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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus (Week 7)

“Finding Rest for Your Soul!”

Part 7 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

 Are you overwhelmed? Are there more “should” and “wants” in your life than there is time in the day? Do you remain constantly connected because of the fear of missed opportunities?

 

We must replace FOMO “Fear of Missed Opportunities” with JOMO “Joy of Missing Opportunities,” but to do this we must be in a restful place—in our souls! Writing on this subject, one MD wrote, “According to a recent survey on LinkedIn, 70 percent of employees admit that when they take a vacation, they don’t disconnect from work. Our digital habits, which include constantly checking messages, emails, and social media timelines, have become so entrenched, it is nearly impossible to simply enjoy the moment, along with the people with whom we are sharing these moments.”[1] Listen to this poem about JOMO by Michael Leunig,

 

Oh the joy of missing out.

When the world begins to shout

And rush towards that shining thing;

The latest bit of mental bling–

Trying to have it, see it, do it,

You simply know you won’t go through it;

The anxious clamoring and need

This restless hungry thing to feed.

Instead, you feel the loveliness;

The pleasure of your emptiness.

You spurn the treasure on the shelf

In favor of your peaceful self;

Without regret, without a doubt.

Oh the joy of missing out[2]

 

Pastor Kevin DeYoung, wrote a book in 2013 that I needed then, but didn’t find until now. I didn’t find it because I wasn’t searching for rest. It is called, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem, and it diagnoses a real FOMO for many Christians:

 

The Bible is a big book, and there’s a lot in there. So the Bible says a lot about the poor, about marriage, about prayer, about evangelism, about missions, about justice; it says a lot about a lot. Almost any Christian can make a case that their thing should be the main thing or at least one of the most important things. It’s easy for preachers and leaders, or just plain old Christian friends, to pound away at “more”—we should pray more, give more, show hospitality more, share our faith more, read our Bibles more, volunteer more. Doing something about the global AIDS crisis, tackling homelessness, getting water to an impoverished village—these overwhelm me… Along with some of the advice I’ve gotten about pastoral ministry: make sure you do a few hours of counseling a week; make sure you are working to develop leaders every week; make sure you are doing one-on-one discipleship every week; make sure you do a few hours of evangelism every week; make sure you reserve half a day for reading every week; make sure you are spending time in Greek and Hebrew every week. Who is sufficient for these things? But getting to the place where my conscience can rest has been a process. I think most Christians hear these urgent calls to do more (or feel them internally already) and learn to live with a low-level guilt that comes from not doing enough. We know we can always pray more and give more and evangelize more, so we get used to living in a state of mild disappointment with ourselves. That’s not how the apostle Paul lived (1 Cor. 4:4), and it’s not how God wants us to live, either (Rom. 12:1–2). Either we are guilty of sin—like greed, selfishness, idolatry—and we need to repent, be forgiven, and change. Or something else is going on. It’s taken me several years, a lot of reflection, and a bunch of unnecessary busyness to understand that when it comes to good causes and good deeds, “do more or disobey” is not the best thing we can say.[3] (my emphasis added)

 

This astute pastor was ahead of his time. Before the concept of JOMO was popular (hang on because this one is going to stick around for a while), Pastor DeYoung was diagnosing diligent Christians with a religious FOMO that was robbing us of the JOMO that can only be found by living in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ.

 

I invite you into the crossroads opportunity that this “Rest” series has been to each of us. Jesus is inviting you to make 2019 a year of experiencing JOMO—the healthy and balanced life of saying “no” to keeping up with others because you daily say yes to staying in the yoke with Jesus Christ. Or 2019 will be more of the same FOMO that fuels the daily fatigue of missing out and frustration of comparison. Who doesn’t want more from their life? I don’t know about you, but I can’t add one more item to my schedule or put another should or could in my mind or heart!

 

What is the antidote to our over-committed, over-connected, and hyper-productive lifestyles?

 

 

Finding Rest for Your Soul

 

JOMO is found in the yoke of Jesus Christ! We are going to learn exactly what Jesus’ promise is and why it’s important to living the abundant life. Listen to Matthew 11:28-30, “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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[4] (caps original to NASB, bold added for emphasis)

 

The key to this is simply found in a truth you all know: You will never find rest when you are searching for more! How do we find the promised rest for our souls?

 

First, I want to focus on the word “find” in Jesus’ promise: “and you will find…” (v. 29). In v. 28 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

Jesus’ promise of “I will give you rest” is an indicative verb in the 1st person, future tense, and active voice, meaning Jesus will do this (it’s a factual reality that will happen) for those who come to Him. Jesus is our Sabbath rest.[5]

 

Jesus’ invitation of “Come to Me” is in the adverbial form meaning it modifies the promise of Jesus as applying to those who come to Him. Additionally, the original Greek word for “come” is the same word used for “follow” in Jesus’ classic invitation to discipleship. In Mark 1:17, Jesus invites, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”[6] Jesus trains His first disciples by inviting them to walk with Him. As they spend time with Jesus (in His yoke, carrying their cross, abiding in the vine, walking in His footsteps, listening to His voice, drinking His blood and eating His flesh), they become like Jesus and do that which Jesus does.[7]

 

We have the same dynamic in Matthew 11:28-30. In verse 29 Jesus commands, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart.” The yoke is Jesus’ teachings: His commands and His actions are reinforced and solidified by us experiencing His personal example of being “gentle and humble in heart.” Jesus is not inviting us to have a fairy-tale salvation where we once-upon-a-time said a prayer and now everything is going to be happily-ever-after. Jesus never says that, hints at that, or promises that! Yes, it starts there, with a prayer of a humble heart that repents by casting down all other yokes to take on the yoke of Jesus, which is putting your personal trust in Jesus as master over and teacher of your life.[8]

 

Think about this in terms of becoming an apprentice to a master or a student to a personal tutor.[9]

 

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus’ promise is for the abundant life as promised in John 10:10.[10] It is critical that you see this connection because Matthew 11:28-30 is a call to Christian discipleship. The promise of “I will give you rest” demands a response: “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden.” The “Come to Me” response is then overtly unpacked in two imperatives—taking on Jesus’ yoke and learning from Jesus, the One who submitted to His Father’s will in all things.

 

This is how you will find rest for your souls, by doing the same as Jesus! Jesus was not only completely submitted to His Father’s will, but also to His Father’s grace to accomplish His will. Jesus is not inviting you to try to do Christianity on your own power, to save yourself, but to trust Jesus at His promise by practically coming under His teaching and learning from Him. The Holy Spirit in and through you will flow out of your response to His promise in word and deed. Never the other way around.[11]

 

Which brings us back to the key: You will never find rest when you are searching for more!

 

Matthew 11:29 finishes, “and you will find rest for your souls.” The words “you will find” are the one original Greek verb εὑρίσκω (indicative verb, 2nd person, active voice, future tense) which according to BDAG means “to attain a state or condition, find (for oneself), obtain.”[12]

 

What is Jesus offering us when He uses the word “soul” in His promise? We are examining the Hebrew word נֶ֫פֶשׁ (nephesh or nepeš) because Jesus is quoting the OT passage of Jeremiah 6:16. Let’s watch this video from The Bible Project on the Hebrew word nephesh: https://thebibleproject.com/videos/nephesh-soul/.

 

Listen to how Jesus overlaps the words “find” and “soul” in two other verses in the Gospel of Matthew: Verse 10:39, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” And verse 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.[13] (emphasis added)

 

You find rest for your soul by being in the yoke of Jesus and learning from Him, by having the smartest person who ever lived right there with you through ever situation in the school of life. The Master Teacher’s learning objective for this life is your sanctification.[14] Sanctification simply stated is becoming the best version of you to the glory of God and the good of others, which Jesus taught is through His perfect example of submission to His Father.

 

The antidote to always wanting more from the world is focusing the essence of our living being on wanting to be more like Jesus Christ. When our ambition is for our holiness and not our happiness, then we will experience JOMO (the antidote to FOMO). You will never find happiness when you make happiness your ambition. You were designed to worship and you will worship. The problem is that if you worship anyone or anything other than Jesus, you will destroy both yourself and the object of your worship. That is why many are being twice-over destroyed by their lifestyles because they are worshipping their own happiness and comfort.

 

We cannot put ourselves under our own stewardship and take on the yoke of our own lordship.[15]

 

We learn to live a restful life by being with the One who teaches us how to rest in submission to another. Jesus does not remove the Law, He fulfills and becomes Lord over it—the Mediator between God and humanity. We walk in the law by walking with Jesus, not by trying to keep it by our own will power and good intentions. J. Knox Chamblin unpacks this concept for us in a helpful way, “One experiences the sabbath rest precisely by keeping the sabbath command; and it is rest not just for the ‘soul’ (so most translations of 11:29c), but for the body as well. Yet, this only happens for persons intimately related to ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’ (12:8). In Jesus’ hands, the law is an instrument of grace, a guide for loving God and neighbor. Wielded by alien powers (demonic or human), the law becomes enslaving and destructive.”[16]

 

When we are not living as Jesus’ apprentice (being in His yoke moment by moment), the “thief” (who Jesus contrasts to Himself and His abundance with in John 10:10) jumps in to “steal, kill, and destroy.” To illustrate this in an everyday reality of being a capable human being: It is a daily occurrence to think that you’ve got this (whatever the this is, you know how to do it or you’ll figure it out) and you might, but so does the devil and he just loves watching you jump all over it without yoking with Jesus first. He loves that you think you can handle this one on your own (apply a little common sense, then put a dash of human spirit into it, if that doesn’t work exert the fulness of your personality to get it done and presto: You are B.U.S.Y. “BEING UNDER SATAN’S YOKE!” Jesus never ever wants you to be in that yoke, but remember Jesus is “Gentle” and He will not force you into His yoke, but He sure does give you a lot of incentive to get it on and learn from Him! Jesus has offered you His rest under those conditions.

 

Will you accept them? If not, expect FOMO to take over or to keep feeding your current lifestyle choices.

 

The bottom line of this sermon is that Jesus is inviting us to be His apprentice, to become like Him. We will find rest when we submit to the one whom we call master, just liked Jesus submitted to His Father to the point of death, even death on a cross! JOMO feels like death to those who feel are addicted, caught up in their current lifestyle. But when you yoke with Jesus, you will have so much more time, energy, and healthy emotional bandwidth for what He would have you do with your life, your true priorities. Here are some six helpful action items[17]:

 

  1. Be intentional with your time:Schedule things that are important to you whether it is working out, meeting a friend for coffee, writing that book or completing a work project. Make your time your priority instead of wasting time worrying about what other individuals are doing or thinking.

 

  1. Give yourself permission to live in the present:If you are having a bad day, be easy on yourself and treat yourself to a relaxing evening. If you just received good news, then take a moment to embrace it and celebrate. If you feel that you are in constant competition with someone on social media, then re-assess why you are feeling this way.
  2. Embrace tech-free time:Unsubscribe from social media accounts and un-follow individuals who trigger your FOMO or cause you any type of negativity. Set daily limits to how long you can spend on social media or delete certain social media apps from your phone so you can only status scroll when you are at home on your computer.
  3. Practice saying “No”:You do not always have to go to that event or take that phone call. Sometimes saying, “no” is the best kind of self-love. Even if you want to help someone but feel it will have a negative impact on yourself, say “no,” in order to protect yourself. Self-care and self-love start by saying, “no.”
  4. Experience real life (not social media life):JOMO allows you to have more free time by eliminating wasted time spent scrolling social media feeds. Instead of spending your free moments by the drama of social media, email and text messages; what if you chose to disconnect and do the things that you enjoy such as cooking, spending time outdoors, and spending time with your family.
  5. Slow down:Take time to think before you speak, embrace the quiet, use time driving in traffic or waiting in lines to sit with your thoughts or listen to a book. Slowing down can increase our creativity, which we can harvest into other productive avenues and projects in our life.

 

The Context of Jeremiah 6:16

 

Jesus quoting Jeremiah 6:16 calls us to a true and lasting peace with God, not a white-washed tomb, like the Pharisees. Jesus promises to give us peace as His apprentices (the indicative) and as we walk with Him as His apprentices (the imperatives) we will find rest. God created us as living people who find rest in Him when we choose to walk in obedience to His ways—it’s in our design and it is how we find our freedom from slavery and fulfillment in this life![18]

 

Jesus’ yoke is His teaching. It is His lordship. It is His salvation.[19] This is Jesus inviting us into God’s covenant shalom by walking according to His way, the way of the Messiah.[20] As John testified, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”[21] We know we are in Christ when our lives are a daily testimony of the shema of Israel: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”[22] Because then it is a comprehensive, whole-person rest that brings peace within both the person and throughout the community. We become carriers of God’s peace by having God’s rest.

 

The promises to Israel in Deuteronomy 6 are included in the promises to those who answer the invitation to take on Jesus’ yoke and learn from Him: rest for our nephesh (“soul”): “Nephesh teaches us that all of who we are matters, that both our bodies and souls matter in the great story of the Bible. Our bodies and souls matter at the Creation, in the Fall, and in Redemption.”[23] This is why Jesus invites you to choose life and not death, blessings and not curses, just like the prophets called Israel over and over again throughout the OT, crying out “return to Me!”[24] Jesus is intentionally quoting Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.”[25] Jesus is fulfilling the promise![26]

 

Jesus doesn’t pull a verse out of context, Jesus pulls the whole context into His invitation. Jesus is calling the people of Israel back to the way of healthy community as God’s chosen people, which is the way of rest in His easy yoke, the way of a sincere relationship with God.[27] Listen to the three verses before Jeremiah 6:16 to help you really understand the context:

 

For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the Lord.[28]

 

This is serious! God’s people are in grave danger at this time in history (6th Century BC) because they are not trusting in God or walking in the ways of God taught to them through God’s Law given through Moses. So God sent prophet after prophet to them to remind them, but they still won’t listen![29] So God sent His Son to make the final invitation to God’s people.

 

Jesus is intentionally creating a clear connection between not only the Old Covenant prophet Jeremiah and His promise of rest, but also the state of apostasy God’s people are in when God sends them a messenger of grace to respond to His invitation to find rest. In Deuteronomy 28:65, God proclaims the danger of not choosing His ancient paths, “Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul.”[30] Jesus is saying all that He says in Matthew 11:28-30 directly after He denounces cities for their apostasy in Matthew 11:20-27. As J. Knox Chamblin very succinctly declares, “Jesus’ overture of grace (Matt. 11:28–30) is sounded in the presence of persons already threatened with condemnation (cf. 11:6, 16–24). If they refuse this invitation, what hope can remain for them?”[31] (emphasis original)

 

Jesus is crying out compassionately to God’s chosen people to no longer follow the ways of the hypocritical religious leaders who put burdens of the Law on people but aren’t even willing to lift a finger. Rest is the gift to the one who trusts in the Promise Giver enough to put their life in the yoke! This is the new way of living, the life of the Spirit. As Paul defined, “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”[32]

 

The invitation to find rest has gone out![33] The Hebrew phrase, “and you will find rest for your souls” is God’s gracious invitation to experience Gods’ shalom to the comprehensive essence of the whole human life, your “totality.”[34] Remember, nephesh, by an Old Testament understanding, cannot and should not be separated from the life of the whole person—body and spirit. The soul, according to the Bible, is not part of a person, it is the person created by and responsive to God.[35] That is why it is important to see Jeremiah’s invitation in Jeremiah 6:16 in its proper light and why Jesus quotes it: “The prophet calls the community to a wholesome life in which the needs and rights of all under God are recognized and met.”[36]

 

 

Israel’s Decision is our Invitation to Respond

 

Israel’s decision to God’s crossroads invitation is so painful to hear when you know what is going to happen if they reject God’s gracious invitation to find rest for their souls. When Jeremiah first made this appeal to God’s people, it was with Babylon threating to take them out of the Promised Land—the “land of rest.”[37] It pains me to read this last line of Jeremiah 6:16 after such a gracious invitation, “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.[38] God hands them over to their choice: Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed by the Babylonian army in 586 BC and God’s chosen people are exiled for 70 years in Babylon. Yahweh had put before Israel the choice of following His “ancient paths” or worshipping pagan gods. They chose the latter to their own destruction, what will you choose?

 

What will be our response to Jesus’ invitation to find rest for our souls? Our response to this invitation will directly impact every aspect of not only our personal lives, but our church’s health and our communities’ well-being as well. Jesus is giving us the key to fulfill His mandates in the world as His disciples. We are to work from a place of soul-rest![39]

 

Jesus is inviting us to know the rest of God through a growing daily relationship of how we live our lives. Jesus’ rest is for Heaven one day, but it is also for His presence in your life today, the here and now! Are you resting in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ? If you are, then you will know it because you will experience the rest of your whole living being.[40] You will live in JOMO!

