Anyone to Whom the Son Chooses to Reveal Him
22All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
We are always editing our stories; in our conversations with others we share certain details and not others. When someone asks you about how you spent your weekend you select some things to share and not others. The more intimate private details are generally left out; for most people asking about your weekend such detail would be way more information than they really wanted to hear.
When we ask someone about their weekend it is a way of showing interest in our colleague or friend’s life; we aren’t expecting full disclosure. In other cases we want more details. When you book a hotel you want to read customer reviews and not rely solely on the edited content of the promotional literature of the hotel.
We know that news stories are highly edited; edited according to a certain narrative about life. You don’t have to read a newspaper long to be able to tell which politicians they favour and which they oppose. At the same time, we read or listen to news stories through the filter of our own narrative; we tend to edit out voices or publications we deem unfavourable.
I wonder if Christians listen to the Bible this way; we tend to edit out or place less emphasis on the portions that don’t fit our life narrative. In our Bible readings for Sunday worship we follow the pattern that is set out in the Revised Common Lectionary; it is the stories of the Bible set out in a three year pattern—each year the gospel story is the backbone with a Psalm, older Testament, and epistle lesson alongside the gospel. You may have noticed that in some of the readings certain verses are skipped over in a chapter. Do you ever wonder what was missed? This is the year for the gospel of Luke and in this month of August our plan is to read and preach those portions of the Gospel of Luke that the lectionary skips.
1. There are a number of things in this reading from Luke’s gospel that rub like rough sandpaper on the sensibilities the cultural narrative in which we find ourselves immersed. Here we read that Jesus rejoiced because the Father had hidden the news of the kingdom’s nearness “from the wise and the intelligent” and revealed it “to infants.” We also read of Jesus’ assertion that only he knows who the Father is “along with anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke further relates the woes Jesus pronounced on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for rejecting Jesus and his proclamation. Jesus gives the distinct impression that he thought his news of nearness of the kingdom of God wasn’t a trifling matter.
At this point in Luke’s gospel Jesus has now made his famous turn toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) and toward all that awaited him there in the balance of Luke’s gospel narrative. The cost of following Jesus was just detailed at the end of what we call Luke 9; it is clear that we are dealing with matters of eternal moment and import. Jesus is no hobby enthusiast helping people fill in the cracks of their lives by doling out how-to tips on fly fishing or rock climbing. He did not come to this earth—and is not now in Luke on his way to Jerusalem—to make suggestions for self-improvement or provide tips on how to grow one’s business prospects.
No, Jesus is here to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God and in Luke 10 he is authorizing a wider band of disciples to go out and do the same thing. He’s not sending them out to be door-to-door salespeople hawking magazine subscriptions or lawn care services. He doesn’t want them to look like moochers or give off even a whiff of being profiteers. He is telling them to go and bring peace, Shalom, to all who will receive it and the rest of their message is pretty straightforward and simple: “The kingdom of God is near you.” They are proclaiming a whole new way to live, a whole new way to look at life and this world, a whole new way to orient not just this or that sideline feature to one’s life but the whole of one’s existence.
Because at the end of the day you cannot be in the kingdom of God just sort of or kind of. You don’t dabble in the kingdom. You don’t treat the kingdom like a salad bar at which you’re free to choose just some items to put onto your salad but leave be all the ones that look not quite to your liking. To these followers he was sending out he said “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” The kingdom is serious business. Rejecting it has consequences that are on the grave side.
Our current culture’s sensibility rules out-of-bounds such talk as extreme. We Christians cringe wishing Jesus hadn’t talked so stridently—is this why we would rather skip by this text and get on with the things more to our liking? I point out that being extreme isn’t necessarily by definition problematic. When you get married, for example, you make what could be described as a very extreme relationship commitment with only one individual and we regard such an extreme commitment a good thing.
2. “… and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him;” it has the sound of excluding people or of having in view a privileged few. Let us admit that there are things in the gospels’ self-understanding we find problematic. The good news that is Jesus Christ strikes many as true but somewhat problematic. Often when we are young in life or in the faith it seems particularly this way. Let us come at this from another angle. Whose self-understanding are we using by which we judge the gospel’s self-understanding problematic? As I have walked in this way of faith many years I have come to see that it is the world’s self-understanding that is problematic because false.
