Jesus' Light Yoke | Matthew 11:25-30 (Mville)
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 11:25–11:30
Please grab your Bibles, and if you don’t have one, you’re welcome to grab a copy in the back. I invite you to turn to our text today which is found in Matthew 11:25-30. If you haven’t opened a Bible before, it’s the 1st book of the New Testament, which begins somewhere around the last 3rd of your Bible.
Do I measure up? Is God pleased with me? Have I done enough good to outweigh the bad I’ve done? Is my salvation secure? Why do I often have an underlying sense of guilt or discontentment?
I wonder how many of us here this morning roll these questions around in our hearts on a regular basis, maybe even daily. If we were honest, I’d bet that it’s a fairly high percentage. These questions can haunt us if left unanswered or answered incorrectly. They quickly become a weight too heavy to bear.
Today’s text out of Matthew 11:25-30 holds answers to all these questions. If you came in weary and heavy laden this morning, burdened with guilt, saddled with fear, worn out from trying to justify your existence to God and yourself, my confident hope is that you’ll go out with renewed hope in Christ and His promises. So let’s turn to Matthew and read our text.
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; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 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. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30 ESV)
Today we’re going to work through our text in 3 sections: the Reign of God in salvation: concealing & revealing, the Revelation of God in salvation: Jesus the Christ, and the Rest of God in salvation: Jesus’ yoke.
The REIGN of God in Salvation – Concealing and Revealing
So Chris preached this past week on Matt 11:1-24. In the latter part of that sermon we saw how, despite the fact that Jesus performed the vast majority of His miracles in cities like Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernum, their sin-seared blindness led to rejection of Jesus, rather than repentance. In response, Jesus pronounced a stern judgment upon them, foretelling how agonizing the day of judgment would be for them if they didn’t repent.
But why didn’t they repent? Jesus, by his own admission, pulled out all the stops in these towns. He didn’t hold back or hide his miracles. They had plenty of evidence to see and evaluate and consider, so much so that had the city of Sodom witnessed these same miracles - the city that is remembered to this day for its crispy fried Pompei-style destruction because of their heinous sin – had the people of Sodom witnessed Jesus’ miracles they would have repented and turned to God.
So why didn’t they? Because salvation is of the Lord. At the end of the day, it isn’t about information or even demonstration. Repentance and salvation require revelation. And we’re dependent on God to provide that.
Salvation isn’t like science where we simply look at all the available facts and come to the right conclusions. Jesus shows us in the passage that the Father is at the heart of salvation – hiding saving truth from some and revealing it to others. The word for revelation in Greek, apokalyptÅ, means to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up, to make bare, to make known, to make manifest.
There’s a part of us that doesn’t like facing the fact that God is sovereign in salvation, especially when it comes to trying to understand why God doesn’t save some people. We too easily forget that God isn’t dealing with a bunch of neutral moral beings, some of whom he capriciously decides to fry like a school boy with a magnifying glass and an ant on the sidewalk, while others get transported to a pleasant paradise.
He has nothing but traitorous rebels steeped in sin to work with, ALL of us who deserve his judgment, who deserve to have our hearts remain veiled due to our sinfulness, but some of whom He mercifully chooses to pardon and rescue to display His grace and glory. Therefore, his decision to remain concealed to some isn’t an act of injustice but of righteous judgment. Had we not blinded ourselves through sin, we’d see and know Him clearly enough.
A large part of that blindness is owing to our pride and hubris. That’s what Jesus is referring to in his prayer. He has nothing against learning and education. He’s not at all opposed to intelligence. We’re commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and MIND. No, Jesus is after our wills and hearts. Scripture is so clear over and over that He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
That is one of the many beautiful aspects of our faith: though it’s incredibly rich and deep, at the same time God makes it available to everyone regardless of education or intellect. You don’t need secret knowledge, special underwear or adherence to 5 pillars. God only requires a humble heart of trust. But to the sinfully self-sufficient, God backs off and leaves them in their blindness.
It’s difficult for our finite minds to comprehend how God can be sovereign and omnipotent, in control of everything down to a single sparrow, and yet we’re still responsible. Nonethess Scripture is full of examples
o Gen 50:20-- As for you, you meant evil against me, but iGod meant it for good, to bring it about that many people2 should be kept alive, as they are today.
o Jer 10:23-24 I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. 24 xCorrect me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
o Phil 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
“But that’s not Fair!” we scream. “By what authority does he do this?” And the answer is plain, of course. By His own authority. Jesus makes this abundantly clear for us in His prayer, addressing God His father as “Lord of Heaven and Earth”. He is the Creator and Lord and He therefore has the perfect right to act however He sees fit.
We see this title “Lord of Heaven and Earth” repeated a few times throughout Scripture. One of those places is in Acts 17:24-27 where we read:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (Acts 17:24-27 ESV)
The sovereignty of God is on full display here in Paul’s preaching. God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth is the one who has created every single human being from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and He is the one who has determined the number of our days and even where we’ll live. So it’s not an accident that you and I are here this morning. God has appointed this very moment.