 

If you are not, then you will know it because God loves you enough to allow you to experience what it feels like to live outside of His Promised Land—in FOMO!

 

We only are willing to take on the easy yoke of Jesus when we realize the crushing weight of all other yokes![41]

 

Are you experiencing rest for your soul? Are you experiencing JOMO?

 

You will never find rest when you are searching for more!

 

The rest Jesus offers you is for your whole being—all of you, every day, in every season of life, in any job you are or are not doing, and in your current relational status you are experiencing.

 

Rest is for you right now, embrace Jesus…
 
For more information:
 
Click HERE for a link to an unpublished paper by Jerry concerning the meaning of the soul entitled, An Old Testament Understanding of the Human Soul.”
 
 
Footnotes:
 

[1] Kristen Fuller, MD. “JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out” (Psychology Today, July 26, 2018). https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201807/jomo-the-joy-missing-out [last accessed February 15, 2019]. Click on this article for some very sensible and culturally savvy application to this sermon. I integrate ideas into my applications. This article represents something very exciting to me: science is catching up to what Jesus taught humanity thousands of years ago. Jesus is truly the smartest person who ever lived.

 

[2] Quoted by Kristen Fuller, MD. “JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out” (Psychology Today, July 26, 2018). https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201807/jomo-the-joy-missing-out [last accessed February 15, 2019].

[3] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

 

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:28–30.

            [5] Hebrews 4:1-11 is a succinct teaching on the rest of God in the NT. Gerhard Hasel makes the connection between the Old Covenant teaching of Sabbath and the New Covenant teaching of Jesus: “Hebrews 4:9 states, ‘There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.’ The words ‘sabbath rest’ translate the Gk noun sabbatismos, a unique word in the NT. This term appears also in Plutarch (Superst. 3 [Moralia 166a]) for sabbath observance, and in four post-canonical Christian writings which are not dependent on Heb 4:9 (Justin Dial. 23:3; Epiph. Panar. haer. 30, 2.2; Martyrdom of Peter and Paul, chap. 1; Const. Apost. 2.36.2) for seventh-day ‘sabbath celebration’ (Hofius 1970:103–5). The author of Hebrews affirms in Heb 4:3–11, through the joining of quotations from Gen 2:2 and Ps 95:7, that the promised “sabbath rest” still anticipates a complete realization ‘for the people of God’ in the eschatological end-time which had been inaugurated with the appearance of Jesus (1:1–3). ‘Sabbath rest’ within this context is not equated with a future, post-eschaton sabbath celebration in the heavenly sanctuary; it is likewise not experienced in the rest that comes in death. The experience of ‘sabbath rest’ points to a present ‘rest’ (katapausis) reality in which those ‘who have believed are entering’ (4:3) and it points to a future ‘rest’ reality (4:11). Physical sabbath-keeping on the part of the new covenant believer as affirmed by ‘sabbath rest’ epitomizes cessation from ‘works’ (4:10) in commemoration of God’s rest at creation (4:4 = Gen 2:2) and manifests faith in the salvation provided by Christ. Heb 4:3–11 affirms that physical ‘sabbath rest’ (sabbatismos) is the weekly outward manifestation of the inner experience of spiritual rest (katapausis) in which the final eschatological rest is proleptically experienced already ‘today’ (4:7). Thus ‘sabbath rest’ combines in itself creation-commemoration, salvation-experience, and eschaton-anticipation as the community of faith moves toward the final consummation of total restoration and rest” (Gerhard F. Hasel, “Sabbath,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 855–856).

 

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 1:17. Jesus is promising the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of those who follow Him. I will make you into the best version of you to do the Father’s will through your life. The Holy Spirit will work in and through you to fulfill the Father’s will through the Father’s grace. Follow Me!

 

[7] In this sentence I allude to some of the declarative statements of Jesus that clearly teach that we have no life and can do nothing of God apart from Him. Here are just a few: “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Mt 10:38–39). “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” (Jn 6:53). “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn 14:6). Jesus unapologetically establishes Himself as our fulfillment.

[8] C.H. Spurgeon preached about Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28, “Here is the gracious invitation of the gospel in which the Savior’s tears and smiles were blended, as in a covenant rainbow of promise. ‘Come.’ He drives none away. He calls them to himself. His favorite word is ‘come.’ Not ‘go’ to Moses but, ‘Come to me.’ To Jesus we must come by a personal trust. Not to doctrine, ordinance, or ministry are we first to come but to the personal Savior. All laboring and weary ones may come. He does not limit the call to the spiritually laboring, but every working and wearied one is called. Jesus calls me. Jesus promises ‘rest’ as his gift. His immediate, personal, effectual rest he freely gives to all who come to him by faith. To come to him is the first step, and he invites us to take it. In himself, as the great sacrifice for sin, the conscience, the heart, the understanding obtain complete rest. When we have obtained the rest he gives, we will be ready to hear of a further rest that we find” (Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes [Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017], 1298). (emphasis original)

[9] “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master” (Mt 10:24-25).

[10] In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Now contrast this with Mt 11:28-30: In Jn 10:10, Jesus contrasts the life with Him (“have [life] abundantly”) versus the life with Satan (“the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy”), whereas in Mt 11:28-30, Jesus, by quoting Je 6:16 is contrasting the life in the yoke of God (“rest”) with the life yoked to anything but God (“weary and heavy-laden”). Life in the easy yoke of Jesus is the abundant life! In any other yoke, you are giving yourself over to the thief, rather than the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

 

[11] Imperatives always follow Indicatives! Just like in Romans, all the imperatives of the Christian life (Rom 12—16) flow out of the teaching of the gospel (Romans 1—11). If you look for what “to do” before you see what “Jesus has already done” then you will end up “weary and heavy-laden.” The Christian life is always one of personal response in Jesus’ Name, never one of personal initiative for Jesus’ Name! What damage has been done in the name of Jesus because someone wanted to christen their ambition. Cf. Phil 2:5-11. Remember, good fruit points to a good root and vice versa, when we see bad fruit in our lives go back to the root.

 

[12] The entire entry from BDAG states, “to attain a state or condition, find (for oneself), obtain. The mid. is used in this sense in Attic wr. (B-D-F §310, 1; Rob. 814; Phryn. p. 140 Lob.); in our lit. it occurs in this sense only Hb 9:12. As a rule our lit. uses the act. in such cases (poets; Lucian, Lexiph. 18; LXX; Jos., Ant. 5, 41) τὴν ψυχήν Mt 10:39; 16:25. ἀνάπαυσιν (Sir 11:19; 22:13; 28:16; 33:26; ἄνεσιν ApcEsdr 5:10) ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν rest for your souls 11:29. μετανοίας τόπον have an opportunity to repent or for changing the (father’s) mind Hb 12:17. σκήνωμα τῷ θεῷ Ἰακώβ maintain a dwelling for the God of Jacob Ac 7:46b (Ps 131:5). χάριν obtain grace (SSol 8:10 v.l.) Hb 4:16. χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ obtain favor with God Lk 1:30; also ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ Ac 7:46a; GJs 11:2 (LXX as a rule ἐναντίον w. gen.; JosAs 15:14 ἐνώπιόν σου). ἔλεος παρὰ κυρίου obtain mercy from the Lord 2 Ti 1:18 (cp. Gen 19:19; Da 3:38).—The restoration [πίστιν εὑρ]ίσκομεν Ox 1081, 26 is not valid; on basis of the Coptic SJCh 90, 2 read w. Till p. 220 app.: [ταῦτα γιγν]ῴσκομεν.—B. 765; RAC VI, 985–1052. DELG. M-M. EDNT. TW” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 412). (emphasis original)

 

[13] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 10:39; 16:25. In v. 16:25 notice the linear connection between finding one’s self and being saved (σῴζω).

 

[14] The Apostle Paul captures this concept in Ro 6:12-23; 12:1-2; and 1 Thess 4:1-8.

 

[15] C.H. Spurgeon preached, “Oh be not rashly self-confident, Christian man. Be as confident as you can in your God, but be distrustful of yourself. Ye may yet become all that is vile and vicious, unless sovereign grace prevent and keep you to the end. But remember if you have been preserved, the crown of your keeping belongs to the Shepherd of Israel, and ye know who that is. For he hath said ‘I the Lord do keep it. I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.’ ‘Ye know who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before his presence with exceeding great joy.’ Then give all glory to the King immortal, invisible, the only wise God your Saviour, who has kept you thus” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Distinguishing Grace,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 5 [London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1859], 302). Cf. 1 Cor 10:12-13; Ecc 4:10.

 

[16] J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010), 637.

 

[17] All six action items are quoted directly from Kristen Fuller, MD. “JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out” (Psychology Today, July 26, 2018). https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201807/jomo-the-joy-missing-out [last accessed February 15, 2019]. (Emphasis added)

[18] Lawrence Richards comments on the crossroads of Jeremiah 6:16: “Each day brings us to new crossroads. Each day we must choose the good way, and walk in it. There is no peace like the inner peace that comes from knowing we have done what is right” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion, electronic ed. [Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991], 452).

 

[19] And rightly so because Jesus is the Messiah of Israel: “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn 14:6). Vanlaningham further explains, “The promise of rest was tied especially to the promises about the Son of David, the Messiah, providing security for the house of Israel (see Jr 23:5; 33:15–16; Ezk 34:15, 23–25; Am 9:11–15). That rest is found only in Jesus, and has eternal implications (Heb 4:1–11)” (Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Matthew,” in The Moody Bible Commentary [Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014], 1472). (emphasis original)

 

[20] John Mackay explains this in connection to our nephesh, “The reflection of this phrase in Matt. 11:29 is therefore not an improper application of what is in mind here, that true šālôm is found by following the path that leads to harmony with God. The focus is not primarily on some inner spiritual repose. Having ceased to trust in their own wisdom and having committed themselves to the path of trust in God, they would enjoy all the blessings that flow from covenant obedience. Their desires would be met and in the totality of their beings they would be vulnerable no more” (John L. Mackay, Jeremiah: An Introduction and Commentary: Chapters 1–20, vol. 1, Mentor Commentaries [Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2004], 280).

[21] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update,1 Jn 2:5–6. The context makes it clear that this is not a new concept. John MacKay explains, “But it is not enough merely to know which way leads to the correct destination. They must also walk in it. Having examined the options and ascertained which path they ought to take, they must then actually move along it. The lip-service of the Temple with all its acclamation of the Lord and the deeds of wonder he had done had to be accompanied by lives reoriented in word and act to his revelation of himself. In that way you will find rest for your souls. ‘Will find rest’ renders an imperative which may be used after the preceding imperatives to express a consequence intended or desired by the speaker (GKC §110f; Joüon §116f). ‘Rest’ (margôaʿ <√rāgaʿ II hiphil ‘to cease activity, be at rest’) occurs only here but margêaʿ is found in Isa. 28:12 describing the promised land as the resting place the Lord gave his people. The reflection of this phrase in Matt. 11:29 is therefore not an improper application of what is in mind here, that true šālôm is found by following the path that leads to harmony with God. It is, however, doubtful if the New Testament application warrants the translation here of lenapšəkem as ‘for your souls’ (so also NKJV and NRSV; for nepeš see on 2:34) rather than ‘for yourselves’ (REB). The focus is not primarily on some inner spiritual repose. Having ceased to trust in their own wisdom and having committed themselves to the path of trust in God, they would enjoy all the blessings that flow from covenant obedience. Their desires would be met and in the totality of their beings they would be vulnerable no more” (John L. Mackay, Jeremiah: An Introduction and Commentary: Chapters 1–20, vol. 1, Mentor Commentaries [Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2004], 279–280).

 

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Dt 6:4–5. I invite you to read all of Dt 6 and see how deeply embedded in the Shema is the promise of rest for the people of God.

 

[23] Jerry D. Ingalls “An Old Testament Understanding of the Soul” (unpublished paper, 2018). If you would like a copy of this paper, please contact me or the FBC office.

 

[24] Read Dt 30:1-20; Neh 1:9; Isa 44:22; Jer 24:7; Joel 2:12; Amos 4:6-11; Zech 1:3; and Mal 3:7.

[25] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 6:16.

 

[26] Jesus is declaring that the New Covenant is found in Him and the rest of God (eschatological and temporal) is His to give to those who enter the New Covenant through a relationship with Him. The New Covenant was not new to Israel, but was promised by the ancient prophets to Israel: Is 42:6; 49:8; 54:10; 55:1-5; 59:21; 61:1-9; Jer 31:31-34; Ez 11:19; 36:26. Rest is not in our own efforts to fulfill the Law for that has proven impossible by the most diligent seekers (i.e. Jesus’ strong words against the Pharisees). Listen to Keith Mathison, “One of the most fundamental teachings found within the pre-exilic prophets is that Israel has failed to keep God’s covenant and that due to this failure to obey, judgment is coming. The history of Israel from the time of Moses onward is a history of almost continual disobedience and apostasy. Both Moses and Joshua had indicated that Israel was incapable of obeying God’s law, and Israel had proven them correct (cf. Deut. 31:16–18, 20–21; Josh. 24:19). Now exile is imminent, but God is promising restoration” (Keith Mathison, “The New Covenant – The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology” (Ligonier Ministries, April 9, 2012, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/new-covenant-unfolding-biblical-eschatology/  [last accessed February 15, 2019]).

 

[27] William Holladay explains, “What are the “paths of old” (נְתִבוֹת עוֹלָם)? J. Philip Hyatt suggests they are the ways of Moses. If the chronology of the present study is valid, they could well be the ways of Moses made known through the Deuteronomic law. The phrase דֶּרֶךְ הַטּוֹב does not mean ‘the good way’ (RSV, JB, which would require either two articles or no article), but rather ‘the way to good’ (so, with variations in phrasing, NEB, NAB, NJV). Yahweh begs the people to find the road back to healthy community: if the people walk on that road, they will find ‘repose’ (מַרְגּוֹעַ). This word is a hapax legomenon in the OT, but the related מַרְגֵּעַ in Isa 28:12 carries the same meaning: these nouns and the related verb רגע refer to surcease from international pressure; it is close to the current phrase ‘national security,’ the ability to live without constant tension and uneasiness before the threat of disaster from abroad. (The reflection of this phrase in Matt 11:29 has moved the center of meaning beyond purely national security!) The people refuse, however” (William Lee Holladay, Jeremiah 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, Chapters 1–25, ed. Paul D. Hanson, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 221).

 

[28] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 6:13–15.

 

[29] “Judah had strayed from the ancient paths of God’s righteousness (cf. 31:21; Is 30:18–21). The Lord urged her to follow the good way and walk in it (Jr 7:23) to find rest for their souls. This important idea is by quoted by Jesus in Mt 11:29 (see comments there)” (Charles H. Dyer and Eva Rydelnik, “Jeremiah,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1120). (emphasis original)

[30] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Dt 28:65. As I have written previously, “Just as all of humanity has its origin in God alone, so will we only find wholeness and peace (shalom) when we experience the essence of our being in response to God’s covenant faithfulness (hesed) extended to us. God’s graceful initiation of covenant to which we are invited to respond is evidenced in every covenant God has established between Himself and humanity. For example, God’s initiation is witnessed to in the Mosaic Covenant (e.g. Ex 20:1-3) and in the New Covenant (e.g. 1 John 4:19). The choice is before each of us, but let us never forget that we are recipients of rest through acceptance of the terms of God’s graceful invitation.”

 

[31] (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries [Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010], 638).

 

[32] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ro 7:6. This teaching will be unpacked in Sermon #8. This “new way” is thoroughly unpacked by Dr. Larry Crabb’s The Pressure’s Off (WaterBrook, 2012).

 

[33] “What Yahweh promised in the Jeremiah passage, Jesus now promises to those who come to him and follow him in discipleship: he will give them rest for their souls, i.e., a realization of a deep existential peace, a shalom, or sense of ultimate well-being with regard to one’s relationship to God and his commandments (cf. the “rest,” κατάπαυσις, of Heb 4:3–10). In light of the rejection of Jesus, it is worth noting that following the invitation in Jeremiah are the words: “But they said: ‘We will not walk in it.’ ” This promise of rest relates directly to what is elsewhere in the NT called ‘salvation.’ As Betz puts it, ‘the logion of 11:28–30 is therefore theologically identical with the macarisms of the Sermon on the Mount’ (24)” (Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary [Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998], 324). (emphasis original)

 

[34] “Only one passage in the New Testament suggests a differentiation between body, soul, and spirit: 1 Thess 5:23. Since the Old Testament clearly sees two parts to humans (body and soul/spirit; material and immaterial), it is best to interpret this single verse the same way for theological consistency. Many scholars do not consider soul and spirit in this verse as discrete, separate items. This verse is similar to the shema (Deut 6:4; cf. Matt 22:37; Mark 12:29–30), which tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, and might. The point is totality, not that heart, soul, might (and mind in the gospel references) are separable. The Old Testament uses both nephesh and ruach to describe the source of these inner parts. Totality is also the point of Heb 4:12 (which actually uses four items, not three)” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 41).