In hearing what Jesus said I invite you to consider the moment in which these followers of Jesus find themselves. Jesus* said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Not everyone got to live in this moment of history when God was changing everything by becoming flesh in Jesus of Nazareth! In this moment when the kingdom of God came near; the monumental turning point when the kingdoms of this world became the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ (Revelation 11:15). Not everyone got to walk physically with Jesus in the steps of his itinerary for our salvation in his own flesh and blood. Not everyone got to live at this moment of history but these particular disciples did and they served in a pivotal place in this unfolding story. We are all the beneficiaries of their witness. To hear and heed the Apostles is to hear and heed Jesus—“whoever listens to you listens to me,” said our Lord.
That Jesus chose to reveal himself to these disciples has not remained hidden; their witness has become the vehicle for countless to hear in numbers beyond anything that could have been imagined by these disciples at the time Jesus uttered it. Note as well that the reason it was revealed to these was not for their private prestige; it was for sharing with the world.
Comedian Bill Cosby said, “A word to the wise ain’t necessary, it is the stupid ones that need all the advice.” Was Jesus making a similar distinction as Cosby when he distinguished between the “wise/intelligent” over against the “infants?” When Jesus thanked the Father that these thing were hidden from wise and intelligent but revealed to the infants is this because the wise and intelligent could figure it out for themselves but the less able needed revelation?
Recall that Jesus does not disparage wisdom or intellect; he knew the command to love God with all your mind. On one occasion when debating the scribes he told them that one of their problems was they didn’t know the word of God (scripture); he thus sanctioned its study as important. In Matthew’s gospel, when similar instructions are given to the disciples as they are sent out to preach, Jesus tells them they go as lambs in the midst of wolves so are to exercise the wisdom of snakes and innocence of doves.
Here again the gospel’s self-understanding stands starkly over against the world’s self-understanding. In the world’s self-understanding we presume that we can figure out God by our wisdom and intellect. The gospel says that because of our sin God’s judgement was to cut us off from knowing him. There is more here that human self-centred looking away from God; God has cut us off. Human propensity for religion ends up in idolatry. We cannot come to know God by wisdom or intellect alone. As the book of Ecclesiastes pointed out long ago; humans left to themselves cannot come to discover the meaning of their own existence. We try and end making idols of all kinds of things; wealth, power, position, prestige, popularity, significance, giving back.
The glory for us is that God was not willing to leave us there. The Son has chosen to reveal the Father to us and he does so by revealing it to those who, humanly speaking, could not have expected it—infants. Jesus gives thanks not because the gospel is revealed for a portion of humankind but because it is revealed to those who, humanly speaking, could not have expected it. Every time we have infant baptism we read that story where Jesus welcomed little children and said, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Jesus did not mean you have to start as a child—he was always inviting people to repent and believe the good news. He meant that we have to come to that place of letting go of all the things our world says to trust—including wisdom and intellect—and abandon ourselves to him because. Intelligence alone will never lead to Jesus, intelligence is engaged but we must trust him not our intelligence.
“… anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him;” the emphasis here is the gospel emphasis—it rests primarily on Jesus’ grip on you not yours on him. The emphasis is on God who reveals and knows each of us so intimately he can make himself known; the emphasis is not on how much of God we grasp by out intellect or wisdom.
When we were children and felt strange or frightened or confused, our limited knowledge brought very little comfort. Far more important was the fact that we were known by our parents, by people we trusted, by those who knew vastly more than we did. So too now, when life events make us feel strange, cut off, confused, or frightened we rest not in our knowledge or wisdom but in the one who gave his life for us.
“… anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him;” in all of history has there been a public event that is more broadly known than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Has not Jesus shown his willingness to reveal to any and all? Faith begins by trusting as much of ourselves and we know of ourselves to as much of God as we know of him. It begins often with halting step; whether our step is halting or not his step towards us is sure and certain. He does choose and he does reveal.