For many of us, in our sin-stained hearts that are steeped in our culture’s high value of individuality, that sovereignty feels like a straight jacket. It feels overbearing. “I’m my own man. I create my own destiny!”
If that’s the way your heart responds, don’t miss what both Paul and Jesus have to say about the sovereignty of God. In the passage we just read in Acts 17, Paul said “[God]… determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” His purposes are for our good. They’re for our salvation—that we would seek after Him and be saved.
Jesus doesn’t leave any ambiguity about this either. He says in our text, “yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” The greek word there is eudokia, which can also be translated as “kind intent, benevolence, good pleasure.”
As perplexing and confusing as His sovereignty in salvation can be, we’re not in any position to judge and relabel it for ourselves. The Son of God has spoken and declared it gracious and good. So the question becomes whether or not you and I will submit to that declaration of truth and conform our minds to it—confessing in our hearts that ALL His ways are good, even when He chooses to keep Himself hidden.
This is a place where we would do well to heed Paul’s words in Romans 11:33-36, which is itself chapter that explores the mystery of God’s hand in salvation:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
The REVELATION of God in Salvation – Jesus the Christ
So salvation belongs to God and depends upon Him taking the blinders off of our hearts. Looking back at our text, in verse 27 we read Jesus’ words:
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.
We see in our text that this revelation isn’t merely of generic truths or abstract principles. It’s not merely Judeo-Christian values or the golden rule or the ten commandments, as great and fundamental as those truths are. God’s revelation that leads to salvation is seeing Jesus for who he is - the Christ, the Messiah, the King. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Our world and even our own hearts at times balk at the exclusive claims that Christ makes about His supremacy in salvation. We want to lower the bar much more and just “Coexist” as the bumper sticker encourages us. After all, don’t all the world’s religions basically teach the same thing – that we should love each other and get along? Well actually they don’t.
In the face of mounting rejection, Jesus makes some very clear, specific, bold claims. He tells us that NO ONE knows the Father in a deep, personal, intimate way except the Son. Buddha doesn’t. Mohammed doesn’t. Joseph Smith doesn’t. Oprah doesn’t. Dr. Phil doesn’t. Jon Stewart doesn’t. If you claim to know God, but you don’t trust and treasure Jesus, then you don’t know God. ALL THINGS, all power, all authority that the Lord of Heaven and Earth possesses have been handed over to Jesus, and he doesn’t share this authority with any other supposed spiritual leaders.
To know Jesus, not just in a factual, cerebral way, but in a deeply personal, experiential way, in a way that loves His Word and loves His Bride-the church, and loves to follow after Him, however imperfectly, is to know the Father
To use an imperfect example, the closest thing I can liken this to is the way spouses know each other. Carly and I have been married for a brief 11 years, but during these 11 years we’ve truly grown to be one flesh. For you to sit down with me for coffee and ask me to share about her and what attracts me and inspires me about her is in many respects to get to know her for yourself so that if you met her for the first time, you’d feel like you’d already met.
So it is with God. No one has really seen the Father face to face. The best that Moses got was His backside. But the relationships between all three members of the trinity are so rich and intimate that to see Jesus in all his humble, self-sacrificing glory is to see and know the Father for ourselves.
The REST of God in Salvation - Jesus’ Yoke
Moving on to the third and final portion of our text today, we read again in verses 28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
If we’re not careful, we can be so offended or outraged both by the fact that God gives saving revelation to some and not others AND at the exclusivity of that revelation being Jesus Christ and Him alone, that we completely miss these next verses – a gracious invitation to come to Him.
EXAMPLE: Cancelled Consequences
There’ve been times where I’ve had to discipline one of my boys for the way they disrespected Carly or myself. It’s our general pattern that prior to having a talk with them about how they sinned, we’ll send them to their room for a 10-20 minute time out. Most times, as part of the talk, which includes reminding them of the gospel good news that Jesus lived the life they couldn’t and died the death they deserved, most times they’ll get an appropriate consequence of some sort.
Sometimes though, God’s Spirit will stir my heart in a different direction and I’ll sense that it’s an opportune time to show mercy and not give the consequence and really underscore the fact that God doesn’t give us what we deserve because of Jesus’ work. In those times, as I’m walking to their room to have the talk and thinking about the poignant moment and how the gospel is going to grab them…etc.
So make sure you hear the amazing, generous, compassionate invitation in these words.
And notice that he beckons all those who are weary and heavy laden right after telling the Jews that being reconciled to God the Father only comes through knowing Jesus, not the yoke of the Law. The Jews were weary from a religious system of rules and works that they used to try and wash away their sin and earn God’s favor. Jesus says in chapter 23 of Matthew, verses 1-4,
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Yes, the sacrificial system instituted by God foreshadowed His grace, but the scribes and Pharisees added all sorts of extra legalistic layers, some of which we will learn about next week when Kevin preaches. The system was unbearable. The thing is, even without these man-made additions, God never intended for the Law to be a Savior, only a tutor, and a harsh one at that, that would drive us to Christ,.
