Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9A)
July 5, 2020
Text: Matt. 11:25-30
Infants, in the care of faithful parents, don’t have a care in the world. Well, they think they do. They cry a lot. They are often ill-content. And judging by their screams, they must think they are suffering tremendously. The reality is, though (and we know it to be true), their cries probably have to do with one of three things: They are hungry, they are tired, or they need a diaper change. Or maybe they’re just gassy. Now, none of this is, in reality, any great suffering, and unbeknownst to the precious little bundles of hysterical joy, good parents know the proper time and manner of administering what are fairly simple and routine solutions. Often these measures are not good enough for Baby, and so the weeping and wailing and gnashing of toothless gums continues, and even becomes contagious to the sleep-deprived parents, who don’t know what else to do for the poor thing. “Gloom, despair, and agony on me,” as the hymn goes. But the reality remains. The infant doesn’t need to scream. Because he is in the care of his parents. He is safe. He is secure. He will be fed. His diaper will be changed. And His parents will rock him and sing him to sleep, and lay him in a warm and comfortable crib, and they will look in on him throughout the night, because he is precious in their sight, and they love him, and they will do anything, even die, to protect him and provide for him.
Our Father in heaven does not reveal the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the wise and understanding. That is, the Gospel is not available to human reason by means of logical deduction or empirical investigation. You will not arrive at the Gospel by philosophical speculation or scientific observation. The Father reveals these things to infants. Your English translation says “little children” (Matt. 11:25), and that is fine, but the word, in fact, means a babe in arms. Utterly helpless. Unable to do the simplest of things, like find food, shelter, or clothing, avoid danger, or clean away his own filth. Left to himself, an infant will die! Someone must protect him from that fate, and care for him, and do everything for him. And it is to just such a one that the Father reveals His Son. And the Son grabs up the infant from peril and want and reveals to him the Father who brings the infant into His own embrace, and gives him a family, and a home.
This is certainly a biblical proof for infant faith. Of course infants can believe in Jesus. No, they don’t know His Name and they cannot yet rationally comprehend the faith or form the words to confess it. But they know Him and they trust Him, in the same way that a newborn already knows and trusts Mom above all others. Baby looks to Mom for all good, even though he cannot yet form the word Mom, or rationally comprehend who she is, and what she will do for him. So this is why we baptize infants and know and trust that they believe in their Lord, and that faith will grow in understanding and ability to confess as we raise the child in the faith.
But that is not primarily what Jesus is getting at with the word “infant.” He is inviting you to be an infant. He is inviting you to become just like the babe in arms. Now, this is not to say, of course, that you don’t grow in faith and in understanding, and in love toward God and your neighbor, nor is it to say that you don’t live and work in your God-given vocations. But it is to say that you always retain that basic posture of dependence on God for all things. Put away your own wisdom and understanding. In matters of salvation, they will fail you every time. There is a verse we all love from Proverbs about that, isn’t there? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5; ESV). We think we’re so wise. We think we have it all figured out. Especially in the 21st Century. We’re so much smarter than those who came before us. They were ignorant, but we know! And we can do anything we want if we put our mind to it. There is no limit to human wisdom and ingenuity. But it’s so arrogant, and we are so deceived. How is enlightened human wisdom and understanding working out these days in light of our present circumstances? This is one reason God allows pandemics and civil unrest: to cast down our idols and frustrate our Babel building. If you think you are wise, if you believe you can do it yourself, you’re betting on the wrong horse. If you don’t mind my saying so (and even if you do), you make a pretty miserable god. Repent of that. Be who Jesus invites you to be, who God has created you to be. A child of the heavenly Father, baptized into Christ. A helpless infant, whose help is in the Name of the LORD (Ps. 124:8).
To be an infant in this regard is to come to Jesus with all your labors and burdens, that He may give you rest. It is to rely utterly and completely on Him for every need. First and foremost, of course, your salvation. You cannot save yourself. You cannot bear the burden of the Law so as to fulfill it. Your knees will buckle under the weight, and the yoke will crush you. But Jesus bears it for you. He fulfills the Law in your place. Perfectly. In righteousness and holiness. And He gives all of that to you, freely, because you are a helpless infant, and that is what you need. He is harnessed to the cross and bears the yoke all the way up the hill to put your sin and failure to death. He is risen and lives to give you life. To wash away your filth, as He does at the font and in the Absolution. To shelter you in His House, in this family, His Church. To feed you from His Table, the milk of His Word, the solid food of His Body and Blood. To be an infant, as Jesus invites you to be, is to have all of this done for you, by Him. It is to be a receiver of all of these things. All things have been handed over to Jesus by our Father. And Jesus knows the proper time and manner of administering them to you and to me.
We sure cry a lot, though, don’t we? Because Jesus doesn’t do things in the speed or manner that we want Him to. We’re hungry, and what if the economy tanks and we lose our job and our paycheck and our house and we can’t even buy groceries? We’re tired, so weary, exhausted. The news is never good. This pandemic is endless. The political conflict is at fever pitch. Now even violence and destruction in our streets. Chaos. We check Facebook hoping to escape, but find nothing but arguing and pontificating and virtue signaling. How can we solve our problems when we can’t even talk? Where can we catch a break, enjoy some needed rest? And, we need to clean ourselves up. We’re so filthy. With our own sin. We seek to justify ourselves. We seek justification from the world by pandering. But our diapers are still dirty. Where to we turn for help?
We cry for the same reason infants cry. We’re hungry, we’re tired, and we’re stewing in our own filth. And Jesus is the only answer to any one of these predicaments. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matt. 5:6). By Jesus, who feeds us with Himself. And you weary? “Come to me,” Jesus says to us this morning, “and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Or how about Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Or this word from St. Peter: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God”… no more self-justification or virtue signaling for you, dear Christian… just like the Proverbs verse says, no more leaning on your own understanding… “so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Are you filthy? You are, in your sins. Something in the air gives that away. But Jesus washes you in His blood and death by the waters of Holy Baptism and forgives you all your sins. He swaddles you with Himself, and you are clean, pure, and holy to God, a sweet smelling savor. Rest in that. Live in that safety and security, in the Father’s loving embrace.
Sometimes we cry simply because we’re gassy, by which I mean there is ultimately no harm that can come to us in our Father’s care and in Jesus, who loves us and has saved us. But there are pains and discomfort to be endured. This life is hard, and it is not what it should be. It is fallen. There are sorrows and there are troubles and afflictions of various kinds. So we cry. But see, as infants, we can do so in the sure trust, the faith, that our God is with us in the room, comforting and consoling us, singing us to sleep with the blessed Gospel song, protecting us and providing for our every need.
It is good to be an infant in the House of our Father, wholly dependent upon Him for absolutely everything. It is to just such as these that the Father reveals the things of Jesus Christ, the things of our salvation. And so you can lay down your burdens and rest in His care. And then, remember, infants don’t only cry. They also giggle with delight at the wondrous things the wise and understanding take for granted. So it is for us when the Father shows us the Gospel. We giggle and sing. “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matt. 21:16; Ps. 8:2). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.