Series: The Word
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
When I first heard this verse many moons ago I was struck by the tone my Sunday School teacher used when she read about the invitation Jesus spoke.
It wasn’t at all like ‘get out of your seat and get up here’. I’ve heard evangelists say that and even if I’d been so inclined I wouldn’t have gone to them. It was a little scary!
At least in my case, Jesus has never been so abrupt with me.
Jesus’ invitation is inviting and loving. It’s an invitation that made me feel like I mattered. As I recall there was a tiny hint of urgency in His invitation.
Still, it wasn’t a command.
The thing I remember most is that I felt like Jesus wanted me to come because He loved me and He wanted to be with me.
It was a little like how I felt when my Grandma opened the door and motioned for me to come in. She’d smile and give me a squeege. Then she’d give a little giggle. She had a wonderful giggle.
The other thing I remember about my grandma is that she was never demanding. Even when she directed me, it was done out of love.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “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.”
Jesus’ invitation wasn’t a general one. He directed His remarks to those who are laboring in “life” working to survive and even carrying a heavy load.
We have to remember the context of the society in Jesus’ time. Every one worked hard. As far as we know the only disciple of the original twelve men who had a “desk job” before they started following Jesus was Matthew the Tax Collector.
The original disciples would have had jobs but for six of them we do not know what they did for a living prior to following Jesus. Four of the disciples were fishermen. Simon, the Zealot was actively engaged in ‘terrorizing’ the Roman Government. That’s not really a profession, but that’s how he was identified. Matthew was a tax collector for the Roman Government.
When Jesus used the words heavy laden we get the idea that in the laboring someone else was pressuring them to succeed. Because of that, Matthew the Tax Collector would have been especially pressured into succeeding. The Roman Government expected Matthew to collect as much as possible from everyone who lived in the empire.
The gift that Jesus offered to the disciples and to everyone else was “rest”. That gift would have been unheard of in the first century.
Survival would have been very difficult.
Lifespan was short by today’s standards.
Most sources say the average lifespan was around 30-40 years and more than likely that would have been for men. Since most women didn’t work outside the home, we have little data available. We do know that at the time Jesus was crucified his Mother was still alive but remember she was probably a young teenager when he was born. Jesus’ father Joseph is not mentioned at the time of the crucifixion.
When Jesus mentioned “the yoke” it was in reference to the heavy wood piece placed on the oxen to connect them to their load. Jesus was offering his yoke which would have been a magnanimous offer. A yoke in their society referred to the law, a command, and even faith. They had rules they were taught to live by in the synagogue. They had a lot of rules. We often think of the Ten Commandments, but by the time Jesus came those had been segmented and multiplied. There were actually 613 commandments (https://www.gotquestions.org/613-commandments.html).
That’s a LOT to remember and get right.
Jesus instead was telling them he would help carry their load.
He offered to be their teacher and guide.
He promised he would be gentle and “lowly”. The Koine Greek word used is ‘tapeinos’ which can mean humble, lowly, or meek.
We get the idea that Jesus is telling them he will surrender Himself to them. Humbly He will carry them. He will gently walk to them and touch them, easing their burdens. He will bear our burdens for us.
The idea was so counter cultural that the disciples would have probably not known how to respond. After all, this was their Rabbi. They referred to him as Rabboni (John 20:16). All of the Rabbis they had known had set rules they had to follow. There was no room for error. Now Jesus telling them he would humbly carry them and bear their burdens.
He promised them “rest” for their weary souls. Jewish boys who were sent to Temple to learn when they were young all knew the rules. The ‘onus’ was solely on them. They had to keep up in class. They had to be able to memorize massive amounts of information from the Hebrew Scriptures. When they failed they were sent home to learn a trade, usually the trade of their fathers.
Now, Jesus was telling them He would humbly carry them. He would bear their burdens.
He would give them rest.
Jesus promised (promises) He will make their yoke easy and light.
I envision the disciples talking after the fact going over and over what Jesus said. I think they would have found it difficult to process.
And…even today, I’m not sure we accept what Jesus offers. He’s telling us to stop struggling. Stop beating ourselves up. Stop thinking we have failed.
The truth is we only fail if we try to carry the burden ourselves.
We need to let go.
We need to let Jesus carry the burden FOR us and rest.
Rest. Rest in the arms of Jesus
Spiritual Practice: Jesus is calling you to ‘Come’ just as You Are
Give your burdens to Jesus. Then rest.
In God, Deborah