 

[35] “ נֶפֶשׁ does not mean the soul as one part of man but the whole man living his life in responsibility” (Eduard Schweizer, Georg Bertram, Albert Dihle, et al., “Ψυχή, Ψυχικός, Ἀνάψυξις, Ἀναψύχω, Δίψυχος, Ὀλιγόψυχος,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–], 636).

 

[36] J. R. Soza, “Jeremiah,” ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 226.

 

[37] John Barry comments from Hb 4:1, “‘Rest’ for the wilderness generation referred to the promised land, Canaan. In Canaan, the Israelites would be secure from enemies (Deut 12:9–10) and would no longer have to wander. In Gen 12:1–3, God promises Abraham land, a nation, and a great name. He also promises that Abraham will be a blessing to others. Abraham obtains these promises by persevering (Heb 6:15) and offering up his son, Isaac (11:17). Likewise, his wife, Sarah, conceived because she trusted in God (11:11). In contrast, the wilderness generation did not receive the promise of inheriting the land because they did not act faithfully and trust God. As the author of Hebrews reflects on his own generation, he urges them to strive toward the inheritance of the new covenant—God’s “rest”—enacted by trusting Him with their very lives (chs. 8–9)” (John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016], Heb 4:1).[37]

 

[38] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 6:16. The Greek word used for “walk” is translated from the Hebrew word הלך (hālakh) which has profound implications on this entire study. It is a rich OT word. It also directly informs Jesus’ phrase “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” and why Jesus used the “yoke” imagery with all of the layered meanings behind it for His Jewish audience. This study is just an introduction to our understanding of how to find rest for our souls because you can’t learn how to find rest by talking about it, you have to get in the yoke of Jesus and learn from Him! You can have a doctorate-level mastery of Mt 11:28-30 and still not be experiencing rest for your soul because the rest Jesus offers can only be learned if you “walk” in it.

 

                [39] From the conclusion of my previously referenced unpublished paper on the nephesh, “The church should never again say that it is focused on ‘saving souls’ if it is not also equally committed to ‘making disciples.’ In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus did not just invite part of a person to find rest in Him, but Jesus invited the whole person to walk in discipleship with Him. Christian discipleship is a lifestyle defined and determined by a response to an invitation. Just as the nephesh was spoken into existence by God, so the nephesh will find rest according to how it responds to the invitation of God. In Mark 1:17 Jesus’ invitation comes with a promise, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ Just as we must communicate to people about God’s invitation for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for their eternal destiny, so we must encourage them to go deeper into their relationship with Jesus to find fulfillment and abundance in the Christian life. The local church must care about not only people’s eternal destinies, but about their physical, emotional, relational, economic, and environmental well-being. Just as the nephesh (‘soul’) points to the whole life of a person, so the local church must care about and minister to a person’s whole life.”

 

[40] As the Apostle Paul taught over and over again with such statements as this, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Ro 6:11). Cf. Ro 6:2, 13; 7:4, 6; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Gal 2:19; Eph 2:1-6; Col 3:3; 1 Pet 2:24.

 

                [41] This is the yoke you are being invited to put on and this is the cross you are being invited to carry. Both seem heavy and burdensome when misunderstood. Neither of these images produces thoughts of rest, but both the yoke and the cross are Jesus the Master Teacher’s concrete analogies or conceptual metaphors to understand where true rest is found. It is found in Him and His teachings. To take Him on and learn from Him or to deny Him and do it your own way, is to choose the path you are going to take in the crossroad that we each find ourselves when confronted with Jesus Christ and His gospel. Taking the yoke of Jesus Christ is to take for yourself the ancient paths of following God (Je 6:16), which are fully revealed to you in Jesus the Christ and His teachings. Chamblin helpful unpacks this seeming paradox, “Once you obey those commands—‘take’ (arate) and ‘learn’ (mathete)—‘you will find rest for yourselves [tais psychais hymōn]’ (11:29c). Disciples find rest (the noun anapausis) because Jesus gives rest (the verb anapauō; 11:28); and paradoxically, they find rest by ‘taking up Jesus’ yoke’—by obeying his commands” (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010), 637).

 


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus (Week 6)

“Jesus, the Perfect Example!”

Part 5 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30
 

 

We have all heard it often enough when we invite people to church: “I don’t go to church because it is filled with hypocrites.” Often, the way I handle this is by validating this very real concern that we imperfect Christians do not consistently enough live up to the perfect example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then, with a big smile on my face so that they know I am kidding, I say, “There is always room for one more.” While this disarms the tension between us and acknowledges the truth behind their critique of most of our churches, it doesn’t adequately deal with the painful reality of the damage churches and church-goers are doing to the reputation and mission of Jesus.

 

Today, I want us to learn how we can be a congregation that does not add more evidence to the criticism that churches are filled with hypocrites. Today, I want you to stop trying to act like a church-goer and to start being a disciple/apprentice of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want you to try to act like Him if you are not first walking along the way with Him and learning from Him in the daily school of life. Jesus invites you to be with Him, to become His apprentice, to come close and learn from Him. Jesus is not only the Master Teacher, but He is also the Master Example of what He wants us to learn.[1] Jesus promises that we will find the rest that He alone promises to give. That is a guarantee that you don’t want to miss out on! But to find something, you must first be in a posture of the heart that says I am still seeking what God has promised.[2]

 

In today’s sermon we are going to learn exactly what the posture of our heart is supposed to be. Listen to the way Jesus describes the posture of His heart in v. 29 of Matthew 11:28-30, “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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[3]

 

 

What does it mean that Jesus described Himself as “gentle[4] and humble[5] in heart[6]”?

 

First, I want to reiterate that Jesus is making one comprehensive statement about Himself.[7] The center of Jesus Christ (His heart) was His love for and submission to His Father’s will and His Father’s grace to accomplish that will through Him (I am gentle and humble)! Before Jesus invited His followers to take His yoke upon themselves and learn from Him, He first lived His life and did 100% of His ministry in His Father’s yoke.[8] Jesus was focused on this one thing and did not allow anything to distract Him from His Father’s will for His life, nor did He seek any other power source to accomplish God’s will than God’s grace.[9] Jesus is the perfect example of how to live your life for God without hypocrisy.[10] Listen to Jesus’ personal testimonies of how He lives His life and conducted His earthly ministry:

 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”[11]

 

Jesus did everything while in His Father’s yoke! Jesus is the embodiment of the Father and the perfect example of God’s truth and grace, holiness and love, judgment and mercy. Jesus intimately knew God and invites us into this depth of relationship that God offers us—for you to be in Him and for Him to be in you. Let us learn from Jesus’ perfect example and in doing so we will learn how to live in the easy yoke of God’s grace, the yoke Jesus offers us! It will not mean an easier life, but it the abundant life Jesus promises (John 10:10).

 

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus was talking to people who were “weary and heavy-laden” because God’s Law had been put on them like a heavy load by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Please remember this critical historical context of what Jesus was inviting His Jewish audience to do: put down the heavy yoke of legalism (that is crushing you) and put on the light yoke of grace (that is liberating you). Jesus is calling the people away from the heavy burdens of the religious leaders and their interpretation of “663 commands” in Torah, to the light burden of following Jesus and His new command, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”[12] This is the call to yoke with Jesus![13]

 

Listen to Jesus in Matthew 23:23-28 as He talks to His apprentices about these religious leaders:

 

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”[14] Jesus continues, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”[15]

 

Jesus is inviting people to Himself because everyone who attempts works-based religion fails![16] Almost paradoxically, in the most famous of Jesus’ sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, He tells anyone who would follow Him, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”[17] This seems contradictory on the surface! What is Jesus commanding here? Has Jesus set an impossible standard for us with His gospel, like He seems to do throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?

 

Remember how Jesus describes Himself in v. 29, “I am gentle and humble in heart” and then in v. 30, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” In fact, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a significant hint to His intent when He uses the same word for His followers that He will in Matthew 11:29 for Himself, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”[18] (emphasis added) Language experts state, “In the language of the day [πραΰς] described outward conduct between people, but in the NT it portrayed an inward quality relating primarily to God.”[19]

 

Jesus is the epitome of “gentle” and those that will take His yoke and learn from Him, will learn how to be gentle and they shall “inherit the earth.”[20] What a promise![21] More than a promise, Jesus is offering us the promise! Listen to D.A. Carson make the connection:

 

And the meek—not the strong, aggressive, harsh, tyrannical—will inherit the earth. The verb “inherit” often relates to entrance into the Promised Land (e.g. Deut 4:1; 16:20; cf. Isa 57:13; 60:21). But the specific OT allusion here is Psalm 37:9, 11, 29, a psalm recognized as messianic in Jesus’ day (4QpPs 37). There is no need to interpret the land metaphorically, as having no reference to geography or space; nor is there need to restrict the meaning to “land of Israel” (cf. Notes). Entrance into the Promised Land ultimately became a pointer toward entrance into the new heaven and the new earth (“earth” is the same word as “land”; cf. Isa 66:22; Rev 21:1), the consummation of the messianic kingdom. While in Pauline terms believers may now possess all things in principle (2 Cor 6:10) since they belong to Christ, Matthew directs our attention yet further to the “renewal of all things” (Mt 19:28).[22]

 

We are not to strive to be gentle; we are to yoke with God, who is all powerful. It is the easy yoke of walking alongside Jesus, the Master Teacher, in the school of life, who alone demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary His worthiness to be trusted with our own hearts![23]

Yoking with Jesus is the invitation to remain connected to Him, allowing His Spirit to flow through our very personhood, our soul.[24]

 

Jesus is never inviting His followers to try to do more religious activity than the religious leaders of Jesus’ day because no one can exceed their efforts to earn God’s approval. Please know that the full weight of church history has over and over again proven this point for nearly 2,000 years, including many groups still today who are fully or partially caught up in pharisaical works-based religion. Jesus is actually giving an invitation to receive and to not earn! Grace is absolutely opposed to earning. Amazingly, Grace is an invitation to receive that which you cannot earn. The righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees is by faith and not by works, it is imputed onto us by the Gentle One, Jesus Christ. When the Gentle One rules over our lives, we become what He is from the inside-out, one with the Father, and our attitudes and actions will follow.[25]

 

Jesus’ compassionate invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 and Jesus’ revolutionary words in the Sermon on the Mount are graceful words of God’s truth that diagnoses us as falling short of God’s standards for Heaven and our total need for a Savior. The prognosis is death if we do not completely surrender all by getting in the yoke of Jesus (faith).

 

Does this apply to me and you, too? I haven’t murdered anyone! But, have I thought someone a fool? I am a murderer! I haven’t committed adultery? But, have I looked at someone in a way I should only look at my spouse? I am an adulterer![26] By Jesus’ standards: prison sentences and scarlet letters all around, starting with me, the chief of sinners! After 47 verses of such teaching, Jesus conclusively trumps all of our self-deceptions of being able to successfully live for God by our own power: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[27]

 

I respond, “Well, there it is, I’m done in! Is any of us able to will-power a perfect 24/7/365 track record in word, deed, or though? HA! I might as well quit now because I am only going to add to the verdict that we are a bunch of hypocrites!” No! Don’t Quit! SURRENDER!!!!

 

Surrender is the whole point! Humility! Jesus isn’t crushing us under an impossible ethical standard, He is showing us the sheer audacity and insanity of our pride to think we can do it by our own efforts. When it seems like the commands of Jesus are burdensome remember this truth from 1 John 5:3-4, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”[28] This is the yoke of Jesus!

 

Jesus told us why He spoke to us the way He did, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace [rest]. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”[29] Anyone who tries to follow Jesus Christ using their will-power will ultimately be a hypocrite because when we try to do anything apart from Jesus, we are bound to fail. The invitation to the yoke of Jesus Christ is the invitation to remain connected to Him.[30]

 

The invitation of Jesus is to get to our hearts, the root of our own attitudes and actions.[31] Jesus is after your heart, just like He was after the hearts of the Pharisees. Jesus has always been teaching us to track the fruit of our lives back to the root of our hearts![32] Listen to Jesus teach this in Matthew 15:13-20,

 

But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”[33]

 

Whether through sin management techniques, self-help books, a perfect church attendance and giving record, or even the best of spiritual disciplines, anything that is done apart from Christ is devoid of God’s grace and it will not be rewarded in Heaven. God’s fruit only happens in our lives when it flows through the root system of a tree planted by streams of living waters.[34] The nature of the fruit is determined by the nature of the root. We can only produce in like-kind to what we are, you must be born again.[35]

 

Where should we put our effort? Grace is not opposed to effort, just earning. Yoke with Jesus and together, work the soil of your relationship with God! Work hard at remaining connected to the vine and the Holy Spirit will flow through the branch and into your vine and you will produce good fruit! God, the vinedresser, will tend to you and care for you.

 

Friends, you will never get to Louisville by planning on how not to get to New England or how to get to Los Angeles, but that is what we do all the time as Christians. Neither sin management (focusing on not going to Hell) nor doing good works (focusing on being a good person) gets you to Heaven or allows you to live the abundant life of Jesus Christ! Both are crushing yokes of life management, using religion and the Bible as a way of making your life work better for you and yours. As long as you are the focus, you are going to miss the point every time! Only Jesus saves! Only a relationship with Jesus gets you to Heaven! Only through a relationship with Jesus will you find yourself and do the good works God prepared for you to do!

 

Jesus Christ, the only One who ever lived His life perfectly to the Law of God, calls us to find rest for our souls by getting in His yoke. To do so, we must take off the yoke of a life of perpetual religious hypocrisy that does not bring about personal or human well-being.[36]

 

The famous Baptist preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, in his 1859 sermon entitled “Hypocrisy,” honestly diagnosed his congregation, “Some people I know of are like inns, which have an angel hanging outside for a sign, but they have a devil within for a landlord. There are many men of that kind; they take good care to have an excellent sign hanging out; they must be known by all men to be strictly religious; but within, which is the all-important matter, they are full of wickedness.”[37]

 

What is the way out of hypocrisy? The only way to be done with this version of hypocrisy is to be done with it all together. No matter how hard you try, the try-harder mentality will always fall short and end up with frustration and discouragement. As long as your Christianity is a sign on the outside and Jesus is not the master on the inside, you will struggle with hypocrisy. Jesus Christ came to die on the Cross and to defeat death, to forgive you of your sin and guarantee you eternal life, and to grant you His power and presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did this for you to have rest in Him, not for you to live in a perpetual cycle of self-condemnation and sin-management techniques. The only way out of hypocrisy is to get out of the yoke of religion and into the grace-yoke of a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by learning from the One who is “gentle and humble in heart.”[38]

 

Join me in making 2019 our best year ever as a congregation by being yokefellows with Jesus. If we do this, then a year from now we will look more like the early church described in Acts.[39]

 

Through God’s grace, God’s will is for us to be His congregation of sincere apprentices of Jesus who are putting on the customized and personally-fitted yoke of love and learning along the way through the school of life from the smartest person who ever lived, Jesus Christ. Then, God’s peace will guard your heart and mind, and fullness of joy will characterize your personality, and faith, hope, and love will epitomize your relationships and decision-making process. This is the abundant life and Jesus invites you to into it by uniting yourself to Him as His apprentice, to  learn personally and first-hand about how to be the best version of you to the glory of God.

 

[1] Ulrich Luz comments on the overall context of this passage, “Matthew is thinking here of the example of Jesus who himself embodies the will of the Father in his life and thus fulfills the law. Jesus himself is ‘kind’ toward human beings as the two following stories in Matt 12:1–14 make clear. He is humble and free of violence as the passion narrative best shows. Matthew probably is also thinking here no differently than does a Jew who connects humility with learning the Torah and regards it as a decisive quality of a teacher” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001], 174). Craig Keener continues this thought, “Other teachers in Jesus’ day and afterward spoke of accepting the ‘yoke of God’s kingdom,’ or God’s rule, by submitting to the yoke of the law rather than merely human rule. Like a good sage, Jesus invites disciples to learn from him. Yet Jesus did not interpret the law, including the law of rest (Mt 12:1–14), the same way his contemporaries did; his yoke was lighter. In contrast to his opponents (23:4), Jesus interprets the laws according to their original purpose, to which he is privy (5:17–48; 11:27; 12:8)—for example, interpreting sabbath laws in terms of devotion to God rather than universal rules (12:7) and divorce law in terms of devotion to one’s faithful wife rather than a loophole to reject her (19:4–8)” (Craig S. Keener, Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Mt 11:28). Emphasis original.

 

[2] Sermon #7 will emphasize the importance of this when we learn what Jesus intended for His listeners when He quoted Je 6:16 in Mt 11:29, “you will find rest for your souls.”

