, we are now prepared for the inevitable conclusion: divine revelation is a gift of grace. We can see this in the words of Jesus.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 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.

We can see that revelation is a gift of grace in the way that Jesus thanks the Father for both His concealing of revelation and His giving of it in v.25. In v.26 Jesus points to God’s “gracious will” as being behind both this concealing and revealing.

Revelation is a gift and an amazing gift! In the famous episode of Matthew 16, when Peter confesses the reality of who Christ is, Jesus reveals to Peter that his understanding of these truths is itself a gift from God.

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

The Father reveals to our hearts who Jesus is! The humble heart of faith receives this gift, but we must never cease to marvel that it is indeed an amazing gift that has been given.

Think of it: if God in His gracious lovingkindness does not reveal Himself to us, we would remain forever blind to Jesus, to the life-giving gospel, to the good news of life now and forevermore. Revelation is life because it illuminates for us the good news that though we were formerly blind and lost, now we can see. And what do we see? The glory of God in Christ, resplendent in love and mercy.

Yes, we thank you God that you have revealed these things to little children. Give us the hearts of little children that can see and hear and receive the amazing reality of Jesus! Give us humility and faith and simple trust. Give us Your revelation of Jesus the Christ so that we might see and, in seeing, worship and praise!

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