Where To Seek God, Matthew 11:25-27

It would be hard to improve on the words of Mark Lilla: “To most humans, curiosity about higher things comes naturally, its indifference to them that must be learned.”[1]

Matthew 11:25-27

25 At that time 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. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 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.

What does this text say about what is hidden and what is revealed?


At times Bible translators can be too smart for their own good! You would not think that the simple words Jesus said (verse 25) could be tricky, but we will look a little closer. Actually, the Greek here says something like: “Jesus answered and said” (NASB). But most English versions have collapsed the two verbs into just one, arguing that this was required by English style. Not so fast!

Recent research, made practical by use of computers and biblical databases, indicates that Bible passages in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) using the “answered and said” pattern (in Greek, of course) turn out to be important statements.[2]

So, what vital truth is Jesus revealing to us in the wake of this importance-marker in verse 25? These verses are difficult to unravel because we have to make some educated guesses about the meaning of these things: the wise and learned and little children. So, we had best get to it.

Osborne offers us a useful summary when he says, “God reveals his truths only to those who open themselves up to him with a childlike simplicity and receptivity, not to those who in their pride and self-sufficiency feel no need for it.”[3] By this reading, the little children (verse 25) are those who have responded to Jesus and accepted who his miracles prove him to be. This group of God-seekers occasionally includes centurions (Matthew 8:59) and synagogue leaders (Matthew 9:18), but more often includes tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19).

We have also seen that the religious leadership, led by the scribes and Pharisees, are lining up to oppose Jesus, and they seem to have convinced the bulk of the population in Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin to follow their lead. Jesus has already denounced that entire group and made it clear that they are on the broad road that leads to destruction. So, this group comprises the wise and the learned from whom the things revealed in and through Jesus are hidden (verse 25).

What cross-pressures exist in our own culture that try to convince us not to value Jesus or, indeed, to value any honor paid to God?

France ably points out that Jesus’ disciples, diverse as they are, represent an alternate community that the world does not value. This alternate community has repented and is trying to learn how to live according to the humble, compassionate, God-honoring values that Jesus has taught. It is they alone who can know the truth about God and his Son.[4]

Note carefully that hiding the truth from the wise and learned and revealing it to the little children happens according to what is pleasing to the Father. France clarifies this division when he says, “The basis of this division is not an arbitrary selection, but the fundamental principle of divine revelation, that it comes to those who are open to it, but finds no response with those who think they know better.”[5]

There is no ground here for any of the anti-intellectualism that has sometimes plagued Christianity in America. Openness to the truth is not a function of education or social class. A good example of what Jesus is talking about occurs when he is interrogated by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea:
Jesus: “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).
Pilate: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

Like many in our society today, Pilate had no confidence that truth could be had anywhere! He left to address the crowd before Jesus could answer.

Where do people in our culture turn to find the truth? If they become frustrated in the search, to what alternatives do they turn?

When verse 27 speaks of all things being committed to Jesus by the Father, it must certainly include what Jesus has taught about God’s reign, the authority to work miracles that he has demonstrated, and (in this verse) it includes revealing the Father to those whom the Son deems receptive. It is also true that the Father has committed to the Son “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18), as revealed in the Great Commission.

Of special interest is the final clause of verse 27: “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” This is an astounding thing for anyone to say, except for the fact that Jesus is the Son! Osborne captures this when he says: “This is tantamount to a declaration of the deity of Christ. He is more than an Agent; he is the Revealer!”[6]

An even closer look focuses on “those to whom the Son chooses to reveal [the Father]” (verse 27b). “Chooses” is a loaded translation for this Greek verb; HCSB translates better with “anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.” In fact, a more careful look at the grammar here yields interesting results. The Greek verb is present tense, usually implying an ongoing action. The specific wording of this section involves repeated action, regardless of the time element.[7] The action relates to anyone or whoever meets the condition of openness to God and his reign.

So, whether in the first century or the twenty-first century, Jesus repeatedly finds those who want to know God, and he, in turn, fulfills his ongoing desire to make the Father known to them. Otherwise, you and I would have never found out!

Copyright 2016 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Mark Lilla, “The Hidden Lesson of Montaigne,”New York Review of Books 58, no. 5 (March 24, 2011): 20.

[2] Mavis M. Leung, The Discourse Function of apokrithe kai eipen (He Answered and Said) in the Gospel of John, Bibliotheca Sacra 171 (July-September 2014) 307-327. See also France, Matthew, 439, footnote 1.

[3] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010)440.

[4] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007)441.

[5] France, Matthew, 443.

[6] Osborne, Matthew, 441.

[7] BDAG-3, an, used with a relative pronoun to mean whoever, (meaning b. beta), q.v.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!

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