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:28–30.

[4] The Koine Greek word in Matthew 11:29 translated “gentle” is “πραΰς, πραεῖα, πραΰ: pertaining to being gentle and mild—‘mild, gentle, meek.’ καὶ μάθετε ἀπ̓ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι ‘and learn from me because I am gentle’ Mt 11:29” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains [New York: United Bible Societies, 1996], 748). It is used four times in the NT and 15 times in the Greek translation of the OT, called the Septuagint (LXX). “Πραΰς in Matthew also means an attitude as it is expressed in the entry of the king who rides on a donkey to Jerusalem (Matt 21:5) and as it is praised as happy in 5:5: ‘humble,’ ‘kind’” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001], 174). Furthermore, Leon Morris explains of Luz’s description of πραΰς, “That Jesus rode into the city in the way he did was a significant affirmation of his character and his purpose. The pilgrims might shout their acclaims and think of a king who would fight against the Romans and throw them out of the country, but Jesus viewed himself as the King of peace. He had accepted the salutation “Son of David,” and there is no doubt that he agreed that he was the messianic King. But he did not interpret messianic kingship as most of his contemporaries did. He did not view it in terms of armies and battles and conquests. He saw it in terms of peace and love and compassion” (Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992], 521).

[5] The Koine Greek word translated “humble” is ταπεινός. It is used eight times in the NT and 43 times in LXX. Ulrich Luz explains an important historical point, “In Greek ταπεινός has a generally negative connotation. In the Old Testament the word moves into the circle of meaning of עָנָו/עָנִי and thus can receive a positive meaning: God chooses the lowly. The dative τῇ καρδίᾳ internalizes the lowliness. One may think both of a condition (emotionally “down”) and an attitude (“humble”). The other texts in which the stem occurs in Matthew (18:4; 23:11–12; cf. 18:10; 20:26–28; 23:8–10) demonstrate that the issue is the humble attitude. What is meant is that human attitude that in love retreats into the background for the sake of the other” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001], 173–174).

[6] The BDAG defines καρδία as “heart as seat of physical, spiritual and mental life… As center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition… of disposition” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 508-509). A.T. Robertson further explains, “Not just the centre [sic] of the blood circulation though it means that. Not just the emotional part of man’s nature, but here the inner man including the intellect, the affections, the will” (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament [Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933], Mt 5:28). Mt 6:21 teaches us about the importance of the heart, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Ulrich Luz states, “The admonition [to gather heavenly treasures as opposed to perishable ones] is sharpened in v. 21. Although there are no direct Jewish parallels to this sentence, its thinking is Jewish. ‘Heart’ (καρδία) is the person’s center. The ‘treasure’ shows where people live in their center and what is most important to them” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1–7: A Commentary on Matthew 1–7, ed. Helmut Koester, Rev. ed., Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007], 332).

 

[7] “The one who is ταπεινός τῇ καρδία is unassuming and demonstrates humility. The link with πραΰς is obvious” (John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005], 477). Nolland’s footnote explains why he says it is obvious, “πραΰς and ταπεινός are linked together in Zp. 3:12 to describe God’s humbling human pride so that people who are humble and lowly may seek refuge in him. But this is somewhat different from what we have in Mt. 11:29.” Additionally, the Hermeneia commentary states of these words linkage, “Πραΰς and ταπεινός (“humble”) are already linked in the Old Testament (Isa 26:6; Zeph 3:12; cf. Prov 16:19)” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001], 173).

 

[8] Good leaders model in their attitude and actions what they ask of their followers. Every good teacher learns first what she teaches to hear students. Study Notes from the NLT Study Bible emphasize the importance of seeing this in the context of Mt 11:27, “Jesus was revealing his intimate relationship to the Father. Everything he said and did was rooted in this Father-Son unity (see John 10:14–15; 14:6–7; 15:23–24; 16:15; 17:25–26)” (New Living Translation Study Bible [Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008], Mt 11:27). From an ancient witness, “But consider how Christ accredited his words by His deeds. Thus He saith, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ (Mt. 11:29.) He taught men to be poor, and exhibited this by His actions: ‘For the Son of Man,’ He says, ‘hath not where to lay His head.’ (Ib. 8:20.) Again, He charged men to love their enemies; and He taught the same lesson on the Cross, when He prayed for those who were crucifying Him. He said, ‘If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also’ (Ib. 5:40): now He not only gave His garments, but even His blood. In this way He bade others teach. Wherefore Paul also said, ‘So as ye have us for an ensample.’ (Philip. 3:17.) For nothing is more frigid than a teacher who shows his philosophy only in words: this is to act the part not of a teacher, but of a hypocrite” (John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Acts of the Apostles,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. Walker et al., vol. 11, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889], 4).

 

[9] C.H. Spurgeon taught, “The wonderful determination of Christ and his insistence on carrying out his Father’s will despite all the attempts to distract him (Matthew 16:21–23; 26:51–54; Luke 13:31–33)” (C. H. Spurgeon and Terence Peter Crosby, 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) [Leominster, UK: Day One Publications, 1998], 37).

 

[10] Philippians 2:5-11is the classic scripture that demonstrates how Jesus humbled Himself to the will of the Father, perfectly demonstrating His “gentle and humble in heart” attitude and lifestyle. Commenting on this scripture, Cyril of Alexandria states of Jesus Christ, “He humbled himself, according to the Scriptures, taking on himself the form of a slave. He became like us that we might become like him. The work of the Spirit seeks to transform us by grace into a perfect copy of his humbling.” (Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007], 98).

 

[11] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 5:19; 8:28–29; 12:49–50; 17:4, 7–8, 20–21. Furthermore, quoting Anglican Archbishop Richard Trench (c. 1807-1886) Marvin Richardson states, “In his human nature he must be the pattern of all humility, of all creaturely dependence; and it is only as a man that Christ thus claims to be lowly; his human life was a constant living on the fulness of his Father’s love” (Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1 [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887], 69). Emphasis original to author.

 

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 13:34.

 

[13] “A yoke, which forms a harness between two animals, is a metaphor for the demands of discipleship. In contrast to the “yoke” of the religious leaders, Jesus’ yoke is easy and light, not because it is less demanding (see 7:13–14), but because the power of the Messiah (by the Holy Spirit) makes it possible (see Acts 15:10; 1 Jn 5:3). Jesus was most likely contrasting his yoke to the religious demands of Israel’s spiritual leaders (23:4; Acts 15:10), which included 613 OT commands and their expansion through tradition. Jesus urged those who were suffering from the burdens of the Pharisees’ stipulations to come to him (11:28) in order to find the salvation their hearts desired. It is a call to salvation involving a life of obedience to Jesus’ new teachings. People are invited to enter a relationship with a humble and gentle teacher” (New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), Mt 11:29–30). Emphasis original to author. It has been conclusively argued that there were actually “663 commands”, as opposed to the 613 stated above (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 163).

 

[14] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:1–4.

[15] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:23–28.

 

[16] Many verses indicate that it is impossible for man to approach God apart from God’s grace. Here are a few well-known ones: Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Eph 2:8-9 explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” James 2:10 states, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” A word of warning to pastors and elders, anyone who attempts to leverage people’s conscience toward earning God’s approval through works is on equal grounds with the Pharisees, especially if they themselves are trying to earn God’s rewards by building a bigger and better church. I understand the pressure pastors and elders are under (many of times by the very people themselves) and at the end of the day what person doesn’t naturally want greater rewards, but let’s not tread on the heart of God to try to get more from the hand of God. Before anyone else can understand this teaching in a church, it must be modeled by the leaders. That is why Paul said, “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Co 10:1).

 

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 5:20. I believe that in the context of our studies on Matthew 11:28-30, we must understand this verse so that we do not misapply Jesus’ teaching against legalism with more legalism of our own. It’s not just about being accurate with how we handle the text, we must be right in how we handle people. We can only learn this by being with Jesus.

 

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 5:5. “The description of Jesus as gentle (or “meek”; Greek: praus) recalls the beatitude (Matt. 5:5), but more importantly may allude to the tradition of Moses as a man who “was very meek” (LXX Num. 12:3). Matthew has presented Jesus as a new Moses, who has given his Law, as did Moses, in five major teaching blocks (i.e., Matt. 5–7, 10, 13, 18, and 24–25). See also 2 Cor. 10:1 “I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (Craig A. Evans, The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke, ed. Craig A. Evans and Craig A. Bubeck, First Edition. [Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2003], 237). Emphasis original to author.

[19] Thomas Tehan and David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of the Sermon on the Mount, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 18. Nolland unpacks, “The common quality is, rather, the state of powerlessness: inability to forward one’s own cause; and in every case God either is, does, will, may be expected to, or should come to the rescue. The one thing that might give us pause in applying this background to Matthew’s meaning is the use of the singular πραΰς of Jesus in Mt. 11:29; 21:5. In his case it certainly doesn’t mean ‘powerless’!” (John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005], 201–202).

[20] As already seen Jesus modeled true gentleness by submitting Himself perfectly to the yoke of His Father. Alfred Plummer takes us into the Israelite mindset as would have been understood by Jesus: “The word is used of Israel, as the ideally holy nation, suffering in the wilderness or from oppression. On the other hand, the ‘meek’ man (ānāw) is one who is humble-minded and bows at once to the will of God. So that, while ‘poor’ means first ‘humbled’ by man’s oppression and then ‘humble’ in the religious sense, ‘meek’ has a religious signification from the first, and therefore might be rendered ‘humble.’ For ‘meekness’ commonly means a disposition towards men; but what is meant here and in Ps. 37:11, from which this Beatitude is taken, is a disposition towards God, humility; comp. Ps. 10:17, 22:26, 25:9, 34:2” (Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Matthew [New York; London: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Elliot Stock, 1910], 64).

 

[21] Once again, we see Jesus quoting the OT in His promises. Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the OT promised and points toward. Mt 5:5 is quoting Ps 37:9, “For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.” Inheriting or the taking of the land in the OT is synonymous with God’s rest for His chosen people. Our inheritance as sons of Abraham is rest for our souls. The promise is that all the families of the earth will be blessed through us, which is reemphasized as our mandate in the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). Which is not a burden to bear heavily, but a yoke to wear lightly. Jesus is the only one who builds His Church (Mt 16:18). This should immediately adjust the weight load from off of pastor’s shoulders and squarely onto Jesus’ shoulders which is the point of Jesus’ invitation in Mt 11:28-30. I have personally experienced the unintended consequence of bad Christology which puts the full weight of church growth and the return of Jesus on the church’s efforts to work harder, instead of on the sovereignty of God’s grace and the Spirit’s work through people.

 

[22] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 133–134.

 

[23] Donald Wagner teaches us in the WBC, “Being ‘meek,’ Jesus is also similar to Moses (Num 12:3). (Jesus describes his disciples as ‘the meek’ in 5:5.) The word ‘humble’ (ταπεινός) is also applied to Jesus in the NT only here. The word ‘meek’ and the phrase ‘humble in heart’ appear to be essentially synonymous. The contrast here, as in the preceding and following verses, appears to be between Jesus and his primary rivals, the Pharisees. Many of the latter exhibited an extraordinary pride, loving places of honor, special titles, and in general the authority they exercised over others (see 23:5–12). This demeanor had the effect of disqualifying them as true interpreters of Torah. In contrast, despite the overwhelming significance of his person and his mission, Jesus comes meekly and humbly as a servant (cf. the Servant of the Lord in Isa 42:2–3; 53:1–12) and thus shows himself to be more worthy of trust than are the Pharisees” (Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary [Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998], 324).

[24] More on how the “soul” is our personhood in sermon #7. The Holy Spirit flows into us, giving rest to our soul that renews our mind with the mind of Christ, which then transforms our biological realities: brain and body (reactions and actions). You cannot change your own brain or body and its habitual pathways and patterns, but through a renewed mind, you can live a transformed life. The process begins with submission (Romans 12:1-2). It is fascinating to me that this short passage captures both the work of the Trinity and the tripartite nature of humanity.

 

[25] Craig Keener further elaborates, “Jesus’ yoke is not lighter because he demands less (5:20), but because he bears more of the load with the burdened (23:4; cf. 1 Jn 5:3). In contrast to unconcerned religious teachers who prided themselves on their own position (23:4–7; 24:49), Jesus was going to lay down his life for the sheep (20:25–28). The Gospel tradition repeatedly emphasizes that the Lord of the universe (28:18–20) is humble and prefers to dwell with the humble, the ‘little ones’ (12:19–20). If Jesus is meek, the people in whose lives he rules cannot be proud or self-centered either, for the kingdom belongs only to the meek (5:3, 5)” (Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI;  Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009], 349). D.A. Carson complements the implications of the yoke in our attitudes and actions towards ourselves and others, “Meekness therefore requires such a true view about ourselves as will express itself even in our attitude toward others” (D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984], 133).

 

[26] Both of these examples are from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:21-28) and are intentional hyperboles to knock the chip off of religious people’s shoulders. Our own self-satisfactions with our busy religious lives prevent us from seeing that Jesus is our rest and Jesus is our holiness. It’s not what we can do (or don’t do) for Christ.

 

[27] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 5:48.

[28] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Jn 5:3–4. Jesus gave us His new commandment at the very end of His life, in the Upper Room: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35). Even just this is impossible to live by without God’s grace.

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 16:33.

 

[30] As Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4–5).

 

[31] Here is the most relevant of the long entry in BDAG on καρδία, “heart as seat of physical, spiritual and mental life (as freq. in Gk. lit.), fig. extension of ‘heart’ as an organ of the body (Il. 13, 282 al.), a mng. not found in our lit. As center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition (νοῦν κ. φρένας κ. διάνοιαν κ. λογισμὸν εἶπέ τις ποιητὴς [Hes., Fgm. 247 Rz.] ἐν καρδίᾳ περιέχεσθαι=some poet said that the heart embraces perception, wit, intellect, and reflection), of humans whether in their pre-Christian or Christian experience. Of disposition (TestJob 48:1 ἀνέλαβεν ἄλλην κ.) διάνοια καρδίας Lk 1:51; ἁπλότης (τ.) καρδίας (TestReub 4:1, Sim 4:5 al.) Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; ἀφελότης καρδίας Ac 2:46. κ. καὶ ψυχὴ μία Ac 4:32 (cp. Iren. 1, 10, 2 [Harv. I 92, 5]; combination of ψυχή and καρδία as PGM 7, 472; IDefixWünsch 3, 15; Dt 11:18; 1 Km 2:35; 4 Km 23:3 and oft. LXX—on such combinations s. Reader, Polemo p. 260 and cp. Demosth. 18, 220 ῥώμη καὶ τόλμη). πραῢς καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ κ. Mt 11:29 (cp. TestReub 6:10). ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς κ. ὑμῶν let the peace of Christ control you Col 3:15; cp. Phil 4:7” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 508-509). Emphasis original.

[32] I want to thank Edward Kurath for introducing me to this thought and expounding on it in helpful and practical ways in I Will Give You Rest: How you Can Experience the Peace Jesus Promised (2003).

[33] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 15:13-20.

 

[34] Ps 1:2-3; Jer 2:13; 17:13; Zec 14:8; John 4:10-14; 7:37-38; Re 7:17

 

[35] For Jesus’ teaching on good fruit see Matthew 7:15-23 and on being born again see John 3:1-21. “The Christian meekness is based on humility, which is not a natural quality but an outgrowth of a renewed nature. As toward God, therefore, meekness accepts his dealings without murmur or resistance as absolutely good and wise” (Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1 [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887], 37-38). Emphasis original to author.

 

[36] “Paradoxically, Jesus asserts that his yoke (normally carved from wood, often linking up two oxen for purposes of plowing or hauling) is easy (or “comfortable,” i.e., “easy to wear”) and that his load (or “burden”) is in fact light. In what sense can Jesus’ yoke be easy? It is easy in comparison to the alternatives: suffering under the yokes of humans for do not care for one’s well being [sic]. The one who places himself under the yoke of Jesus will in fact find rest and will be enabled by the Spirit. Jesus’ load is in fact quite light compared to the heavy burdens the scribes and Pharisees place upon themselves and others: “They tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matt. 23:4)” (Craig A. Evans, The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke, ed. Craig A. Evans and Craig A. Bubeck, First Edition. [Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2003], 237). Emphasis original to author.

[37] C. H. Spurgeon, “Hypocrisy,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 5 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1859), 100.

