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. (Matt 11:25 ESV)
The Complexity of the Pharisees
Matthew 11 is a sad time in the Gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist has been arrested. The nation, as a whole, has rejected his ministry. They are in the process of doing the same thing to the One for whom John was the forerunner. In the chapter Jesus rebukes the unbelieving Jews for their unbelief. They were not willing to see the truth about who He was. This truth was evident right before their eyes. In the next chapter, the religious leaders will do the same and claim that Jesus could only do the miracles He did because He was empowered by Satan.
The religious leaders, of course, were prime examples of the “wise and prudent” of the day. They were highly educated. They were experts in what experts in the past had said about God. They knew the teachings of the prominent rabbis and how these men said they should apply the Old Testament Law to their situation under Roman rule. These teachings were comprehensive and complex. The majority of people did not know all the intricacies of such teachings, nor did they have the time to learn them even if they desired.
And, as we see in the New Testament, those who did have this knowledge and education, had a kind of contempt for those who did not. How they must have despised the miracles and teachings of Jesus. How they must have ridiculed the simple followers of Jesus, and how such people hung on the words Jesus spoke to them.
Jesus, in Matthew 11, makes reference to such simple people. They were not “wise and prudent” in the eyes of the world. Instead they were like “babes.” But, God had revealed Himself to them through the ministry of Christ. They knew that Christ was the Messiah. They knew that eternal life was found in Him, and not through the complicated system of laws and rituals that the educated leaders of the day taught.
The Simplicity of the Biblical Gospel
I can’t help but see a parallel today, especially in the area of the Gospel.
The biblical simplicity of the gospel is that a person receives eternal life as a free gift by believing in Jesus Christ for it. The beauty of that offer is that the simple, even the “little children” can understand and believe it. A person does not have to be educated to understand it. In fact, many children have done just that.
The Often Pharisaic Complexity of the Gospel in Christendom
Over the years I have heard other arguments, often quite sophisticated and academic. Such arguments point out things like: the word “faith” involves three aspects and there are even Latin words that accurately describe these aspects; Jesus’ propitiatory work on the cross only applies to those predestined by God; the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints tells us that one cannot know if he has eternal life or not; and one must know many doctrinal issues before he can believe in the offer of eternal life. Other theological points could be added to the list.
What I have experienced in this area is that many people hear such things and say, “What?” Like the “little children” in Christ’s day, they do not understand the intricacies of such theological arguments. They read the accounts of Christ’s life. They hear a verse like John 3:16, and they simply believe that Jesus will do what He promises. He promises that anybody who believes in Him will live forever with Him.
Simple is sometimes better
No doubt, the teachings of Christ are of such depth that nobody could hope to plunge the depths of them even if they studied them their whole life. There is a place for such education and a place for the search for such wisdom. However, there is also a place for what is simple. There is the place of simple childlike faith in what Jesus says. It is a shame that many require an almost Pharisaical understanding of certain theologies to be born again. Fortunately, there are “simple” people today as there were in Jesus’ day as well. Sometimes, simple is better.