“All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for 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.”
What is God like? If you are anything like me then you wonder quite a lot about God. It’s my wondering about God that draws me to a story told by the late Thomas Torrance, Professor of Theology at the University of Edinburgh. Torrance had been an army chaplain with the King’s Own Royal Rifles in Italy during World War II. One day Torrance was looking for the wounded when he came across a dying private barely twenty years old. As Torrance bent over the mortally wounded soldier the private looked at him and asked: “Padre, is God really like Jesus?”
Torrance assured him that God is like Jesus, the only God there is, the God who has come down to us, showed to us His face, and poured out His love for us as Savior. As Torrance prayed commending the young man to Jesus, the soldier died. That battlefield encounter helped set the course for Torrance’s long career as a theologian and minister in the Church of Scotland. He wanted people to know that God is just like Jesus.
Today’s Scripture reveals what God is like. The oft-quoted last lines of the text are usually quoted out of context and miss the point Jesus makes. In His earlier lines Jesus speaks of the intimacy that God the Father and God the Son enjoy. Jesus says that no one knows the Father like He knows the Father, and no one knows Jesus like the Father knows Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Jesus says that no one knows the Father like Jesus knows Him “and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”.
Here is where the Good News gets really good! The “anyone” to whom Jesus reveals what Father is like, is the one “weary” from trying to keep the religious leaders’ rules, the “anyone” exhausted “carrying heavy burdens” of legalism. That person is the one invited to know God the Father as only Jesus knows Him! Jesus invites that “anyone” worn out from trying to earn God’s love, saying, “Come to me” and “Learn from me”.
Note what it is that Jesus teaches the worn out and weary ones! Jesus’ role is to teach about the Father. So when Jesus invites saying, “I am gentle and humble in heart”, He is not only teaching something about Himself, but also teaching something about the nature and character of the Father. It is the nature of the Father to be “gentle and humble in heart” (see Philippians 2:5-8).
It is the nature of God revealed in Jesus taking the children into his arms and blessing them. It is the nature of God revealed in praying for His executioners, “Father forgive them”. It is the nature of God revealed in Jesus calling Judas his “friend” even at the moment of betrayal. He is truly “gentle and humble in heart”!
“Anyone” worn out from trying to earn God’s love or to measure up, can come to God through the Son and learn for himself that the Father is “gentle and humble in heart”. The Son of God came that “anyone” might know His very own intimacy and closeness to the Father. On Jesus’ last night He prayed to the Father, asking, “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them” (John 17:26).
After Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand God “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). God longs for that “anyone” to know that he is loved as Jesus is loved. He wants us to know the Father as Jesus knows Him.
Torrance said that he saw peace in the dying soldier’s eyes when assured that God was like Jesus. Jesus came to give rest. Let “anyone” among us who is weary and heavy-laden be at rest.
Grace and peace, and rest,
photo by More Good Foundation