 

[38] “In commanding listeners to wear his yoke, Jesus appears to be increasing rather than lightening their load; for God’s laws as expounded by the New Moses (e.g., 5:17–48) are the weightiest of all. For this very reason, Jesus directs attention on the character of the teacher himself: ‘and learn from me [mathete ap’ emou], because I am meek and humble in heart [hoti praus eimi kai tapeinos tē kardia]’ (11:29b). This is the sort of language Jesus used in the beatitudes: the plural of praus occurs in 5:5, and tapeinos tē kardia is very close to ptōchoi tō pneumati, 5:3 (and the Son who knows the Father, 11:27, is utterly katharos tē kardia, 5:8). That is, Jesus identifies himself as a person who needs, trusts and obeys God (see pp. 313–20). Unlike the teachers of Matthew 23:3, he submits to God’s rule and keeps his commands. He chiefly instructs his students by embodying the truth he expounds (see p. 322–24); he himself is his most potent lesson. He, the lowly Servant, deals gently and mercifully with the weary and the erring (12:17–21; 9:13; cf. the Servant’s words in Isaiah 50:4). Himself ‘meek and humble in heart,’ he is not too proud to bear the burdens of the frail and the fallen (Matt. 8:17; 20:25–28; contrast 23:4b). Moreover, in his meekness (prautēs) he conquers the powers of darkness. And since the Son discloses his Father (11:27b), those who study Jesus learn that the Father too is ‘meek and humble in heart’” (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries [Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010], 636–637).

 

[39] Read the standards of the early church: Ac 2:37-47 & 4:32-37. Specifically, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Ac 4:32). Regarding Jesus as Messiah and Head of His Church (God’s House): “But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always” (1 Sa 2:35). Emphasis added to demonstrate how Jesus fulfillment of prophecy as Messiah with words such as heart and soul, both of which are used in Mt 11:28-30. These quotes are using the Greek word καρδία (Cf. Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; Acts 2:46 (all three of these references point to the disposition of our life); Dt 11:18; 2 Ki 23:3; Col 3:15; and Php 4:7).

 

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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus (Week 5)

“Jesus, the Master Teacher!”

Part 5 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

How would you answer this question: Who is the smartest person who ever lived?

 

I wonder why so many Christians don’t naturally think first and foremost the answer is Jesus Christ. What is it about our own understanding of who Jesus is that causes us to think of others, like Albert Einstein? What does this say about our view of Christian discipleship and what we believe about the body of knowledge passed on to us in the Bible? I hear so many people talk about how they don’t want to compartmentalize their faith or have an artificial sacred-secular divide in their mind or heart. Before we make the mistake of separating our spiritual life from our academic or work life, we start by keeping Jesus and the Bible separated from what it means to be an intelligent, educated, and knowledgeable person. It is my goal today, to invite you to get rid of this false dichotomy by getting to the root of our own modern biases to be able to say simply, conclusively, and without hesitation: Jesus Christ is the smartest person who ever lived and the Bible is a reliable source of knowledge and wisdom for my everyday life!

 

Now imagine this: Imagine if you could take the smartest person who ever lived into every circumstance, exam, job interview, relationship struggle, life circumstance as your personal tutor.

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the dual command found in Matthew 11:28-30, “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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[1]

 

For any person who calls Christ their Lord and King, Jesus is their Master Teacher, but more than a teacher, Jesus is their personal tutor (like the master to the apprentice), as witnessed by the image of first taking on the yoke of Christ and then learning from Him. This is the 1-2 command of Matthew 11:28-30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” Do you want rest? Then come into an apprenticeship relationship (master-apprentice) or tutoring relationship (tutor-student) with Jesus Christ. A.T Robertson emphasizes that Jesus was speaking to His original audience the way any rabbi of His time would have: “The rabbis used yoke for school as many pupils find it now a yoke.”[2] Do the school of life with Jesus and you will find rest for your soul.

Christian discipleship leads to a life of rest because it draw us deeper into the life of Jesus who is our rest. Rest is found in joining with Jesus in the God-ordained process of becoming who God has designed you to be and in becoming this person from the inside-out, “for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”[3] Rest is found as you learn to trust God and His Holy Spirit to “make you become” the best version of you to the glory of God and to the good of our community.[4] This happens by submitting yourself to the yoke of Jesus and learning from Him. Paul described it as being “transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”[5]

The Apostle Paul, in a great teaching about the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 2, says of spiritually-discerning Christians, “we have the mind of Christ.”[6] This is Jesus’ teaching, who stated in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”[7] Again, Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”[8]

The telos of the Christian life is to, “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”[9] In short, we are to become like Jesus! Jesus knows this is the ultimate purpose of God for each of our lives so He invites us to yoke with Him and learn from Him.

 

How are we to do this—take Jesus’ yoke and learn from Him?

 

Jan Johnson starts our discussion on this question:

People often say they have questions to ask God when they get to heaven: “What causes cancer?” “How can the moon so far away create tides in the ocean right here?” “Why did you make my brother (or sister) so good-looking, and me so plain?” Making such a list is not a silly idea, I think, because it shows we view God as someone who knows things and wants to communicate with us. Here on earth, we can cultivate such a relationship with God by continually asking God questions.[10]

 

Listen again to Jesus’ dual command in Matthew 11:29, “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me”. The early church knew the answer to this question because there was not a false dichotomy in the church between being smart and being wise or between the sciences and faith because the God who made all things is the author of both science and faith. Near the end of the 2nd century one of the Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, wrote,

 

As the general directs the phalanx, consulting the safety of his soldiers, and the pilot steers the vessel, desiring to save the passengers; so also the Instructor [i.e., Jesus] guides the children to a saving course of conduct through his concern for us. Wafted on by the favoring breeze of the Spirit of truth, he stoutly holds on to the child’s helm—his ears, I mean—until he brings him safely to anchor in the haven of heaven.[11] (emphasis added)

 

We will not reach maturity in Christ and experience the fullness of joy Jesus promised us in this life until we allow Jesus Christ to be our tutor, our instructor, our teacher, in everyday life. We start doing this by giving Jesus access to all of our questions now and not just when our “soul” gets to Heaven. Rest for our “soul” is for this life, not just the next.[12] We are to pose all of our questions along the way throughout this life to Jesus and not just store them up for Heaven.
 

To get at the heart of this, we will go one level deeper and look at the Greek word translated “learn,” which is μανθάνω.[13] BDAG describes its meaning as, “to gain knowledge or skill by instruction, learn” with another lexicon defining it as, “to acquire information as the result of instruction, whether in an informal or formal context—‘to learn, to be instructed, to be taught.”[14]

Here is a brief survey of the 25 usages:[15]

  • In John 6:45b, Jesus states of His disciples, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”[16] (emphasis added)
  • In Ephesians 4:20, Paul admonishes believers, “But you did not learn Christ in this way.”[17] (emphasis added)
  • In Philippians 4:11, Paul testifies from the school of life, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”[18] (emphasis added)
  • Paul to Timothy uses the word twice in 2 Timothy 3:14, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.”[19] (emphasis added)
  • Concerning Jesus, Hebrews 5:8 describes, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”[20] (emphasis added)

 

The bottom line of Jesus’ dual commands is that He is inviting all who are worn out from living in a fallen world and are exhausted from being under the heavy yoke of religious performance expectations to earn God’s approval and acceptance, that they should take off the yoke of the Law and take on the yoke of grace.[21] In fact, Jesus’ invitation to “take My yoke and learn from Me” is united to Jesus’ other major commands to be a disciple and to make disciples: 1) “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny Himself, and take up His Cross and follow Me”[22] and 2) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”[23]

 

We once again hear Jesus’ invitation to walk with Him (do life together). This motif is found in both verses, overtly with the “come after Me” of Matthew 16:24 and the “Go” or more accurately “As you are going” of Matthew 28:19. Jesus is inviting us to welcome Him as our tutor in everyday life—to invite the God-man, the smartest person who ever lived to be our own personal guide in living right and living with a purpose that makes sense of our existence. The yoke we are to take on ourselves is connected to the Cross we are to take up to follow Jesus by the Greek command of αἴρω (which we studied last week) and related to the Greek word used to “make disciples” (μαθητεύω) creating a direct lexical connection to Jesus’ command to His disciples in Matthew 11:28-30. To take His yoke is to take up our cross! To come to Him is to come after Him! It is to live a life as a learner of Jesus and as such, follow His example by inviting others to hear Jesus’ invitation for themselves.

 

Donald Hagner in the Word Biblical Commentary makes this valuable conclusion:

The invitation to come to Jesus is an invitation to discipleship, that is, to follow him and his teaching. “Yoke” (ζυγόν) is a common metaphor for the law, both in Judaism (m ʾAbot 3:5; M Ber. 2:2; cf. 1QH 6:19) and in the NT (Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1). When Jesus invites people with the words ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, “take my yoke upon you,” he invites them to follow his own teaching as the definitive interpretation of the law (see on 5:17–20.). The same point is stressed in the next clause, μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, “learn from me.” As Wisdom calls to obedience of Torah (cf. Sir 24:23; 6:37), so Jesus similarly calls to a discipleship of obedience to Torah but, as always in Matthew, the Torah as mediated through his teaching—hence, “my yoke” (cf. 23:8, 10). The cognate verb μαθητεύειν occurs in 28:19 together with the emphasis on keeping true to the teaching of Jesus. A dimension of personal commitment to Jesus is clearly implied (Maher, 103).[24]

 

This is where our understanding of Jesus is very important to understand why taking His yoke upon ourselves and learning from Him does bring rest for our soul. Jesus is the smartest person who ever lived because Jesus is God. As Christians, we only worship one God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who exists in one substance as three unique persons mutually submitted in perfect unity. If you have a question about any aspect of creation (visible or invisible, natural or supernatural) who better to be able to answer it then Immanuel, the God who took on flesh and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is the wisdom of God incarnate, Torah (God’s Law) in flesh! [25] Listen to Hebrews 11:1-3, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”[26]

 

Essentially what Jesus was doing in His earthly ministry was teaching us that, “Jesus was Wisdom (Torah), the means of salvation. In fact, Jesus asserts that He is the fulfillment of Torah (Matt 5:17–20).”[27] Craig Keener emphasizes, “By speaking of God’s law as Jesus’ own, Jesus implicitly claims authority from the Father greater than that of Moses himself (11:27).[28] This is in fact the very context of Jesus’ great invitation. Before Jesus invites, “Come to Me…”, He says in Matthew 11:25-27, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your 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 wills to reveal Him.”[29]

 

God has established that to find Him you must first hear the invitation to come to Him. Do you hear Jesus saying to you, “Come to Me…”? This is God’s grace to you and to me and to all on whom God’s peace will rest. Apart from grace there is no rest, in this life or in the life to come.

 

Let’s close with application and relevance for our everyday lives. I hear so many people saying, “So what?” and “How does any of this apply to my everyday life?”

 

Jan Johnson insightfully diagnosis our human predicament with Jesus as our Master Teacher:

Jesus said we could do nothing apart from Him (see John 15:5), but that does not stop us from trying. The whole point of asking, seeking, and knocking in order to inquire of God (see Matthew 7:7) is to interrupt our constant pull toward independence from Him. Without the discipline of inquiring after God, we often follow the normal human method of doing things, which is to size things up from our own perspective and make decisions on our own, with little thought of asking God’s direction. Asking invites God into our situations, great and small.[30]

 

Jesus is inviting us into a very practical apprenticeship relationship. Ulrich Luz bridges the gap between our understanding of Jesus’ invitation to the practical applications of Jesus’ commands: “As in Judaism, μανθάνω means something practical, the learning of a behavior.”[31] To illustrate this, last week, Bill Imel was describing to me about what it meant to be an apprentice. When he was a young tool maker, he was assigned at different times to different master tool makers and as long as you worked under a certain master you did it his way and only his way. Bill was assigned to numerous masters and he learned valuable lessons from each of them, but he always did it the way of the one to whom he was apprenticed. The apprentice was told that to learn how to do his job he simply had to imitate the behavior of the master. Bill testified to the process of apprenticeship.

 

Jesus is inviting us to this kind of relationship with Himself—He is the Master and we are invited to take His yoke and learn from Him as His apprentice. Bill further emphasized that when a dog sled team is being brought together, a younger dog is placed in the yoke next to a more experienced dog. Why? So that the older dog can very practically train the younger dog. As the Apostle Paul said to the early church in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”[32] Again, Paul said in Philippians 4:9, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”[33]

 

There is a practical purpose of the yoke; it is designed that one can teach and another can learn. When we yoke with Jesus, we are yoking with the very wisdom of God. We are invited to have him right there beside us through our everyday life ups and downs, home life and workplace, school and sports experiences, and learn from Him!

 

There are a lot of ways to get things done in this world, but I have one question for you: Who is your master? If you say Jesus is my master, then is He your master in every area of your life or just matters of faith or just on Sunday mornings?

 

Do you believe that Jesus is the smartest person who ever lived? Then, why not listen to Him in every matter of your life? Will we do what the Master tells us to do? Will we ask for His advice throughout the day?

 

Remaining in the yoke is about the posture of our hearts to learn from Jesus, to trust and obey His words to us in the Word and in prayer, and then we will find rest for our souls.

 

Not feeling rested? Now you know why…
 
 
If you are interested in further study click on the following link:  ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in message #7.

[2] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mt 11:29.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 2:10.

[4] In Mark 1:17 Jesus invited His first disciples with this invitation to discipleship that came with the promise of making us into something: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (emphasis added)

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ro 12:1-2.

 

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Co 2:16.

 

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 15:15.

 

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 14:26.

 

[9] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 4:13. Cf. Phil 3:15; Heb 5:14; 6:1.

 

[10] Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, ed. Dallas Willard and David Hazard (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), 99.

 

[11] Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007), 128–129. This is from Clement of Alexandria’s Paedagogus, which is translated “The Instructor” or “The Tutor” (Ken Penner and Michael S. Heiser, “Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology” [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2008]).

 

[12] I am alluding to a larger concept and major misunderstanding about the soul in this sentence. In message #7 I will teach on the Hebrew word nephesh commonly translated soul. This is where we will see the importance of Jesus quoting from Jeremiah 6:16, as well as ensuring we understand words from a biblical perspective.

[13] “μάθετε aor2 impv μανθάνω learn” (Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament [Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974], 35). “aorist act. impera. of μανθάνω (LN 27.12) (BAGD 1. p. 490): ‘to learn’ [BAGD, LN; all translations except NLT], ‘to be instructed, to be taught’ [LN]. The phrase μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ ‘learn from me’ is translated ‘let me teach you’ [NLT]. This verb means to acquire information as the result of instruction, whether in an informal or formal context [LN]” (David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries [Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013], 413).

[14] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 615. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 326.

[15] Occurrences of μανθάνω in the NT: Matthew 24:32; Mark 13:28; John 6:45; 7:15; 1 Cor. 4:6; 14:31, 35; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9, 11; Colossians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:11; 5:4, 13; 2 Timothy 3:7, 14; Titus 3:14; and Hebrews 5:8. Michael Jones in the Lexham Theological Workbook describes the use of this word, “Although manthanō is sometimes used in the sense of coming to know something (e.g., Acts 23:27; Gal 3:2), it is often used in the sense of being taught something, such as knowledge (e.g., 1 Cor 14:35; Col 1:7; 2 Tim 3:7) or ethical or practical wisdom (e.g., Matt 9:13; 1 Cor 4:6; Eph 4:20). The word manthanō can also mean ‘to come to understand (something) by experience’ or ‘to realize (something)’ (e.g., Phil 4:11; Titus 3:14; Heb 5:8)” (Michael R. Jones, “Teaching,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014]).

[16] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 6:45.

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 4:20.

 

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Php 4:11.

[19] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 2 Ti 3:14.

 

[20] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 5:8.

 

[21] “Jewish rabbis described the obligation to fulfill the law in terms of a yoke that must be taken upon oneself” (David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries [Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013], 414).

 

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 16:24. Cf. Lk 9:23–25. “It is also likely that the statements concerning taking up one’s cross are to be associated with the Jewish practice of reciting the Shema each day as the sign and symbol of God’s sovereignty. Indeed, the use of the term “daily” in association with this Christian concept would make this suggestion even more likely. When one realizes that the term for the cross beam which Jesus is pictured as having carried to the place of execution is the same term frequently used for the cross beam known as the yoke, and when one realizes that at least some of the early Christian interpreters of Jesus’ words saw a specific relationship between cross and yoke, the likelihood of there having been a daily assumption of the “Yoke of the Kingship of God” (the term used by the Jews with respect to the Shema/assumption of the Yoke of the Kingship of God) by Christians via some type of recitation becomes more likely. It would seem reasonable to associate such a ritual as including the recitation of the model prayer or some other liturgical formula. Perhaps, also, as the assumption of the yoke was symbolized in tefillin in Judaism, some religious object(s) or symbol(s) were used as a part of this personal worship among the Christians” (Charles L. Tyer, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 1027.)

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt. 28:29.

 

[24] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 324.

