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encouragement theology

Come to Jesus!

oxen

Thoughts from Matthew 11…

 

What will keep you from Jesus?

We have our ideas of what it means to come to God, thinking that God only wants us if we are good enough. We need to live a good life. We need to help others who are in need. We must go to church and pray a lot. We need to be kind and gracious to each other.

It is as if we are saying that God will take us only if we are nice or good enough!

But in Matthew’s Gospel Account, Jesus takes time from His teaching to call out to those who need Him. The kingdom of heaven is not about who is rich, who is smart, who is powerful, nor who is well educated. It is not even for the religious, but for those who are weary and worn down. It is for those who trust in Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t call the religious and the devout — instead, He sends them a warning.

He doesn’t call the smart and clever — instead, He shows His wisdom to the simple ones.

And finally, He doesn’t call the hard workers to earn their way into His Kingdom. Instead, He calls the weary and overloaded.

Just as in His Sermon on the Mount, He didn’t come for the successful and powerful, He came for the broken and grieving. Only the needy ones can know what it really means to trust in Him!

What does it mean to come to Him?

It means that we must first repent. No matter how spiritual or religious we may act, we need to turn from our own ways and follow Him.

It also means that we need to trust Him like a child. We can only know Him as He reveals Himself to us.

And finally, it means to come to Him for rest. He will take away our overwhelming burden if we only come to Him. We still have the responsibility to obey and follow Him, but He promises that “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:20-30
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “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. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 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. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

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.”

 

The kingdom is not for the Religious but the Repentant

Matthew 11:20-24
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “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. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 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. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Many teachers don’t include this section about repentance when they teach on Jesus’ call in this chapter. Jesus calls out to the weary, yet He starts out with judgement! However, this judgement is an essential part of Jesus’ message. Many of Jesus’ miracles in Matthew 8-9 had been in the town and suburbs of Capernaum, and yet they refused to repent.a He even showed that it will be much more tolerable for these ancient wicked cities of Tyre, Sidon, and even Sodom that it will be for these cities. They knew the truth, they saw the truth, and yet they refused to believe Him!

Tyre and Sidon were ancient Phonecian cities to the north of Israel. They were major seaports and centers of Baal worship in the Old Testament times, and had gained a reputation for their rampant wickedness.6 The wicked queen Jezebel was from Sidon (1 Kings 16:31). Sodom was the ancient wicked city destroyed by God in the time of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18-19). “Sodom had become a synonym for the vilest and most unnatural sin.” (H.A. Ironside2)

What does it mean to repent? As mentioned here, to repent means more than to simply be sorry for your disobedience. It means to consciously turn away from your disobedience and to follow God.

“The nation was not rejected because they had a wrong concept of the kingdom, but because they failed to repent.” – Stanley Toussaint1

 

The kingdom is not for the Wise but the Simple

Matthew 11:25-27
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.

Later in Jesus’ ministry, the disciples came to Him, asking who is the greatest (Matthew 18:1-6). He responded by bringing a child and showing that whoever comes to him must first be like a child. If you want to come to him, you need to come with the simple, trusting faith of a child.

Note that the children here are not necessarily physically young, but rather those who are able to come to God with the simple trust. This same word for children is often used in Scripture for those who are new or unskilled (e.g. Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:13).

Jesus publicly prayed to God the Father, thanking Him that He has not revealed himself to the wise, but to children.b His kingdom not for those who think that they are smart and special, but for those who simply trust him. Those are the ones to whom Jesus will reveal himself.c

“Intelligence doesn’t block you from the kingdom, it is intellectual pride. The lack of intelligence does not to get you into the kingdom, it is humility.” – John MacArthur7

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 

The kingdom is not for the Successful but the Weary and Overloaded

Matthew 11:28-30
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.”

Jesus calls out to all who are weary and overladen. Those who are overwhelmed. Come to him!

Jesus called the weary to take on His yoke. The yoke was a custom-made harness which was built by the farmers of that day for his oxen.3 A good yoke would allow the oxen to accomplish everything the farmer needed without being hurt or overwhelmed. But in addition, the yoke would also cause the oxen to yield to the farmer. They could only go as the farmer directed. Jesus has customized a yoke for each one of us. This keeps us from straying too far from Him and it allows us to accomplish what He wants without being hurt or overwhelmed.

