Grace For The Journey
In John Bunyan’s classic analogy of the Christian life, Pilgrim’s Progress, the story begins with the character Pilgrim having a large and heavy burden upon his back. It weighs him down and makes everything that he does difficult.
The first part of the story centers
Around Pilgrim’s efforts to find
A way to get rid of the burden.
It is not until Pilgrim comes
To Jesus that he is freed.
The rest of the story describes
Pilgrim’s progress in the Christian life
After he is freed his burden.
The analogy of a heavy burden on your back is a good description of what life is like apart from Jesus Christ. Even for the Christian, it can feel like the weight of the world is upon your shoulders when you are not walking with the Lord as you should or are striving to do things in your own power.
In today’s blog we are going to be looking at Matthew 11:25-30 and Jesus’ offer of rest to those who are burdened and heavy-laden. But before we can understand the offer of rest, we must understand the setting of the offer.
Verse 25 begins the narrative by stating, “At that time Jesus answered and said . . . “ Some have tried to establish that Luke is repeating himself by pointing to Luke 10:21-23 where Jesus prays almost the same thing. However, the two events are not the same. The similarity of the two passages is only that Jesus prayed the same thing on both occasions. Luke 10 is not the parallel passage.
This passage begins in Matthew 11:20, but Luke only gives the general time setting and not a specific one. The general setting is that Jesus has been ministering in the region of Galilee (11:1). John the Baptist was in prison and was beginning to have some doubts. He sent two of his disciples to Jesus, and the Lord gave John confirmation that his original message was correct. Jesus is indeed the Expected One, (11:2-6) for He was fulfilling the prophecies concerning the Messiah including healing the sick and the lame, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead. After John’s disciples left, Jesus gave a wonderful tribute to John saying that no human before John had been greater (11:7-15). Jesus then turned His attention to the critics of John and Himself in Matthew 11:16-19.
The critics were saying that John was demonized because of his austere manner of living while at the same time they were accusing Jesus of being a glutton and drunkard because He ate and drank what everyone else did. So . . .
John was too ascetic for them
Jesus was not ascetic enough.
They also criticized Jesus for being a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners because they did not believe a man who was truly holy would have such associations. They were blind to the fact that their prideful self-righteousness was a greater stench in the nostrils of God than the sinfulness of the publicans and harlots.
Jesus said that they were childish like the kids in the marketplace who would not play the game the other children were playing even when they switched games. Nothing would satisfy them. These critics claimed to be the ones with wisdom, but wisdom is verified by its works, and their works proved them to be foolish.
Starting in Matthew 11:20, Jesus began a very strong reproach against the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum because of their apathetic response to all that Jesus had done in those cities. Most of Jesus’ miracles had been done in those cities, yet the people did not repent. Jesus’ words are stern and forceful. They would be judged harshly because they had rejected the great amount of grace that had been extended to them.
Jesus’ denunciation of His vocal critics
And those that ignored Him is the setting,
But He now changes to the opposite tone
In presenting a wonderful and gracious offer.
The offer begins with a prayer. Verses 25-30 state, “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son will to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus begins His prayer, “I praise You, Father.” This opening statement teaches us two things: (1) Praise is a fitting beginning to prayer; and, (2) Jesus is the Son of God.
The tendency for most people when they pray is to jump right into petitions. People usually start or very quickly move into asking God for what they want and often forget to praise Him. The reality is that praise is the proper beginning of prayer for, as Jesus points out in the next phrase, God is “Lord of heaven and earth.” God is the creator and master and so is worthy of our praise. God is not a “cosmic vending machine” whose purpose is to satisfy man’s desires.
Too often people go to God
As if He exists
For their purposes
When the reality is
That God created man
For His purposes.
The particular word translated here as “praise,” gives emphasis to the importance of praise as part of prayer. This is not one of the more common words for praise, but is the one used in the Septuagint in the Psalms of thanksgiving and praise. It is a compound word that has a basic meaning of “to agree with” or “to say the same thing” and came to be used to express praise to God for what He has done.
