Psalm 145:8-15, Zechariah 9: 9-12, Romans 7: 15-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
‘A Rebellious Son’
“They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard”.
Lines taken from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 21, words the parents of a rebellious son would have said on taking him to the elders of Israel, and words heard again in our Gospel reading this morning, spoken by Jesus, describing how the crowd following him viewed him, this new prophet.
Jesus had just been speaking to the crowds about John the Baptist, who was now in prison, and what the people’s response and opinion of him had been. Now though, the crowds following Jesus consider John to be yesterday’s news, “For John came neither eating or drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ ” Now they have Jesus, a man who turns water into wine, a man who dines with tax collectors. “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’.
Jesus is fully aware of the fickleness of the crowd, how they bend like reeds in the wind, one way and then another. Jesus knows them well, they are like selfish children, who only want to play their own game, and then, only if they can take the main part. But of course the end result for these poor, cross, dissatisfied children is that they have no one to play with at all, and no idea how or what to play on their own.
“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market place and calling to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’"
One can sense the exasperation felt by Jesus, whose own relationship with his own Father is one of complete love and mutual understanding. For, as we hear in the second half of our Gospel reading:
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Here is the saddest part, for Jesus came then, as he comes now, not to judge but to forgive, not to demand or expect, but to offer.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
But then, as now, we are all so fickle by nature, happy one moment to celebrate our NHS and key workers, only on the next fine day for many to be flocking to the beaches, parks and open spaces, social distancing forgotten, probably putting much past good work at risk. It is so often not just ourselves that we can put at risk, but those around us, even those not necessarily known personally to us. Jesus does not demand from us, but that does not mean that his road is always an easy one, or not without some cost. As with all things in life we cannot just take, or always do just as we want, just playing our own little games to our own rules. We mostly live in partnerships, in family units and within communities for which we should and must share responsibilities, not just because the law may demand it, or because of the present pandemic, but because our Christian faith and ethos expects it.
As so often in the case with the Apostle Paul, his life and mind appear to be in turmoil!
Paul wrestles with the question of why God gave the Law and what its role had been. Paul, more than many, having been a Pharisee, knew that it was right to embrace and celebrate the Torah, God’s Law as passed on to the Jews by Moses. However, due to Adam in the Garden of Eden, humankind was innately sinful, and so the Law as laid down in the Torah, condemns those human sins.
It is only, in fact, by the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross that this ‘innate sin’ has been purged and removed from humankind. As Paul writes, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord,”
So too, we in our daily lives and relationships, must thank God for giving us His Son and welcoming us all into His love and care, especially during this present time, not only today but always. As the psalmist writes in today’s Psalm 145:
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made”.