[25] “He is, therefore, playing not only the part of Wisdom (see p. 264) but also the part of Torah; or, rather, he is Wisdom, he is Torah. How very significant this is should not be missed. For Judaism ‘Torah’ is ‘all that God has made known of his nature, character and purpose, and of what he would have man be and do’ (Moore 1, p. 263); it is the full revelation of God and of his will for man. So the identification of Jesus with Torah makes Jesus the full revelation of God and of his will for man. But this is precisely what 11:27 has already done, for there the Son declares that he knows the Father and has been given a complete revelation. Hence Jesus, in both 11:27 and 29, and in contrast to Moses, is the perfect embodiment of God’s purpose and demand and the functional equivalent of Torah. Law-giver and law are one” (W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, vol. 2, International Critical Commentary [London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004], 289–290).

 

[26] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 1:1–3.

 

[27] Cf. John 14:6. Michael S. Heiser, I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, ed. John D. Barry and Rebecca Van Noord (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Bible Study Magazine, 2014), 188.

 

[28] The quote continues quite extensively in Keener’s standard thoroughness, “other Jewish texts would have spoken only of God’s yoke here (Smith 1951: 153), or of the yoke of Torah (Davies and Allison 1991: 289). Jesus unquestionably models his words directly after the invitation of the sage Joshua ben Sira (Sir 51:23–27): Draw near to me, you who are uneducated … Why do you delay in these matters, when your souls thirst so much?… Place your neck under the yoke, and let your soul accept training—she is near if you wish to find her. Witness with your own eyes that I have labored little, yet have found much rest for myself. Yet the yoke in Matthew is not Ben Sira’s, but that of divine Wisdom, and Wisdom elsewhere invites the hearer, “Come to me, you who earnestly desire me,” and eat and drink of wisdom (Sir 24:19–21). John is not the only Gospel writer with a “wisdom christology” (Jn 1:1–18; 6:35; 7:37; cf. Hamerton-Kelly 1973: 68; Meier 1980: 127). Obeying God would bring his people “rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16 MT)” (Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI;  Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009], 348–349).

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:25–27.

 

[30] Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, ed. Dallas Willard and David Hazard (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), 100.

 

[31] Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), 172.

[32] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Co 11:1.

 

[33] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Php 4:9.


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 4)

“Take the Yoke of Jesus!”

Part 4 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

Jesus is inviting each of us to come to Him, all of us who are tired simply from the strain of living everyday life in a fallen world and burned out on carrying what other people have placed on our shoulders, and He will give us rest. But how are we to find rest for our souls as Jesus promised? Jesus teaches us very specifically, but there are three things I want us to learn from the specific way Jesus is commanding.

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the commands found in Matthew 11:28-30, “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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[1]

 

Take My Yoke

 

There are 2 commands (called ‘imperatives’) in our passage (Matthew 11:28-30) and they are both found in verse 29. Today we will emphasize the first, “Take My yoke upon you…” and next week we will focus on the second, “…and learn from Me…” (Mt 11:29a, b, emphasis added). Both are essential to understanding Jesus’ invitation and promise. If you want to experience the rest of God, then we have to understand what we are being invited to do.

 

Interesting enough the invitation to “Come to Me” (Mt. 11:28a) is being used in the adverbial form, which means that the invitation to come is modifying the indicative verb of “I will give you rest.” Simply, the giving of Jesus’ rest is found in coming to Him. As we saw last week, Jesus is that rest. That is the triumphant teaching of Jesus’ words in this next passage, Matthew 12:8, when Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”[2] and in the commentary of Jesus’ teaching on sabbath in Hebrews 4:1-16, “For we who have believed enter that rest.”[3] Not to get ahead of myself, but entering into the rest of God is through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

To start the conversation, allow me to share this illustration with you:

A teacher read to her class the text, “My yoke is easy.”

“Who can tell me what a yoke is?” she asked.

A boy said, “A yoke is something they put on the necks of animals.”

Then the teacher asked, “What is the yoke God puts on us?”

A little girl said, “It is God putting His arms around our necks.”[4]

 

With this image in mind, let’s now begin to learn the ‘how’ of Jesus’ rest: Jesus is commanding us to take His yoke upon ourselves. Jesus uses the Greek verb αἴρω in this sentence as a plural 2nd person imperative in the active tense and aorist voice.[5] In this context, BDAG states that the word means, “to lift up and move from one place to another; to take/carry (along).”[6]

 

Jesus is literally telling us that in order to have rest from the weariness of living life in a broken and fallen world and in order to be delivered from the heavy load that others have put on our shoulders, that we must actively take on ourselves His yoke. This action, combined with the imperative of “learn from Me” is the way to rest. While eternal rest is available through the grace of faith, experiencing rest (abundance in this life) is through the grace of faithfulness; hence, the yoke as a living image of a grace-based relationship with God through Jesus Christ.[7]

 

What is the yoke of Jesus and will understanding this will we better understand what Jesus is inviting us to in this command? I believe so, it did for me. A lot! The Greek word for yoke is ζυγός (zygos) and it is only found six times in the NT. Five times it is translated “yoke” (Mt 11:29, 30; Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1; and 1 Tim 6:1) and once as “scales” (Rev 6:5) in the NASB. As we will discover, the NT usage of this word is grounded in its OT usage. In the OT, the word “yoke” is translated from five different Hebrew words and in the NASB is found 54 times.[8]

 

There is three-fold understanding of the “yoke” of Jesus as He commands us to take on ourselves in Matthew 11:28-30: 1) cultural-historical, specifically an agricultural metaphor; 2) cultural,-religious, specifically a Jewish metaphor; and 3) with an understanding of the implications of both 1 & 2, as a “conceptual metaphor” calling people into Christian discipleship.[9]

 

 

Yoke as Agricultural Imagery

 

Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience whose livelihoods depended on their abilities to work the ground. Jesus often spoke in well-known and easily understood cultural references because His audience intuitively understood them. As we all know, a picture speaks a thousand words. Check this picture out.

 

Figure 1 below is a drawing capturing the historical context of how an ancient Israelite would have seen the yoke as a 6-day-a-week reality of their lives in community.[10] Jesus is capturing this picture with his invitation to come to Him and his command to take His yoke upon ourselves.

Figure 1: Plowing: “A Yoke of Oxen”

 

Listen to Ralph Gower share the historical reality of Jesus’ day with some insightful comments,

 

The plough itself was made of two wooden beams, jointed T-fashion. The horizontal stroke of the T formed the handle for guidance, and the spiked end was to break the surface of the ground. The vertical section of the T was attached to the yoke that went over the necks of the animals. The yoke itself was simply a rough beam tied across the necks of a pair of animals and held in place by two vertical sticks that came down each side of the neck and tied beneath (see Jeremiah 28:13). The law forbade a mixture of animals such as ox and donkey (see Deuteronomy 22:10), presumably because there would be an unequal pull that might cause suffering for the weaker animal.[11]

 

Tony Stoltzfus in his book on conversational prayer makes an insightful comment,

 

According to tradition, Jesus in his role as a tekton (Greek for carpenter or builder) made yokes and ploughs. Each yoke had to be custom-fitted to each animal. As one yoke-build notes: ‘Yokes for oxen are like shoes for children. One size does not fit all. A young team may need as many as five or six yokes before it reaches maturity. A well-fitted yoke will allow an ox team to pull to its full potential. A poor fitted yoke will cause discomfort, could injure the oxen, and will not allow the team to pull to its full potential.’[12]
 
 

Figure 2: A picture of a yoke as discussed by Stoltzfus.[13]

 

But, what is the full potential of an oxen team? In John 15, Jesus said in another conceptual metaphor based on a different agricultural image, that with Him we can do more than we can imagine, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[14]

 

Just like in the vine and branch imagery, the yoke imagery puts Jesus in the dominant position to do great things in us and through our lives.[15] Janet Pope describes the power of the yoke, “Typically a young, untrained ox is yoked with an older, trained ox. The younger learns from the older. If a trained ox can pull 5,000 pounds and an untrained ox can pull 2,000 pounds, together they can pull 10,000 pounds—much more than the sum of the two. Over time, the untrained ox becomes trained and the two begin to walk in-step with each other. Then they can pull 15,000 pounds.”[16]

 

Apart from Jesus, you may be able to do a little bit in this life, but nothing of eternal value. But in the yoke of Jesus you can pull over seven times more.[17]

 

 

Yoke as a Vivid Old Testament Symbol

 

“Because the yoke was such a common agricultural implement, it became a vivid symbol with many nuances” in the Jewish mindset.[18] Jesus was unapologetically trying to reach a Jewish audience so He engaged existing metaphors.[19] Let’s not be confused then by how His language and imagery speaks directly to his target audience.

 

What would an every-day good religious Jewish person familiar with the Old Testament (the Jewish scriptures, Torah), living in first-century Palestine, have heard when Jesus invited them to take His yoke on them? The agricultural imagery would have already been grafted into this second image: the OT usage of the yoke as covenant faithfulness to the Torah (the commandment of God to His chosen people) as contrasted with apostasy through worship of pagan gods and foreign idols.[20]

 

Charles Tyer explains the depth of the yoke imagery to the Jewish religious mind,

 

The yoke concept within the Hebrew literary traditions is strongly related to the idea of the Sovereignty Covenant. God laid his yoke on his people. His people either bore the yoke (an obedient, proper relationship) or broke off the yoke (a relationship of rebellion). God’s people might choose to attempt to wear the yokes of other gods, which was the same as throwing off the yoke of Israel’s god. Obviously, one could not wear two yokes at the same time. The wearing of the yoke as viewed in Hebrew scripture was the outward sign of an inward relationship. Thus one might bring the offerings and do all of the things of religion and still not be bearing the yoke in terms of attitudes and relationships. Hebrew scriptures can thus view the bearing of the yoke of God’s sovereignty as joy, honor, and privilege rather than tragedy, hardship, and sorrow.[21]

 

God is passionate about upholding His covenant with His people as we read in Jeremiah 2:20, “For long ago I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds; But you said, ‘I will not serve!’ For on every high hill and under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot.” He continues in Jeremiah 5:5-6, “‘I will go to the great and will speak to them, for they know the way of the Lord and ordinance of their God.’ But they too, with one accord, have broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Therefore a lion from the forest will slay them, a wolf of the deserts will destroy them, a leopard is watching their cities. Everyone who goes out of them will be torn in pieces, because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are numerous.”[22]

 

Dramatically, God commands Jeremiah to prophetically take on Himself the yoke of Israel’s apostasy to Babylon. Listen to a few verses of Jeremiah 27:1-22, “Thus says the Lord to me—’Make for yourself bonds and yokes and put them on your neck.’” Soon after God declares of His promised deliverance and rescue of His chosen people for the glory of His name, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.”[23]

 

The people of Israel knew the imagery of the yoke. Listen to Jewish rabbis from these Jewish documents. In the Babylonian Talmud and the Mishnah, Berakhot 2:2 states, “So that one should first accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and afterwards accept the yoke of the commandments.”[24]

 

Also from the Mishnah, Pirke Abott 3:5, “R. Neḥunia b. ha-Kanah said: Every one who receives upon him the yoke of Torah, they remove from him the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly occupation. And every one who breaks off from him the yoke of Torah, they lay upon him the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly occupation.”[25]

 

We should not forget that the context of Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25-30 is Jesus renouncing the Jewish cities that He has preached to for their apostasy in Matthew 11:20-24. This connection to the concept of the yoke as God’s sovereign rule over His chosen people should not be lost nor ignored. This is essential to our understanding of Matthew 11:28-30 and its application to our lives and the ministry of the gospel through the local church. Jesus usage not only aligns with the OT usage, but also the Jewish understanding of the yoke.

 

 

Yoke as Invitation to Christian Discipleship

 

As already introduced, Jesus is using ‘yoke’ as a conceptual metaphor, a teaching device, to invite you into the fullness of what it means to be Christian disciple. This is a call to Christian discipleship as we saw overtly in verse 28 and as we will continue to see as Jesus commands us learn from Him.[26] In using the word “yoke” Jesus is recognizing His audience’s preexisting understanding that goes beyond the literal usage of the word alone. A yoke imagines the following: 1) a working tool for greater productivity in farming by being united with one stronger and more experienced than you and 2) to submission to God’s authority and way of life.

 

The invitation to take Jesus’ yoke was a direct invitation by a Jewish rabbi to a Jewish audience to take off the yoke of the legalistic observation of Torah, which was the heavy burden that the religious rulers of Second Temple Judaism had placed firmly on the shoulders of these Jewish people. That is why Jesus invited those are “weary and heavy-laden” in Matthew 11:28. This is what this text means to its original audience and in intended usage. As Neil Anderson said in Victory over the Darkness, “the context is the yoke of legalism.”[27]

 

Jesus is explicitly commanding His Jewish audience to put down the Torah (Law) and put Him on (grace). Jesus is inviting the Jewish people into a new covenant of relationship with the Father, which is why He describes Himself  as “gentle and humble in heart.” He is contrasting His grace-yoke with the Father as compared to the heavy-yoke of works-based religious observance. Jesus is inviting His hearers to a grace-filled relationship with God through Himself, enabled through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

This was not missed by the Apostle Paul who continues this conversation very overtly in Galatians 5:1-4, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”[28]

 

Nor was this lost on the Apostle Peter who said during the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:7-11,

 

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”[29]

 

Nor was this missed by the Apostolic Fathers, the earliest of Christian leaders who had contact with the apostles. These Apostolic Fathers left some evidence of how they viewed the yoke of Jesus Christ. Below are the two earliest non-canonical sources of the early church. In the Didache 6:2 states, “If you can bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect, but if you cannot, do what you can.”[30] While 1 Clement 16:17 asks, “Ye see, dearly beloved, what is the pattern that hath been given unto us; for, if the Lord was thus lowly of mind, what should we do, who through Him have been brought under the yoke of His grace?”[31] It would be a future study to discuss all the commentary on theses sayings of the earliest church leaders, outside of the Bible. But it is enough for us to know 19 centuries later, that this saying of Jesus has inspired Christians to a faithful life of Christian discipleship, not just a faith decision for Christ.[32]

 

Application of the Yoke Imagery

 

For most of us independent American types, the yoke imagery does not work for us in partnership with the concept of rest. Jesus’ teaching is counterintuitive, which is a fancy way of saying, “This is not common sense!” Is Jesus saying that you have to do some work to have rest?  But salvation is a no-work agreement as Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[33] And that is 100% true! So, what is Jesus saying?

 

Listen to Jeremy Treat, from a 2014 Gospel Coalition article about God’s grace,

 

If it’s “all about grace” then clearly it’s not about effort. Or so it seems. But, as Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Christians therefore, should work hard, strive, and toil—but we do so not for grace but from grace. Because of the gospel we are motivated not by guilt but by gratitude. And the gospel is the greatest motivating power in the world, propelling followers of Christ to love their neighbor, do justice, and share the gospel. Philippians 2:12-13 describes this type of grace-driven effort: “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.”[34] (italics his)

 

To help us close the gap on this seeming paradox of Jesus’ simultaneous invitation to find rest and command to take His yoke upon you, listen to Christian psychologist Dr. Bill Gaultiere’s insight on the actual usage of the yoke as would best help us understand Jesus’ intent,

 

The yoke that Jesus is referring to is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of two oxen. It’s used to attach them, neck to neck, and hitch up them up to a plow that they are to pull across a field to prepare it for planting a crop. First, the ox needs to be “broken in.” To train a young ox wise farmers are careful not to pair it with another young ox or an ox that’s been poorly trained. Young oxen might be strong and energetic, but they don’t know how to wear the yoke and they don’t know how to pull the plow. They jerk and strain to try to get out of the yoke. They charge forward to rush to the end of the job, chaffing their necks and choking themselves. Or they try to wander off to graze in a meadow. But if you take a young ox and pair it with a mixture ox who has been well-trained then it learns. The lead ox shows the younger how to wear the yoke loosely and lightly. It pulls the brunt of the weight of the plow and leads the younger one to pull the plow and steady, step-by-step, straight ahead – without getting bruised or worn out. Jesus is the mature ox we need.[35] (italics his)

 

Utilizing the historical context and with the promise of Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 to give us abundant life and fullness of joy in mind, Stoltzfus speculates into the command of Jesus,

 

When Jesus the master craftsman said ‘my yoke is easy,’ memories flooded back to him of his time in the woodshop: carving the curved opening in the yoke to fit around each animal’s neck, sanding it down carefully so that it would not rub any spot raw or hurt the animal. When he asks you to, ‘take my yoke upon you,’ he means the one he custom-made just for you and him. It’s designed to preserve you from unnecessary pain and let you reach your full potential. Just as yokes were made to join the pulling power of two animals, his yoke is meant to join your strength to his and let the two of you to pull together.[36]

 

Allow me to conclude with Janet Pope’s concluding thoughts about the yoke of Jesus,

Burnout doesn’t come from working too hard for God. It comes from working ALONE for God. Working side-by-side with Jesus gives us rest IN our work, not rest FROM our work. We want to be yoked with Jesus because the load IS too heavy to carry alone. We don’t need to trivialize the burdens of this world. They are real and ever-present. If the load isn’t heavy, a yoke isn’t needed. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden is light precisely because that yoke connects us to the One who has overcome the world.[37]

You are invited if you do not know Jesus to come to Him and find rest. You are commanded to put on His yoke and learn from Him to find rest for your soul. There is a once and for all-time decision that must be made, but there is also a lifestyle of faithfulness that must be decided every morning you wake up and throughout your day. Put down all the other yokes you are carrying, and take up your Cross and follow Jesus![38]

 

Are you working hard, but doing it alone?