The yoke is a step of obedience, but it is also a step of trust and security.

He implores you to come to him and take his yoke. Come to him and commit to him. Follow him, obey him, and learn from him and he will give you rest!d e

Jesus does require your obedience and your commitment to him, but when you do, he promises rest for your souls, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Many shrink from submitting to His yoke, fearing it may involve greater sacrifices than they are ready to make. But all who acknowledge His authority and blend their wills with His find they enter a rest such as the weary of this world never know.” – H.A. Ironside2

 

Conclusion

All throughout history, people have worked to try to earn favor with God. Even today, most people equate knowing God with being religious. You must follow a lot of rules and regulations and make sure you live an extra-good life. But that is not what Jesus says.

For those who are weary and worn out trying to get the God, Jesus has this message for them. Come to me! Come to me you who are tired of trying to make it on your own! Come to me, you who have been failed by your religious system! Come to me, you who are lost and confused and have failed to keep the standard!

What do we need to do? We need to repent. We need to turn from our disobedience and turn to him.

We need to trust him like a child. We need to stop trying to think through all of our doubts, and simply trust him.

And finally, we need to simply come to him. Come to him and commit to him, obeying him. When you do you will find rest for your souls. You are free from all the “do’s” and “don’ts” of any religion. You are freed from any laws that would demand specific behavior if you want to come to God.

And Jesus promises you, that when you do that, you will find rest for your souls. You will know him when you trust him and you will learn from him when you come to him.

 

Previous post: John’s Doubt and Tribute


References

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 11:20-30, pages 154-157

[2] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 11, The Grace of the King

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 11:16-30, page 34

[4] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 8. https://www.christianity.com/jesus/life-of-jesus/harmony-of-the-gospels/15-the-unpardonable-sin-and-a-shift-to-parables.html

[5] Stephen Davey, 21st Century Disciples, Matthew 11, 3/17/1991

[6] John MacArthur, Treating Christ with Criticism and Indifference, Matthew 11:16-24, Sep 20, 1981

[7] John MacArthur, Jesus’ Personal Invitation, Part 1, Matthew 11:25-26, Oct 4, 1981

[8] John MacArthur, Jesus’ Personal Invitation, Part 2, Matthew 11:27-30, Oct 4, 1981

 


Notes

[a] Bible scholars debate on the actual locations of Chorazin and Bethsaida, but they appear to be suburbs of Capernaum itself. If that is the case, then Jesus is pronouncing His judgement here on the area of greater Capernaum. He starts by comparing the smaller sections of the town to Tyre and Sidon, and then increases intensity by comparing the entire town with Sodom!

[b] Jesus says in Matthew 11:25, “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.

What are these things that Jesus is talking about? The immediate context is the judgement on Capernaum and its towns for its refusal to repent. But the greater context is that “wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19). This entire chapter is using both John the Baptist and the judgement to show the wisdom of Jesus Christ. This wisdom is not for those who are wise in this world.

[c] Matthew 11:27 contains three important facts about God that we are not able to adequately study in this post, “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.

  • All things have been handed over to me by my Father” — this shows the absolute dependency of Jesus Christ on God the Father.
  • 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 can only know the Father through Jesus Christ. John 14:9 says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” See also John 6:45-46, and the posts on John 6 here, and John 14 here.
  • and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” — we cannot come to God except for the sovereign will of Jesus Christ (i.e. the doctrine of election). John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” See also John 6:44, John 6:65, and the post on John 6 here.

[d] Jesus says to the weary, “I am gentle and lowly in heart”. The word gentle is often translated as “meek”, and is the same word as in Matthew 5:5 (see here), meaning “power under control”. Jesus is not showing weakness here, but rather He is promising to meet the humble on their level.

[e] Many Bible students have gotten into error by looking at only part of this passage. Some have focused only on the yoke and the burden, leading them to the conclusion that you must work to obtain favor with God. But this would contradict the call of Jesus, when he tells those who are overworked to come to him. Others have focused only on the “Come to me” part, and see this as a universal invitation for everyone to come to Jesus, free of charge without any commitment whatsoever. However, this neglects the fact that Jesus still asked for your commitment in the yoke and he does have a burden. Furthermore, they neglect the immediately preceding passage, where Jesus pronounced judgment upon Capernaum for refusing to repent. We absolutely need to repent!

 

 

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