We still try to earn our way to God today. The standard religious activities still apply in many ways, “hey God, read my Bible – Gold Star!” but we’ve added a few others in recent history: I recycle. I buy local. I only eat organic. I’m off the grid. There are all sorts of ways for us to fall into the ditch of attempting to merit God’s Favor.
Whereas with legalism we try to make our own way to God, with the other ditch, license, we try to make God come our own way. Our neighbors at the Unitarian congregation are a great example. Their reader board last week was the perfect example. It read, “discover your own truth”. In essence – find your own god and your own path.
I mention all this because you and I labor ourselves to exhaustion trying to live apart from the grace of God. It’s to our weary souls that God invites and even commands us to come.
Before we come, though, we have to address this apparent contradiction. Jesus promises rest, but then he starts talking about yokes and burdens. It’s almost like you have a friend who owns a little lake cabin. He notices you seem stressed and worn out so he offers to let you stay at the cabin for free for a few days to get some much needed rest. Seems amazing, except that when you get there he calls and asks if you wouldn’t mind mowing the yard, fixing the screen door and chopping up the wood piled out back. Talk about a bait and switch. This was not the “rest” you had in mind. So what’s going on here?
There’s no way to sugar coat a yoke. Most of you have probably seen one before. They’re pieces of wood that get laid across the shoulders of beasts of burden, like an ox, so that the animal can be put to work, such as plowing a field. Sometimes humans used yokes, even today, for carrying water. So yokes always indicate bondage, in the case of the Law, or service or submission.
And that’s one of the many paradoxes of our faith. One of the things that seems so upside down from the rest of the world. You and I won’t know true freedom and rest apart from being a slave of Christ. We won’t know deep, hearty rest until we take on his yoke.
The fact of the matter is that a lot of our fatigue and exhaustion simply comes from narcissism. We’re too self-absorbed in our tiny little stories. For some, the very thing we think we need more of to get rest – freetime to spend on ourselves and our hobbies—is actually what’s depleting us.
We’ve yoked ourselves to the world and its ways of being—only asking “What’s in it for me” rather than asking, “what’s in it for God and His glory or the well-being of my neighbor. There is life and rest in losing ourselves in the story of God and in others’ lives. Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25).
If we are willing to come and submit ourselves to Him, and take receive his yoke, Jesus offers rest that is both
o eternal and Temporal
o Particular and comprehensive
o Personal and corporate
o Surface to deep
o Simply received and worked hard for
So how does today’s text impact everyday life? How doesn’t it!
Be humbled – Examine your heart for where you’re puffed up with pride, thinking that you were one of the smart kids who did his homework and got an A on the test of life because of your perceptivity and hard work. You and I see the glory and beauty that we do in Jesus simply because He’s revealed himself too us. We’re not wise and intelligent. We’re children who have a gracious Father. One theologian put it this way in speaking about cultivating a humble heart, “The beginning of the way to heaven is to feel that we’re on the way to hell, and to be willing to be taught by the Spirit.”
Be greatly encouraged – Many have a fear and a sense that we can lose our salvation. If we were the ones saving ourselves, that would be completely possible and definitely a terrifying prospect! But we AREN’T the ones who save ourselves. God is the one who reaches down into the muck and mire of our lives and pulls us out, and scripture makes it very clear that NO ONE can snatch us out of His hand.
We’re to work our own salvation out with fear and trembling not because God might cast us off at any moment, but exactly the opposite—because the Lord of Heaven and Earth, who created everything we see and all that exists—He is at work in us, even at the level of our wills, to cause us to follow him. Amazing! That should make us tremble with reverence!
Enlarge your vision: Too often we look with eyes of flesh at those around us and think we have a good handle on who is likely a little too far for the grace of God to reach, and who is so close and would be a huge asset to the kingdom. The reality is God saves people out of the most unlikely circumstances.
Sam Ford, one of the pastors at the Snohomish church, saw this first hand a few months ago with his wife’s sister. She’s lived a hard life including drugs, men and other tragic life choices. From our vantage point, though none of us would would have the hutzpa to say, “she’s too far off”, we’d think in our hearts, “boy, she really needs to change some things if God is ever going to be able to get a hold of her”. Yet it’s often those who are desperate, not successfully self-sufficient, to whom Jesus’ invitation of rest is most ready to be heard. And she is on fire for God right now, even witnessing to drug dealers!
Be on mission: Remember and preach to yourself that if you’re in Christ, your life is not your own. Giving up your time and resources to advance God’s kingdom in your church, in your workplace, in your neighborhoods and in our world is the last thing our flesh wants to do because it feels too costly. But that yoke and cross that Jesus commands us to bear paradoxically gives life rather than takes it. His yoke is easy and his burden is light when compared with the crushing weight of a life focused only on self. Come to Him all of you who labor and are heavy laden and find rest for your souls.
More in Mission of the King | Matthew Part II
September 14, 2014Rejecting Jesus | Matthew 13:53-58 (Mville)
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