 

Are you weary and under a heavy load?

 

Then put on your shoulders the yoke of grace. There is only room for one…
 

Footnotes:

——————————————————————————————————————–
 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 12:8.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 4:3.

 

[4] Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1507.

[5] All word searches are from Logos 8 Bible Software. “The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in summary fashion without respect to any process. In the indicative mood, the aorist usually denotes past time, while an aorist participle usually refers to antecedent time with respect to the main verb. Outside the indicative and the participle, the aorist does not indicate time” (Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology [Lexham Press, 2013; 2013].”

 

[6] “lit. w. obj. acc. σταυρόν Mt 16:24; 27:32; Mk 8:34; 15:21; Lk 9:23. ζυγόν (La 3:27) Mt 11:29. τινὰ ἐπὶ χειρῶν 4:6; Lk 4:11 (both Ps 90:12). Pass. Mk 2:3. αἴ. τι εἰς ὁδόν take someth. along for the journey 6:8; Lk 9:3, cp. 22:36. Of a gambler’s winnings Mk 15:24.—Fig. δόξαν ἐφʼ ἑαυτὸν αἴ. claim honor for oneself B 19:3” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 28).

 

[7] Cf. Matthew 7:24-27. Both of these teachings of Jesus indicate that simply being with Him is not enough to experience His promised abundant life (John 10:10). It is not enough to be yoked with Jesus, but you must learn from Him. It is not enough to hear the teachings of Jesus, you must do them. While putting your faith in Jesus is an act of grace toward you, it cannot be seen from a reductionist-gospel point of view as only that. Grace is not only a salvific action of God to secure a person in His inheritance, but an empowered lifestyle of apprenticeship with Jesus, where grace is the active power of enabling the life of faith. A life that bears the fruit to God’s grace testifies to the new nature of the tree by grace (Matthew 7:15-23 is the context for Jesus’ illustrative Matthew 7:24-27 parable). I will develop this teaching on God’s grace throughout this sermon and in next week’s sermon.

[8] “Literally, the wooden bar that allowed two (or more) draft animals to be coupled so that they might effectively work together (Nm 19:2; 1 Kgs 19:19; Jb 1:3). In addition to this literal usage, the Bible frequently uses the term metaphorically to refer to work or bondage (Gn 27:40). The yoke of bondage was applied not only by foreign oppressors, but often by Israel’s own kings as well (2 Kgs 12:4–14; 2 Chr 10:4–14). In prophetic writings, the yoke of bondage was generally associated with divine judgment (Lam 1:14), so that deliverance was represented as God breaking the yoke that had enslaved Israel (Is 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; 58:6; Jer 2:20; 5:5). The yoke of bondage figured prominently in Jeremiah’s contest with Hananiah concerning Judah’s imminent release from Babylonian captivity (Jer 27:8–11; 28:1–17)” (Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Yoke,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988], 2173).

[9]Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. If I use the word “Vegas” and all you think of is latitude and longitude, you’re not following my meaning. Biblical words can carry a lot of freight that transcends their concrete sense. Inspiration didn’t immunize language from doing what it does” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 387).

 

[10] 1000 Bible Images. Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society, 2009. Further insights about the yoke will be developed when exegeting Mt 11:30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Scriptures that speak to this historical reality of Jewish culture are Deut 22:10; 1 Sam 14:14; 1 Kings 19:19; Job 1:3; and Luke 14:19.

 

[11] Ralph Gower, The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times Student Edition (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), 74-75. Beyond the scope of this study, but illustrative to the power of a conceptual metaphor, Gower continues, “The regulation prohibiting partnership between believers and unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers”) was not simply exclusivist; it was made out of the knowledge of the suffering that could be caused” (75).

 

[12] Tony Stoltzfus with Kathy Stoltzfus and Sarah Herring, Questions for Jesus: Conversational Prayer Around Your Deepest Desires (Redding, CA: Coach22 Bookstore LLC, 2013), 68. The quote within the quote was footnoted, “Tiller’s Tech Guide – Building An Ox Yoke”. All italics are original to the author.

 

[13] Picture from https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/lenten-meditation-resting-in-the-yoke/ (accessed January 25, 2019).

 

[14] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 15:5, 16a.

 

[15] Discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit to do this will come in the sermon on Mt 11:30.

 

[16] Janet Pope, “A Yoke? What’s that all about?” (November 20, 2013) http://www.janetpope.org/a-yoke-whats-that-all-about/ (accessed January 26, 2019).

 

[17] Not to be weird about numbers, but seven is the number of completion and the number of rest. Regardless, it is the goal of our lives to be able to say as Jesus said in John 17:4, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

 

[18] The quotes continues, “Sometimes it was used to describe oppression and servitude, politically (Gen. 27:40; Lev. 26:13; 1 Kgs. 12:4–14 = 2 Chr. 10:4–14; Isa. 58:6, 9; Jer. 28:1–14) and religiously (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1; 1 Tim. 6:1). Lam. 1:14 employs the figure to describe the negative results of sin. The figure of humans yoked usually represents an unhealthy relationship (2 Cor. 6:14; cf. Ps. 106:28)” (W. E. Nunnally, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], 1404).

 

[19] As Jesus said in Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” See whole story for context, Mt. 15:21-28.

 

[20] The Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible expresses this larger understanding of the yoke imagery, “Even more striking is Jeremiah’s use of the term as a metaphor for God’s authority, probably as expressed in the covenant and the word of God (Jer. 2:20; 5:5). Jesus’ shorthand use of the term in Matt. 11:28–30 refers to the rabbinic concepts of ‘the yoke of the kingdom of heaven/Torah/commandments’ (cf. m. Ber. 2:2, 5; b. Sanh. 94b; Sir. 6:24–30; Pss. Sol. 7:9)” (W. E. Nunnally, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], 1404).

 

[21] Charles L. Tyer, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1026.

 

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 2:20; 5:5–6.

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 27:2; 28:2.

 

[24] Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 82. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 5.

[25] Robert Henry Charles, ed., Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 699. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 679.

 

[26] The roots of biblical discipleship go deep into the fertile soil of God’s calling. That calling is expressed in the pattern of divine initiative and human response that constitutes the heart of the biblical concept of covenant, manifested in the recurrent promise, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” That call from Yahweh is reiterated in the call of Jesus, when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). God has called his people to represent him on the earth, to be with him in every circumstance of life, to be transformed in personal character to be like him. That calling is at the heart of biblical discipleship, both in the Old and New Testaments” (Michael J. Wilkins, “Disciple, Discipleship,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996], 175).

 

[27] Neil T. Anderson, Victory over the Darkness, 10th Anniversary Edition Updated and Expanded (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2000), audiobook reference at 1:11.40.

 

[28] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ga 5:1–4.

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ac 15:7–11.

[30] Kurt Niederwimmer and Harold W. Attridge, The Didache: A Commentary, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 120.

[31] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 64.

 

[32] “Although discipleship was a voluntary initiative with other types of master-disciple relationships in the first century, with Jesus the initiative lay with his call (Matt. 4:19; 9:9; Mark 1:17; 2:14; cf. Luke 5:10–11, 27–28) and his choice (John 15:16) of those who would be his disciples. The response to the call involves recognition and belief in Jesus’ identity (John 2:11; 6:68–69), obedience to his summons (Mark 1:18, 20), and counting the cost of full allegiance to him (Matt. 19:23–30; Luke 14:25–28). His call is the beginning of something new; it means losing one’s old life (Matt. 10:34–37; Luke 9:23–25) and finding new life in the family of God through obeying the will of the Father (Matt. 12:46–50)” (Michael J. Wilkins, “Disciple, Discipleship,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996], 176).

[33] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 2:8–9.

 

[34] Jeremy Treat, “Grace is Not a Thing” (May 29, 2014).  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/grace-is-not-a-thing/, last accessed January 24, 2019. A parallel thought from Paul is found in his words in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God’s rhythm of rest is not just a 6:1 ration of work to rest, it is resting in your work. In this fallen world, it takes work to truly rest in the Lord. To build the boundaries in your life and to not live your life in 24/7 connectivity and productivity.

[35] Bill Gaultier, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered (Irvine, CA: Soul Shepherding, Inc., 2016), 7. Gaultier was a long-time apprentice to Dallas Willard and this book, along with the work of John Ortberg, is the best work I have found building upon the ground-breaking work of Dallas Willard. Before his death and after reading the first draft of this book, it is reported that Dallas Willard said to Gaultier, “This is groundbreaking! Pastors and others will come under this teaching and develop aspects of it in their own ministry” (1). I am finding that statement very true. Combined with the essential works of Dallas Willard, this book has shaped my thinking on the applications of Mt 11:28-30 more than any other resources.

[36] Tony Stoltzfus with Kathy Stoltzfus and Sarah Herring, Questions for Jesus: Conversational Prayer Around Your Deepest Desires (Redding, CA: Coach22 Bookstore LLC, 2013), 68. For additional support of this thought process, Richard Myers explained, “Yokes had to be shaped and fitted carefully. Many parts were made of wood, so the carpenter Jesus had to know well how to design, make, and use them (Mark 6:3)” (Richard Myers. Images from The Temple Dictionary of the Bible [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012]).

[37] Janet Pope, “A Yoke? What’s that all about?” (November 20, 2013) http://www.janetpope.org/a-yoke-whats-that-all-about/ (accessed January 26, 2019).

[38] I will further establish the connection between the yoke and the cross in a future sermon. The implications on the call to Christian discipleship are essential to our application to both discipleship and ministry.


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 3)

“The Rest of God!”

Part 3 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

Jesus is inviting you to come to Him, but what did Jesus promise to give to those who are tired from day-to-day life and weary from carrying the burdens that have been placed on them?

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the promise found in Matthew 11:28-30, “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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[1]

 

Here is a brief survey of numerous Bible teachers’ thoughts on Jesus’ promise of rest in v. 28:

 

It includes peace of mind and heart, and relief from uncertainty and anxiety [NTC]. It is a deep refreshment that enables a person to go back to his or her tasks with renewed strength and energy [PNTC]. It is relief from sin and guilt, and from striving after salvation [Lns]. It is an eschatological rest, and reflects the language of Jeremiah 6:16 [EBC, NICNT, NIGTC, WBC], but it is also a present reality [EBC, WBC]. This ‘rest’ is a proper fellowship with God [TH]. It is not idleness or inaction [BNTC, ICC], but the contentment and full life that come from knowing and living by the truth which God’s Son reveals [ICC]. It is eternal, eschatological salvation by faith [CC]. It speaks of a refreshing and fulfillment that looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath [WBC].[2]

 

What a beautiful and robust promise for those who will come to Jesus. All this from a one-word promise.[3] The original Greek word used in Matthew 11:28c is ἀναπαύω which is used 12 times in the New Testament, with the following range of meaning: “to cause someone to gain relief from toil, to cause to rest, refresh, revive; to bring something to a conclusion, end, conclude, finish; to settle on an object, rest upon in imagery.”[4]

Here are three examples of the rest Jesus is referring to in Matthew 11:28. With applications.

 

First, from Mark 6:31-32, after the disciples come back from successful ministry trips, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”[5] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

 

APPLICATIONS: Rest can happen in times alone with God or with a small group of people.

 

Do you have 7 friends (a small group of people) that you can be yourself with?

 

You won’t find rest as long as you are carrying the yoke of performance to gain acceptance from people. The fear of man and fear of rejection disallow us from finding rest in the easy yoke of Jesus. This level of relationship is cultivated through time together, with an intentional desire to be known and to know. It’s risky, but what worth having does not come with risk to ourselves. Love is the riskiest business!

 

We will talk about this more in the coming weeks, but it is critical to understand that Jesus’ invitation to find rest is not just a once-upon-a-time faith decision, but daily moment-by-moment decisions to faithfully live by faith to Jesus’ ways and words. This is never tested more than in our relationships, in how we love one another, in how we relate to others ranging from our neighbor to our enemy.

 

When is the last time you went on a retreat (mini, day, or overnight), either alone or with others?

 

The ultimate antidote to the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. It is in Christian discipleship, in answering the invitation to come to Jesus, that you learn how to take off the yokes of other people’s expectations. You don’t need to fear them! This includes taking off the yoke of our own expectations of living up to oppressive standards (often driven by our own past hurts, or by pride of performance or insecurity of what others may think, fear of the future including the very relevant fear of missed opportunities that drives so many young families today). It is impossible to rest in the easy yoke of Jesus when you are being driven by puny gods (idols).

 

Are you making space in little ways for God in your life to experience the rest of God?

 

Start small and start today. One idea is to get to bed on time and on purpose in order to get a good night sleep. Then you can wake up rested to spend your first part of the day with Jesus. Whether for 2 or 20 minutes or 2 hours, turn your early morning into a mini retreat with Jesus. Your day doesn’t start with how you wake up, how you start your day is determined by how you get to bed! Pray the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 to relax and relax to rest.

 

The next two examples of rest are from Paul. In 1 Corinthians 16:18, he spoke of the rest that comes from the ministry that Christians can give to one another, “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.”[6] Again in 2 Corinthians 7:13, “we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”[7] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

APPLICATION: Rest happens through the service we provide to one another. Both to the one who is ministering as you serve one another in the yoke of Jesus and to the one who is being blessed by the ministry of the other. When was the last time you obeyed the Spirit to serve another person? How did it make you feel? How did it affect the other person? Do you have 1 place of service where you feel led by God to serve others in the easy yoke of Jesus?

 

A warning for the sake of your health: Any place of service that is not in submission to God through the yoke of Jesus will either burden, disappoint, or eventually frustrate you or pridefully cause you to feel better than others. In either case, the lack of the Spirit and the increasing of the flesh in that kind of service can only lead to a wary and burdened soul. All service in the easy yoke of Jesus brings about humility in the person and praise to God who is the only one able to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. As Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[8]

 

Combined, these applications, are what we are calling FBC’s 2019 “7:1 Initiative” that I believe the Lord Jesus is inviting each of us to as members of His body at FBC. This is not a program that we are calling you to, it is a lifestyle. Are you investing in 7 relationships and 1 place of service that will lead to rest for you and rest for others?

 

You are invited to practically apply Matthew 11:28. Rest is not a complete absence of work, but from a complete surrender to Jesus Christ which includes every single day in every single way, not just a 6:1 ratio of work to rest. Jesus is the purpose and meaning of our work and He is the rest for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

 

Immediately after this amazing invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus declares this in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”[9] Jesus calls us to a day of ceasing from our work because He knows we need to rest from our labors, our striving and scheming, and we need above all to remember and to know that He is God and we are not.

 

The rest of God is not only to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God and move closer and closer to Him every day. Jesus is desiring to be with you, from the inside out. Jesus is desiring to set you free and in your freedom, to give you rest, in this life and in the life to come.

 

Are you moving closer and closer to Jesus?

 

Supplemental Material

 
—————————————————————————————————

Footnotes:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.

 

[2] David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013), 412–413.

 

[3] When I was first studying this passage, I was going to demonstrate how God “gives” and cross reference this promise with the famous promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” But while there is a conceptual connection to this truth that God is the giver of all good gifts (cf. James 1:17), there is not a lexical connection. This is a one-word promise and it is not the same Greek verb used in either of these verses or the like (e.g. Rom 8:32).

 

[4] Word studies and analysis of the text done in Logos 8 Bible Software. Word study with Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Additionally from UBS, “to cause someone to become physically refreshed as the result of resting from work—‘to cause to rest, to give rest.’ δεῦτε πρός με … κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς ‘come to me … and I will give you rest’ Mt 11:28. In some languages it may be difficult to speak of ‘causing someone to become refreshed by resting.’ Normally this would be accomplished simply by causing a person not to have to work. Accordingly, Mt 11:28 may be expressed in some languages as ‘I will make it possible for you no longer to have to work’ or ‘… to toil hard.’ This, however, must not be understood merely in the sense of ‘to give a person a vacation’ or ‘to make it possible for someone to live without working’” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains [New York: United Bible Societies, 1996], 260).

 

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 6:31–32.

 

[6] Ibid., 1 Co 16:18.

[7] Ibid., 2 Co 7:13.

 

[8] Ibid., Jn 15:5, 16a.

