I Will Give You Rest

by LA UBF   03/28/2009     0 reads




Matthew 11:16-30

Key Verses: 11:28-30


Read verses 16-19, To what does Matthew compare this generation? How do the children show their fickleness? Why is this like people’s responses to John and to Jesus? What does this tell us about the differences in Jesus and John? What do they both seek? 

Read verses 20-24. Why did Jesus denounce certain cities? What did Korazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum have in common? What did Tyre, Sidon and Sodom have in common? 

How did he compare Korazin and Bethsaida with Tyre and Sidon? What special grace and love from Jesus had Capernaum received? Why should Capernaum apologize to Sodom? Why should we? Why is the invitation to repent so precious and important? 

Read verse 25-26. When Jesus prayed at that time, what was his thanksgiving topic? How does he address God? How does he acknowledge God’s sovereignty? Who are the wise and learned? Who are the little children? 

Read verse 27. What is it that Jesus revealed to his disciples that only he can make known? 

Read verses 28-30. What is Jesus’ invitation? To whom is it given? What does he offer? How can we learn from Jesus? What is a yoke? What does Jesus mean by “take my yoke?” Why does he say that his yoke is easy and his burden light? What is the rest he offers?





Matthew 11:16-30

Key Verses 11:28-30

28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Let’s begin today’s message with a short recap of last week’s passage since it comes from the same chapter. Last week we covered verses 1-15. The key points were that those who lived in the days of Jesus’ ministry were blessed to see God’s climatic closure to the Old Testament period in Jesus’ coming. They were also blessed to see the dawning of a new period in God’s history called the “Kingdom of Heaven”. This new period is blessed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and everyone who lived in Jesus’ days and until now is uniquely great because of our opportunity to know Jesus personally. Whereas the prophets of long ago (Old Testament period) could only see him from afar, we who live in the period of the Kingdom of Heaven can know him personally. Because of this opportunity we are blessed and because of this opportunity we must be forceful to “take hold of the Kingdom of Heaven”. We talked about the meaning of being forceful—to do what we can to know Jesus better and accept him despite our seemingly little strength. We then concluded with Jesus’ explanation to the people around him that “the Elijah who was to come” was John the Baptist, therefore the people of Jesus’ time should pay careful attention because God was doing great things in their time. In essence a spiritual eruption was happening and Jesus expected people to respond accordingly with repentance and acceptance. But as we’ll see in today’s passage many in Jesus’ time responded to God’s new work by hardening their heart and rejecting him. We’ll think about the people of Jesus’ generation and why they responded this way and then find application for ourselves.

Part 1 — Proud & Complaining Children

Let’s read verses 16-19. 16"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17" 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.' 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." 'But wisdom is proved right by her actions."

Like other verses in Matthew 11, the meaning of these verses are debated by Bible scholars. I have found that the writers who quickly cover these verses lean one way while other commentaries that go slow and carefully lean another way. Let’s start slow by realizing Jesus has first given us a parable of children and then secondly he has given us it’s explanation. If we consider his introduction “To what can I compare this generation…” we realize that Jesus’ parable is about a “generation”. So let’s actually look at his explanation first and then consider the parable. Let’s look at verse 18.

Jesus here uncovers a major contradiction in the people of his generation. When John the Baptist came preaching his message was “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” His personal lifestyle was one of an outsider of this world who lived a lifestyle that was radically and unmistakably different from others. John fasted a lot and lived in the desert and seemingly because of this, people said, “He has a demon.” That seems like a plausible critique but the contradiction in their accusation was soon realized when Jesus’ ministry began. Unlike John who was an outsider to this World, Jesus was a missionary inside the World. He accepted “sinners” from the darkest corners of this World. His message was the same though—”Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Yet, Jesus accepted invitations to all kinds of celebrations and he never discriminated against the host. Jesus and his disciples enjoyed themselves (drinking and eating). But people said “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’ ”. The people’s contradiction reveals that they were finding fault and complaining not because there was something wrong with John and Jesus’ lifestyle but because they rejected John and Jesus’ common message. So what was the generations’ problem then? Looking back at Jesus’ parable we can find some insight. Look at verses 16 and 17 again. 

This parable is culturally based on the times of Jesus but the similarities with his explanation are clear. Here we see a group of children who like the generation of John and Jesus are leveraging complaints towards others. Their first complaint is that they played the flute but others did not dance. This is similar to the generation's complaints brought against John the Baptist. Many religious looking people were living it up by enjoying the perks and easy going lifestyle of a religious leader. They would have wanted such a powerful preacher like John to validate them but John didn’t play their game. He resisted them instead and even rebuked them.

The second complaint by the children in the market was similar to the complaint brought against Jesus for having too much joy in his ministry. This time the children are playing a dirge (which is like a funeral song) and they want the others to mourn and cry. Several places we see people expressing their disgust for Jesus and his disciples because they didn’t fast or act solemn. They wanted Jesus to respond to their lead but Jesus resisted them and didn’t play their game of mourning.

This parable reveals the great pride of the generation to dictate to God’s messengers how they should be. Instead of learning and accepting from the John the greatest prophet ever and Jesus who is God incarnate they wanted to teach them something. We know though that all this posturing by the generation was a cover for their proud hearts that were rejecting the message to repent and seek the Kingdom of Heaven. So what would the consequences be for rejected Jesus and shutting their ears to the message of repentance?

