25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 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. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11
Jesus has just rebuked some cities because they did not repent and believe in spite of having seen great miracles. Like many today, their hearts remained hardened toward God in spite of signs of his goodness being all around. As this passage begins, we find Jesus rejoicing that the Father is in charge, hiding things from some and revealing them to others. The Father’s wise and sovereign control is a good thing indeed!
The “little children” mentioned here are those who believe in Jesus. They may not be learned or skilled or experienced or have positions of influence. They are simply trusting in Jesus with child-like faith. As a result, God gives them wisdom, knowledge and understanding. They are blessed. By contrast, the religious leaders and teachers of the Law had put great burdens on people. “This is what God requires . . .” they said time and again. Yet, these are the ones from whom God has hidden things.
Yet rest assured that the Father and the Son are in control. The Son will reveal the Father to whomever the Son chooses to reveal Him. Well if He is in control, then we are not. That puts us in a position of dependency. While we may initially rebel against not being in control, Jesus shows us that His divine authority is a good thing for us.
When God gave the Law He expected it to be followed and obeyed – perfectly. There was no room for failure. It was all or nothing. If one does not keep the Law fully, he will be lost and separated from God forever. But who can do that? That was the dilemma of the average person in the first century AD. O, how they needed to hear about God’s grace in Christ!
The religious leaders not only taught the Law. Over time, they added to it layer upon layer of interpretation and rules for keeping the Law. “Keep it all,” they told others. But how does one do that? Extra effort? More religion? A bigger sacrifice? The harder one tries to keep the Law, the more one is aware that he is not keeping it. The burden, guilt, despair, and shame pile up in his consciousness. To that troubled soul, Jesus offers good news. “Come to me.” He knows that we cannot do it on our own. He knows that you are not good enough for God to accept you because of what you have done.
Thus, Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” In His perfect obedience to the Law and submission to the Father Jesus did it all. He was the perfect fulfillment of the Law. He was the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is the only Mediator between God and men. To the one burdened with law-keeping, come to Jesus who fulfilled all that God requires for the salvation of sinners. In Him alone can we be saved!
To the burdened soul He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” A yoke was a wooden crosspiece that was put around the necks of two animals. The yoke forced them to work together as they pulled a plow or a wagon, the experienced animal leading the younger one and teaching it how to get the work done. With that image, Jesus calls us to yoke up with Him, to take off our own burdens, and put on the “burden” He has for us. He wants to lead us and walk with us through this life. He wants to show us the way to God.
If we take on this yoke it means that there is work for us to do as a Christian. However it is work done with the power of Christ working in us. He empowers us to obey the commands of God. As Jesus places His yoke upon us, He leads and teaches us. He is the One in control of our lives. You can resist him and live under the burden of your own responsibility, but you will only wear yourself out. Far better to take on His yoke.
“For I am gentle and lowly in heart.” What a great description of Jesus! He does not wear people out with His personality. Some people are heavy to be around in their behavior, in their opinions, in their self-centeredness, in their demands on others. However, Jesus is light and gentle. He is life-giving. You get refreshed in His presence. You feel accepted and embraced. His gentleness is our strength and source of joy.
“And you will find rest for your souls.” The word “rest” is so appealing. It describes the longing of our hearts. In a world full of anger, pain, division, and stress, Jesus gives rest. While many strive to show themselves as great and important, Jesus gives peace and rest. Your heart sighs as you read this, doesn’t it? That is the rest we long for!
“For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” What are the burdens you carry today? Poor health? A sick spouse? Financial challenges? A troubled relationship? Issues at work? Unload those things onto the broad and strong shoulders of Jesus. Give up your burdens for His yoke. As you give your life to Jesus and follow His path, you have strength to walk with Him daily. You will find joy in living for Him, in surrendering to Him, in doing things His way, and in listening to His voice. You will experience His peace. Many voices call out to us today. The voice of Jesus is the one that will lead to rest. Are you listening?