In this passage we get the sense of Jesus’ praise of the Father rising out of His agreement and unanimity to what the Father has done. The same thing becomes increasingly true in the believers own life as we grow in our faith and have a greater understanding and agreement with what God has done and is doing.
Notice that Jesus does not begin with the phrase, “Our Father,” as He did when teaching His disciples a model of prayer in Matthew. Neither does Jesus refer to God as Father in the universal sense as the Creator since He addresses that in the second phrase of the prayer, “Lord of heaven and earth.” When Jesus prays to God the Father, as He does here, Jesus simply addresses God as “Father.” (See Matthew 11:25,26; Luke 10:21; 22:42; 23:34, 46; John 11:41; 12:27, 28; 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25). Jesus uses the phrase, “My Father” twice (Matthew 26:39,42) and “Abba! Father!” once (Mark 14:36) in speaking directly to God the Father. Jesus speaks to God the Father directly addressing Him simply as Father because of His unique relationship with Him that signifies His own deity. Jesus calls God “Father” because Jesus is the Son of God. The Jews of the time certainly understood what Jesus meant by this for Jesus’ enemies sought to stone Him for blasphemy for addressing God that way in John 10.
Jesus is the Messiah, God in human flesh, so it is no wonder that we find God the Son giving praise from a basis of unanimity to God the Father. The specific thing which was well pleasing in the eyes of the Father (verse 26) and the Son was that “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”
What was hidden from some and revealed to others? All that Jesus had been proclaiming and teaching to this point in His ministry. That includes the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus presented His kingdom program and the characteristics of true righteousness necessary to be part of it. Those such as the Scribes and Pharisees who only have the righteousness of an outward conformity to the demands of a religious system will not enter God’s kingdom.
That brings up the first prerequisite of receiving Jesus’ offer of rest. In verses 25-26 we find . . .
The Prerequisites to the Offer – Only the humble of heart will hear and understand the offer being made.
We may wonder why Jesus is glad that the things of the kingdom were hidden from the wise and the intelligent. Some would even claim it would not be fair to do this reasoning that the kingdom would then only be for simpletons and the stupid. While there are plenty of intellectuals that claim that Christians lack intelligence to believe what we do, is having a low IQ a requirement for salvation? Of course not, a fact demonstrated by the very high IQ of many Christians and their accomplishments in every field of science, health, art, business, and government.
The terms “wise” and “prudent” are used here in the same way that Paul uses them in 1 Corinthians 1:18-29, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”
Jesus is using these words to refer to those who think they can do it their own way and so do not need a Savior. They think they can figure it all out on their own and provide for themselves. It is a reference to the foolish pride of mankind which schemes, plots and develops his own religion or philosophy so that he does not have to trust in God and His mercy and grace alone. This was exactly what the religious leaders of Jesus’ time had done. They modified the Mosaic Law to the point that they actually thought they were keeping it and therefore were pleasing God to the point that He would have to let them be part of His kingdom. They ignored the warning of the prophets that even their righteous deeds were as filthy rags before the Holy God who created them (Isaiah 64:6).
That pride is still very much present today. It is found in all the false religions and philosophies which includes Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, paganism, secular humanism and all the rest. It is found in the many cults which claims some sort of tie to Christianity because they speak about Jesus and use New Testament terminology such as mercy, grace, faith, hope, salvation, etc., yet they often have different meanings for those words including having a different Jesus, and/or they achieve salvation by their own efforts. Even Christian denominations that at one time held to the truth have lost their way in the same manner as the Jewish leaders of old. They replace the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone with salvation in some system of works.
God has always resisted the proud while giving grace to the humble (Psalm 138:6; Isaiah 2:11-12;Matthew 23:12; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Jesus’ reference here is to those who are proud because they think themselves to be wise and intelligent and so refuse to come to God on God’s terms. God will resist such people. At the same time, the humble, who are referred to in this text as “babes,” will be given grace and understanding of what the Father has revealed through Jesus’ preaching and teaching.
Tomorrow we will look at the second prerequisite of Jesus’ offer of rest.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”