Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Declared in Prayer: Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending January 24, 2010

Purpose: To embrace Christ's offer to know God and God's way through him.

Scripture Text: Matthew 11:25-30 (NRSV)

Matthew 11:25-30
(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.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Have you ever felt like you are getting nowhere? In the verses preceding our text (verse 20-24) Jesus is taking some time to reflect on his accomplishments and the response of the people He has ministered to. Jesus is in a rut and His ministry seems to be ineffective. It is a situation familiar to many churches today, an ineffective ministry. Jesus even goes so far as comparing his ministry to that of John the Baptist. John had been very effective at getting people to repent and change their ways, but Jesus, was disappointed His healing and miracles were not causing people to change their lives or repent. The people liked the show, but they were not interested in the message. Jesus goes so far as to say if Sodom had seen these miracles they would have been spared the destruction. In today's lingo we would say Jesus has hit a plateau, maybe he should have a focus group and reset His priorities. Instead of a focus group Jesus does what we should all do, He went to praying.

Jesus did not need to refocus, He only needed to converse with the Father and go over the things that were decided before He came to earth as a babe and a miracle worker. He realized that the smarter people think they are, the less likely they are to trust and believe in a God that can redeem and heal. The people Jesus was trying to minister to were too smart to learn. They knew the law and they knew what was expected as intellectual Jews. Jesus declares that the things of God have been hidden from the wise and intelligent. And instead of the academic community receiving the message it will be given to those that do not have the formal training, but rather to those that can accept these teachings and miracles as an infant, with no preconceived ideas of how God chooses to work. He goes on and says “nobody knows the Father, like the Son and nobody knows the Son, like the Father,” (my paraphrase) except those chosen by the Son to receive this revelation. So the question is; how do we become chosen?

I think Jesus answers that in the next verses, when He says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” One of the burdens the Jews were carrying was Moses' law had been expanded to 613 commandments and a host of precise rulings on those commandments. These 613 commandments had removed a lot of the spiritual enthusiasm. Maybe the same is true for our churches and our own lives, maybe as some have said, “we have become so heavenly minded, we are no earthly good.” Maybe our churches, with all of their enlightened learning, have lost the enthusiasm that comes from simply trusting and believing. Probably the quenching of enthusiasm has done more to destroy churches and denominations than anything else.

If you could go back to the very best years of The Methodist movement, you would find very few ordained trained pastors, but rather a host of enthusiastic lay pastors going everywhere spreading the gospel without the academics that is considered necessary today, yet it was the most fruitful time in the history of the church. Have we become too smart for our own good? I don't think it is a coincidence that the more education the less likely they “come to me.” Individuals that have obtained high degrees of learning, tend to depend on their own ability Jesus says, “Take my yoke... and learn from me.”


Beverly said...

Hello Walter,

I am going to follow your blog...I really like it. I am teaching this lesson Sunday and want to thank you for your insite

Doris said...

After I studied my Sunday School lesson for January 24, 2010, I read your blog...and it really gave me a deeper understanding of the lesson. Thank you so much. I will be able to go to church on tomorrow with a very good discussion with our Sunday School class.