Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
Jesus offers this praise at an odd juncture during a sermon. It comes out of nowhere, as though He’s consciously shifting His attention momentarily from the crowd toward Heaven. His comments prior to this have got pretty heated. He’s just issued a series of woes to three cities that remain unconvinced of His divine authority despite witnessing—and benefiting from—His miracles. His scalding indictment compares two pagan Phoenician cities and the notoriously rebellious Sodom to the shame of three Israeli cities where most of His miracles took place. Had these ungodly towns seen His works, Jesus says, they would have repented. Yet even in their sinful state He predicts their judgment will be more bearable than what the skeptical Israeli cities will face. It’s then, before His condemnation flares into anger that He abruptly stops to address His Father. What Jesus says, however, clinches the root of His displeasure and serves notice on others who experience His power without allowing it to change them.
Blinded by Knowledge
What had these cities done to provoke such harsh criticism? Evidently, they were blinded by knowledge and puffed up by wisdom. By the time Jesus arrived, centuries of study had been invested in Messianic prophecy. Several schools of thought had sprouted up, each with a skewed map of how Israel’s Savior would come and what He would do. As promised, Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, but He completely contradicted everything the Jews were taught to expect. He appeared under cover of night without widespread fanfare. He declared God’s love to the entire world, spoke openly and unapologetically to non-Jews, and kept company with religious pariahs of every kind. Because Jesus looked and acted nothing like how the Jews envisioned their Messiah, the truth of His identity and mission remained hidden from them. Only those with innocent faith were able to remove the cataracts of manmade tradition and doctrinal wisdom to see Who Jesus really was. Observing His wonders through a child’s eyes revealed the entirety of His nature to them.
New and Now
In their scrupulous study of Scripture, the Jews missed a definitive component of God’s covenant with them: their Deliverer would be unlike anyone they’d ever seen and speak to them with words unlike any they’d ever heard. Isaiah 48.7-8 reads: “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today.” After that, they should have looked for the unexpected and listened for the unconventional. Knowledge of God and wisdom in His ways should have long ago sealed their image of Him as the God of the new and now. Thus, what Jesus says in His praise basically describes a clash between unbalanced, old-school literalism and a New Order designed to restore balance and revive faith.
God says in Malachi 3.6: “I the LORD do not change.” As people of faith, we take Him at His word. If He declared Himself God of the new and now 28 centuries ago in Isaiah, He’s still a new and now God today. Something new always happens when God moves. Things always take unexpected turns when He speaks now. Everything we knew yesterday can mean another thing entirely today. All the wisdom we’ve acquired in the past can vanish immediately at His word. We can cling tenaciously to our knowledge and wisdom, but what He’s doing for us, in us, through us, and around us will stay hidden from us. Or we can nurture innocence and faith to see Him through a child’s eyes. Only then will His new and now truth be revealed.
Everything a child sees is new and now, which is how we must see God.
(Tomorrow: Voice Activation)