The old hymn made famous by the late Jim Reeves declares ‘It Is No Secret What God Can Do’ and yet paradoxically God only reveals His secret to a chosen few ! Jesus often communicated His most sublime teaching by spinning stories called Parables and after telling one about the sower He shook the disciples by saying, “ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:16-17). It seems as incongruous to us as I’m sure it did to His early followers that many of the Prophets and Righteous men and women of old desired greatly to see the day that Jesus was living in, and did not. Even the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that time while living as contemporaries of Christ also missed the significance of that day. Most people imagine that the function of so called religious types is to maintain the rules and rituals of the particular group they represent. In this country the argument is well made that the religious clergy and hierarchy were so concerned preserving the institution of the Catholic church that they overlooked the plain teachings of Jesus particularly in regard to the welfare of children in their care. At the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were the religious bigwigs and they also lost sight of the wood for the trees! They had become so obsessed with the observation of the minutiae of Jewish Law that they had forgotten why the Law had been given in the first place. When asked about keeping the Sabbath Jesus had to remind the theological experts that the Sabbath (or by extension the Law) had been made for man and not the other way round. As if this didn’t rock their boat sufficiently He went on to declare “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew2:28)
As a child Jesus had been brought up to the Temple for the dedication to God at the same time as a devout man named Simeon was there praying. The old man had spent his life anticipating the ‘consolation of Israel’ (Luke2:25), and taking the child in his arms he prayed aloud, “ Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke2:29-32) All the laws and rituals and detailed instructions listed in the books of the Old Testament were all pointing to one momentous event, the coming of Messiah. The almost mundane manner of Jesus arrival onto planet Earth (as a baby in a stable etc,.) took many unawares and a large percentage of the professional religious class missed altogether the fulfilment of all their rituals and ceremonies in the carpenter from Nazareth. Often in fact it was the ordinary ‘hurting’ man or woman in the street who first recognised that Jesus was the long promised Messiah for Israel. They responded to Him in an honest heartfelt way as they reached out to Him from their own distress and saw in Him the very face of God.
Jesus summed up His appeal to the marginalized of society by saying, “ It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew9:12) Immediately after this He defined the keynote of God’s new arrangement with humankind, “ I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew9:13). So there it is in a nutshell the secret of God’s Kingdom and the very heart of the Gospel. Proud religious spirits have no truck with this kind of Saviour, they are far too busy with the day to day demands of maintaining the religious status quo.They have their masses and their services to attend to, their novenas and pilgrimages to organise, their theological conferences and synods to convene and a thousand and one other activities that keeps the old religious ball rolling along ! But for the broken-hearted and the downtrodden, for those who weep and those who hurt, for the dispossessed and the helpless there is One who is the Saviour, who stands arms outstretched and says again and again, “ Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew11:28). As if to re-iterate this Divine invitation in the very last book of the Bible, Revelation again the appeal is “Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Revelation22:17)
So the Call is to all but only those who respond are entrusted with the secret of God’s plan for His created world, the Lordship and ultimate universal Kingship of His Son, Jesus. How sad to miss that glorious prize either because of our pre-occupation with the things of this world, or a misguided zeal in pursuing the crucifying demands of a dead and soulless religion ! To those rooted in this world the Bible has this chilling reminder, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews9:26), and to those whose heads are buried in their Holy books Jesus delivers this stinging rebuke, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life” (John5:39-40) The Gospel is freely available for all who cry out in anguish or distress and the answer is always the same. “Come, follow me” (Luke9:23). Jesus invitation is universal to all people, in all places, at all times. He shares His secret with those who respond and say ‘Yes Lord, I will follow’. This is the secret of godliness hidden from the rich and wise, now revealed to the poor and those whom the world consider foolish. Take heed while you may, His pleading will not go on for ever.