Part 2 — It Will Be More Bearable for Sodom On The Day of Judgement Than For You

Look at verses 20-24.

20Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

Here, Jesus began to to denounce three cities where “most of his miracles had been performed”. Modern day scholars refer to these three cities as the Orthodox Triangle because they form a triangle, with the points about three miles apart and because the inhabitants were very religious Jews, a fact supported by the many synagogues discovered there.

Now Jesus didn’t go around denouncing entire cities of people often. So what did these highly religious people do that angered the Lord? In short, “they did not repent”. When we look deeper in the passage we see why this was so bad. In the passage here Jesus sets up two hypothetical situations were, “If the miracles that were performed” in them had been performed in historically wicked cities those inhabitants would have responded better than they. Basically, Jesus is saying that rapists, murderers and sexual perverts would have responded in repentance had they been given the same opportunities. And so by given so many opportunities these people’s sin of pride and rejecting Jesus piled up and up until it was going to be easier in the time of Judgement for the overtly wicked people than for these seemingly religious people. Amazingly the very miracles that were performed to encourage them to believe Jesus’ message of repentance became the evidence to condemn them of their pride and rejection of Jesus.

When we think of our generation we can see that we are given just as many opportunities as the people of Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum and eve more! We have the complete testimony of Jesus with a record of his miracles. We have access to his Word all the time through radio, television and internet. Tens of thousands of books have been written about the Bible—many of them are wonderful and insightful. I can’t even begin to mention how many personal ways God has helped us and worked miracles in our lives. All of this so that we would open our hearts and accept Jesus and then once having done that to abide in him. Since God has done so much to convince us of our need for him we must be humble and attentive to God’s voice in our life. Let’s humble ourselves before him and obey his Words so that we may be saved from the judgment. 

Part 3 — Come to Me All You Who Are Weary And Burdened

Look at verses 25-27. 

 25At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. 27"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Here, after bringing a harsh rebuke against the cities mentioned above Jesus turns to God in a wonderful praise. This praise is directed towards God’s way of concealing the Kingdom of Heaven from the wise and learned (the proud people who rejected the truth). Jesus also gives praise to God because He has revealed these things to little children (those who are humble learners). Jesus then tells us that the authority to conceal and the reveal God and himself have been given to him by the Father. We therefore must acknowledge this authority. Knowing God doesn’t come from knowing more about the Bible. Knowing God isn’t something we can insist upon. Knowing God comes through knowing Jesus and therefore we can’t know Jesus unless we come to him. So let’s look into the next verses to see what that’s like to come to him.

Look at verses 28-30. 

 28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

So far we have seen how the proud and learned were denounced by Jesus and how God has concealed himself from them. We have seen how Jesus wants the humble little children to come to him. So the question is how should we come and what should we anticipate when we come. Jesus tells us here that we should come with all our weary and burdened souls which have been suffering and seeking rest. In coming to him we should expect “rest”. This isn’t just any kind of rest but this is real “rest”, real peace, real contentment and much more. We must believe that when we come to Jesus we will experience this rest.

Maybe you have experienced this rest before, maybe you have had it several times. Maybe like a car needing gas you have come to Jesus feeling weary and burdened and then after experiencing rest you drove off only to run out of gas again and to return weary once more. But this cycle of weariness is not what Jesus came into this world to give us. No, Jesus came to give us perpetual, unceasing rest if we would commit to him deeply. Let’s look at verse 29 again. Here Jesus says that we should take his yoke upon us and learn from him by doing so he promises “rest for our souls”. What does it mean to take his “yoke” upon us? Does it mean that Jesus wants to put yoke around our neck and have us pull his cart for him. Is Jesus our owner and we are the ones who do all his work for him? No. We must consider carefully this metaphor of a yoke so as to understand what Jesus is and is not saying. First, a yoke is used on oxen to help them during their work. A yoke is almost always used to connect two oxen and thereby form a team or united partnership together. For this reason when someone talks about a yoke of oxen they always mean two oxen. Single yokes exist but are so rare that Jesus is definitely not implying them. In training young oxen the farmer will always yoke a mature oxen with a young one. This helps the younger oxen to learn from the older and depending on the ages it is possible that the older oxen ends up pulling the majority of the load thus making it easier on the younger one. Jesus never asks people to do anything that he himself won’t do. Jesus is the servant of all therefore he doesn’t put a yoke on people so as to benefit himself or push through an agenda. Instead, Jesus who predominantly carries the yoke of doing God’s will in this world invites us to take his yoke and learn from him. As he says here, we need not to be afraid of the experience because being in being so closely attached to Jesus, he has promised us “rest for our souls”. We can experience rest when we come to Jesus and perpetual rest when we deeply commit to him. This deep attachment is the greatest because it’s a yoke that is easy and the burden is light. 

In conclusion we learn that Jesus accepts the humble little children who have learning minds. He invites them to make a deep commitment to him so that they can know him fully. The proud, the wise and learned, those who think they know something great. Unfortunately, these are the ones whom Jesus said God has “hidden these things”. Let us not be like them. Instead, may we use every opportunity Jesus gives us to learn of him and solidify our commitment to him—then and only then we will find rest.

One Word: Rest