Just before Jesus offers his praise of the Father, proclaimed in today’s Gospel, he gives a long reproach of hypocritical and superficial disciples. These range from those who sought John the Baptist out of curiosity (Mt 11:7–15), to those who argued among themselves about who was worse, John for his asceticism or Jesus for his gluttony with sinners (Mt 11:16–19), to communities that remained obstinate of heart toward Jesus’s preaching and signs (Mt 11:20–24).
The common thread that contrasts and gives context to today’s passage about the “little ones” is that those who should know better, who have been given all the privileges of power, education, opportunity, and, most of all, Jesus’s own words, have resisted following his path of discipleship.For Jesus, the measure of true discipleship is not intelligence but obedience. The disciple must first put on the yoke that Jesus gives, a yoke not of labor or burden but of humility. Click To Tweet
Understanding this context keeps us from thinking that Jesus values childlike ignorance over education and scholarly thought. Being learned is not sinful; however, pride disguised as intellectual piety is.
For Jesus, the measure of true discipleship is not intelligence but obedience. The disciple must first put on the yoke that Jesus gives, a yoke not of labor or burden but of humility. From that place of rigor, a disciple then can learn the way of Jesus, placing all their skills of reason and rhetoric at the service of the Gospel. The path may be challenging, but embracing discipline in Christ makes one’s burden light.