Surely, there can’t be one of us who hasn’t felt weak, dependent or overwhelmed at some point during lockdown? Perhaps it began on a simple, insignificant level, such as knowing we should tackle that long-neglected task today – we decided we really couldn’t be bothered and then, inevitably, felt guilty or simply apathetic. Sometimes, our frustrations spilled over onto another member of our household or to someone over the fence or at the other end of a phone call. It may have been much worse for you than my trivial example. Yet in the light of our recent experience of lockdown, all of us can relate to St Paul’s mood in Romans 7. Paul is lamenting his total inability to turn away from the bad actions and thoughts which he hates. And yet, he is incapable of doing the good which he longs to do and knows he should. He has no resources within himself to draw on, as he attempts to move forward, even if he has in depth knowledge of the law. He knows all the regulations, the moral codes and do’s and don’ts but still, as he is the first to admit, needs saving from himself.
Then, as if that’s not bad enough, we have Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 11 with Jesus telling that it is not the wise and clever who have the best relationship with God but infants. It took a while for the significance of that word “infants” to sink in. These are not children who are of an age to ask questions, who are able to understand and ready to learn from others. From my experience, I can say that I know many children with a well-defined faith which will grow with them as they get older. But Jesus is talking about infants – babies to toddlers who can’t yet talk fluently or ask questions. Is he really saying that it is only the passive and unquestioning who can see God?
Maybe there’s a clue in the word “Father” which is used 5 times in the first four verses of the passage! Young infants are totally dependent and display unquestioning, instinctive, and spontaneous trust in good parents and carers. That trust will gradually evolve into knowledge, understanding and love as it responds to the parent. Perhaps, most importantly. it’s the infant’s dependence and total trust that all its needs will be met by its loving carer, which Jesus is pointing out. Jesus rates such dependence and trust more highly than any worldly wisdom and knowledge, which we could, arrogantly, have got from books and media rather than through relationship and love. It’s the kind of trust and dependence on God, which Jesus models in his own life and which he is now giving thanks for.
God in Jesus offers himself as carer – Jesus tells those who are carrying heavy loads to come to him, and he will give them rest. Jesus’ guidance, his yoke, is easy to bear because he leads and guides with gentle love and not with force. People are not going to be forced like oxen to do heavy ploughing on rocky fields nor are they going to be piled with heavy loads like donkeys and mules. They can trust Jesus like the most dependent infant does; they will be given gentle peace from all the conflicting emotions that churn around in their heads, from the wrong decisions they make and forgiveness for the bad actions which weigh them down.
Paul, of course, had already worked out who would rescue him from the warring parties within his body, mind and soul “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
(From Eryl Spencer)