Summary: Faith in Jesus is what determines who will be accepted by God, who will recline at the table and who will be cast out. It is in response to Jesus in faith that he will give you rest.
Matthew 11:25-30 To the Heavy Laden
8/2/09 D. Marion Clark
Is there a more heart-warming passage than the verses we are considering this morning? Let me read Jesus’ invitation:
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.”
Here is the gentle, mild Jesus calling upon the weary to find rest in him. It is the voice of the Lamb calling out to his little lambs. Now I know the problem is with me, but I need to express my unsettled feelings about this image of Jesus, even what Jesus says about himself.
To be honest, gentle is not the first characteristic that comes to my mind when I think of Jesus. No doubt, there are times like in this passage, when he speaks in a gentle manner, but there are too many other instances in which, quite frankly, he scares me. Just look at the passage before this one.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (11:21-24).
Or take this example as he wraps up his famous Sermon on the Mount:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (7:21-23).
I could go on, but you get the picture. So when I hear Jesus referring to himself as gentle, I’m not cynical, just a bit timid about assuming that he will be gentle with me.
The other part of this call by Jesus that unsettles me is what he says about his yoke: 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Really? Let me read some more from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire…
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell…39 …Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…44 …Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:22, 28, 29, 39; 44, 48).
Or one more example of the many that express the hardship of discipleship:
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (16:23-25).
So again, I am a bit timid responding to this gentle, warm call to find rest. But let’s proceed. There are three aspects to Jesus’ call. There is the caller Jesus; there is the called, the heavy laden; and there is the call itself, to come to Jesus.
Despite my misgivings, Jesus gives a mild description of himself: “I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Did you know that only in the Gospel of Matthew is Jesus referred to in terms like these? I did a word search of “gentle,” “lowly,” “meek,” and “humble.” Nothing. The only other reference in Matthew is from a quote in Zechariah 9:9 explaining Jesus’ mode of entrance into Jerusalem: “Behold your king is coming to you humble and mounted on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5).