 

[9] Ibid., Mt 12:8. “What better example than the fourth commandment, which dominates 12:1–14? One experiences the sabbath rest precisely by keeping the sabbath command; and it is rest not just for the ‘soul’ (so most translations of 11:29c), but for the body as well. Yet, this only happens for persons intimately related to ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’ (12:8). In Jesus’ hands, the law is an instrument of grace, a guide for loving God and neighbor. Wielded by alien powers (demonic or human), the law becomes enslaving and destructive” (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries [Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010], 637).

 


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 2)

“Are you tired and worn out?”

Part 2 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

Today, we are going to start a conversation on the major issues of stress. We live in an overconnected 24×7 world where technology is blurring the lines between work and home life. In 2015, Forbes magazine broke with this news, “According to the World Health Organization, stress is ‘the health epidemic of the 21st century,’ and the driver of many chronic diseases.”[1] This is a fascinating and insightful article that is more relevant today than it was when it was released in October 2015, over three years ago. With the millennial generation on track to be the majority of the work force within the next 6 years, with technology (phones, pads, computers, AI, etc.) continuing to be integrated more deeply than ever into work force expectations and everyday life productivity, and with tightening budgets causing employees to do more with less, allow me to quote some of the statistical research regarding how stress is affecting us:

 

When asked if they have ever missed work due to stress, nearly one-third (31%) of respondents indicated they had taken a day or more out of work in the past year solely because of stress they were feeling on the job. But what are employees saying when they are skipping out to decompress? The most common excuse is calling out sick (81%), followed by taking a mental health day (32%), saying there is a family emergency (20%), claiming a household problem or car troubles (18%) and saying you have a doctor’s appointment (14%). The alternative to having your employees out of the office – having them work while stressed – isn’t necessarily the next best option. Stressed employees don’t perform to their potential: When asked how they operate at work under stress, 56% said they’ll work overtime, 28% said they log regular hours and avoid extra work and 16% said they’ll take long breaks throughout the day. They might be in the office, but they are not engaged with their work. Perhaps the most interesting piece of data: the number of respondents who admitted they have left a job because of the stress it caused them. Just over 40% of respondents said they quit because of stress, which should make employers and HR departments think a little more about how they can empower their employees to thrive in the stressful situations rather than bear the high costs of turnover, replacement and training.[2]

 

Last week we talked about the first three words of Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me”. Today we are looking at the next clause, “all who are weary and heavy-laden.”[3] Sounds like Jesus is inviting, “all who are stressed out.” Jesus invites people who are stressed out, strung out, screwed up, set up, set aside, snowed in and sent out to pasture. Jesus is inviting you and me!

 

That is good news, because it means that Jesus has not given up on us yet. Jesus is still inviting!

Please open your Bible with me to Matthew 11 and allow me to briefly help you gain important context on who Jesus is inviting. Jesus is making this invitation after John the Baptist’s disciples relay his question as he sat in jail awaiting his execution, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”[4] I think John the Baptist was feeling some anxiety and he was second guessing who Jesus was.[5] So Jesus gave evidence that He is the Messiah and then as if in direct response to John the Baptist’s anxiety, Jesus said, “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me [literally, “does not stumble over me”].”[6] Jesus’ ways are not our ways!

 

Immediately afterwards, in a strong moment of what I call “righteous rebuke” Jesus describes the generation to which He was sent.[7] Then in unapologetic words of judgment which Jesus usually focused on the religious elite of his day who were putting the burdens on their people, Jesus judged whole cities for their lack of faith and unwillingness to come to Him. He contrasts them to Sodom and Gomorrah actually (ouch!).[8] And this is when the great compassion of Jesus Christ breaks through one of Jesus’ hardest denunciations recorded in the Bible.[9]

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 starting in verse 25, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your 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 wills 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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[10]

 

These are words of great compassion in the face of great unbelief. Technically, it is apostasy since Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience. In a moment that Jesus determined great judgment was due, He compassionately relents (showing His character as gentle and humble in heart) and makes one of the most gracious invitations of His ministry.

Let’s go a little deeper so we can get to application for our lives today. There are two original Greek words of special interest to us this morning. The first is κοπιάω (= weary in Matthew 11:28). There are 23 usages in the NT ranging from to “become weary/tired” and “to exert oneself physically, mentally, or spiritually, word hard, toil, strive, struggle.”[11] An equivalent usage to Matthew 11:28 is found in John 4:6 about Jesus, “Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”[12]

 

Growing weary, growing tired is a real condition for all of us. It is part of being human. Even Jesus got tired. You can be tired physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally. We are finite creatures. Even when we are in Christ we are dwelling in finite bodies. Never ever forget, that you are human and you need rest! God made us with finite boundaries physically, emotionally, relationally, and mentally. And I will go as far as telling you, that these boundaries are gifts from God, to remind you of your absolute need for God in this life. God is inviting us out of our pride and self-sufficiency. Don’t deny your everyday need for Him. Are you weary? Are you tired?

 

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap.

 

When is the last time you took a nap? If you are simply tired, weary from the journey of the last 6 days, then today is the day to find rest for our whole being because our soul is the center of our personality and all that we are.[13] It is God’s gift of rest to His people and it’s called the Sabbath. It’s not a burden, it’s a gift! It is a day of rest after 6 days of work. It is a day of intentional non-productivity after 6 days of productivity. It is a day of celebrating the infinite God whose life you are dependent on and to remember that you are finite and in need of God’s power and provision in your life. It is a day of humility to be reminded that the world doesn’t need your hard work as much as you think. It’s a day of freedom from self-imposed slavery.

 

We will talk more about the Sabbath the Bible’s rest motif when we dive into Jesus’ promise for rest. For now, just know that rest is a part of God’s design for you. He modeled it in Creation, commanded it through Moses, and revolutionized it through Jesus. Jesus is our rest.[14]

 

Now, combine this with the second word: φορτίζω (= heavy-laden in Matthew 11:28). Very interestingly, in the original language, Jesus used this passive participle in the perfect tense which means that Jesus is implying that someone else has already put the burden on you and you are now experiencing the ongoing state of that burden.[15] This is why there are 2 words in this expression: the first is an active participle in the present tense. You are actively tiring yourself out! This second word is the key to Jesus’ invitation: Because someone else has put a heavy-burden on you once upon a time, but you are still feeling the effects of it.

 

Listen to the only other usage of φορτίζω, but this time in the active voice meaning to load someone down, to burden them.[16] The only two usages of the word were used by Jesus and it provides a significant connection to the meaning of our scripture. Listen to Luke 11:46, “But He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.’”[17]

 

This is further applied by Jesus in Matthew 23:1-4, “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.’”[18]

 

Listen one more time to Jesus’ invitation, but this time in The Message. It demonstrates the context in which Jesus is inviting all who are weary and heavy-laden: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”[19]

 

Jesus is inviting people into the life He has learned to live. A life that is not one of performance with a try-harder mentality, but the life in the grace-yoke of submission to God the Father, whom Jesus taught us to call Father, too. Jesus lived this before us, showing us the rest and the peace and the fullness of joy that comes with a relationship with God that is not based on man’s performance goals to meet the religious standards that have been squarely placed upon our shoulders with no hope of rescue. The rescue is here and Jesus is doing it and inviting us into it.[20]

Jesus is inviting you to enter into His rest and to stop trying harder to find security. In Jesus, you are already found, stop trying to earn your acceptance because you are already accepted.

 

What God has known we as a people are starting to learn to re-train ourselves to live by—it’s the new way of the Spirit.[21] We are disintegrating as a church because we live more like culture than like God’s people. All of these are worldly and not biblical teachings, but they all are right here working against the very way Jesus calls us to live and do community:

 

  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.”
  • “It’s up to me to make it happen.”
  • “I have to take control of the situation.”
  • “I need to get a grip on my emotions.”
  • “Life is hard. I have to be harder.”
  • “I am a self-made person and I can do it.”

 

We are a try-harder culture, but Jesus is not a try-harder God. Stop trying harder to be someone and to make something of your life. Rest and live your life! Be who you are in Christ and allow Him to do what He’s always intended for you to do in His easy yoke.

 

The easy yoke does not mean life is going to be easy. Life is not easy, but in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ your best life is ahead of you, not behind you. Never behind you! Because the easy yoke of Jesus Christ is your rescue from the yoke of the devil (not only for eternity, but for this world here and now). The devil is the deceiver of your soul who is striving to distort your personality and intoxicate your desires. And in doing so, the devil is the thief of your joy, the robber of your peace, and the destroyer of your rest. For the followers of Jesus Christ, the devil is the only true enemy we will ever have because it is the devil who animates the structures and the systems of this world against the followers of Jesus who are called to live with and for God as proclaimers of the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.[22]

 

As Jesus Christ promised as our good shepherd, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”[23] As the good shepherd, Jesus never drives us to do His Father’s will, He always walks amidst us, with us, to do His Father’s will. He modeled the life of being in the grace yoke of His Father by living the restful life, which included how He walked, talked, even how He died. Every aspect of His life was according to the Father’s will and for us to be able to enter His rest.[24]

 

As the Apostle Paul said to the disciples of Jesus Christ in Galatia, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”[25]

 

Jesus is inviting you to His easy yoke. Accept Jesus’ invitation and allow Jesus to personally release you from the bondage of religion that is a heavy yoke that has been placed around your neck. In place of that yoke, Jesus will personally custom fit you with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Made by the Nazarene carpenter Himself.[26]

 

Anxiety is caused when we view the problems of this life as greater than the promises of God. Rest is when we trust the promises of God as being greater than the problems of this life.

 

Jesus is inviting you to take Him at His promise for your life.

 

Are you tired and worn out? Has Christianity as you’ve known it and experienced it not even touched your depression or your anxiety or your fears of death or worries in life or your neurotic tendencies or self-centered thinking or consumeristic living?

 

Jesus is inviting you to get out of that heavy yoke of religion and take on the easy yoke of relationship. Jesus is inviting you to find your rest in Him.
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Jan Bruce, “Are You Too Stressed to Work: You’re Not Alone” Forbes Magazine posted October 20, 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janbruce/2015/10/20/are-you-too-stressed-to-work/#3fcde2a5a9e3. Accessed January 12, 2019.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] “πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι” (Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. [Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012], Mt 11:28).

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:3.

 

[5] The amazing news is that Jesus did not hold this against John because Jesus’ acceptance is not based on performance or right answers. Reference Mt 11:7-11.

 

[6] Ibid., Mt 11:6.

 

[7] When Jesus says things like this (Matthew 11:16-24), He is being true and just (righteous), but when a pastor says things like this today, he is generally thought of as letting his stress, anxiety, frustration, or anger come through toward individuals or the congregation. Is there a place for righteous rebuke in the 21st century pulpit?

 

[8] This is not the only connection to Sodom and Gomorrah. You may remember from our study of the phrase “come to Me” in the NASB it is used in Genesis 18:21 when God describes how the prayers of His people come to Him: “And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’”

 

[9] Cf. Mt 23:13-39. We see the same pattern. The righteous rebuke of Jesus Christ (13-36) is again followed by His compassionate plea (37-39). Even as Jesus’ denounces, He can’t help Himself in compassionately inviting.

 

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:25–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament.

[11] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

 

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 4:6.

 

[13] There is currently a lot of research on the effects of sleep deprivation on personality and productivity. Surprise, but science is finding that having sufficient sleep is critical to living an abundant life. Are you getting enough sleep to be at your very best? Are you disciplined about getting to bed on time? Are you relaxing before bed in order to actually get good sleep? Research is also proving that anxious people don’t rest well (in sleep or during the day in how they handle their circumstances and everyday demands and expectations).

 

[14] We will learn more in future studies. For now, additional research available by reading, “How is Jesus our Sabbath Rest?” at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Sabbath.html (accessed January 12, 2019).

[15] Perfect is “The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action” (Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology [Lexham Press, 2013; 2013]).

[16] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. In Lk 11:46, it is also in the indicative mood which is the mood of assertion. Jesus is saying that these men really did it.

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Lk 11:46.

 

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:1–4. This Greek word φορτίον is translated “burden” in Mt 23:4 and is used again as “burden” in Mt 11:30, “my burden is light.”

 

[19] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Mt 11:28–30.

 

[20] Jesus took on the yoke of His Father before He invited us to take His yoke. Jesus modeled a submitted life (“I am gentle and humble in heart” v. 29) before He calls us to a submitted life. “As a disciple of the Father Jesus learned the easy yoke life and teaches it to us. Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Jesus’ life on earth is that as the Sovereign Lord he himself lived by the discipline of submission!” (Bill Gaultiere, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered. [Irvine, CA: Soul Shepherding, Inc., 2016], 30, 34). The try-harder conversation was stimulated by this book and some information was shared from pages 19-21.

[21] Rom 7:6. For further study, check out Larry Crabb’s resources.

 

              [22] We must soberly and humbly acknowledge, that this includes the dynamics of our own cultural values. In the challenges of our current conversations, the devil is keeping us in bondage to the try-harder mentality fueled by narcissistic fear and unempathetic greed! Don’t believe me? My hope is that the call of Jesus will reform the church. The only way we will truly have “liberty and justice for all” in this nation is if the church of Jesus Christ wakes up from its long slumber to become true followers of Jesus, uncompromised by the ambition for more stuff and the lust for power over “the other” that has intoxicated us. Wake up people of God and unyoke from the heavy yoke, the performance yoke of this world, and take on the easy yoke, the grace yoke of Jesus Christ. This will be the hardest work the American church has done in a long time because it will break us from our own desire to join in the building of mini-empires. The only people who say that there is no hard work found in taking on the easy yoke of Jesus Christ are the ones who have never truly submitted to His lordship. Submission is the hardest work because it is the crucified life of Galatians 2:20. The hard work of Jesus is revolutionary to all things that come natural to the world because His kingdom, to which He is inviting us, is not of this world (Jn 18:36). More on this later.

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 10:10–11.

[24] Allusion to Hebrews 4:11. More on this passage next week when we unpack the rest motif and to demonstrate how Jesus modeled the restful life, even in the hardest of circumstances.

[25] Ibid., Ga 5:1. Compare with Ga 2:4; Acts 15:10; and 1 Tim 6:1.

[26] We will discuss this more when we talk about the yoke of Jesus. But it is an amazing thought that Jesus, as Joseph’s apprentice and as a carpenter Himself, would have custom made countless numbers of yokes for the oxen in His community. Jesus knows what it takes to make a yoke that fits properly. The yoke He is calling you to has been custom made for you to do the good works the Father has prepared for you (Eph 2:10).


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Rest: Living in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 1)

Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus!

“You are invited!”

Part 1 of an 8-part Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

You are invited! You ask, invited to do what? You are invited to make 2019 a great year! One year from now, as you are looking back on 2019, here is the most important question we can ask ourselves: Am I growing closer to Jesus Christ today more than I was a year ago? And as a church: Are we loving one another more like Jesus’ family today than we were a year ago?

 

But you must know who is inviting you. It is not me or the church who is inviting you to grow closer in your relationship with Jesus. This is not a program you can opt in or out of; this is a crossroads moment! How you respond to any invitation is dependent on who is inviting you!

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, “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 will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[1]

 

This will be our scripture focus for the months of January and February. It is the goal of this series that we each will go on a journey of learning how to live our day-to-day lives in such a way as to grow closer to Jesus and to one another. By doing so, we’ll experience rest.

 

Today, we start this series with the first three words: Come to Me… In the NASB translation, the phrase “come to me” is found 50 times and of those 50 usages (30 in OT/20 in NT), 19 (5 in OT/14 in NT) of them has God as the object of the phrase (the “Me”).[2]

 

Where else did Jesus use this invitation of come to Me? In all the verses below, I add the emphasis of bold and underline to highlight these specific words in their context.

 

Jesus says “come to Me” in Mark 10:14-15 (cf. the parallel passages in Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16), “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”[3]

 

From Luke 6:46-48, Jesus admonishes, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”[4]

In Jesus’ command for us to carry our own cross in Luke 14:26-27, Jesus opens the invitation, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”[5]

 

We’ve now seen these specific words used in all three of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What about the fourth gospel, John?

 

In John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”[6]

 

Jesus uses this phrase six unique times in John 6. In verse 35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’”[7] Twice in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”[8] Twice in John 6:44-45, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”[9] And again in John 6:65, “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’”[10]

 

The final time “come to Me” is used by Jesus is John 7:37-38, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ’ ”[11] Please notice the parallelism in this passage and also in John 6:35 between “come to Me” and “believes in Me.” This grammatical construct is like a neon sign of Jesus’ intent on what it means to truly come to Him. It is a life of faith in Jesus that leads to rest.

 

Quickly, allow me to go one layer deeper with you so you can see something that is not apparent in our English translations. The original Greek word translated “come” in Matthew 11:28 is δεῦτε. This word is not only translated “come”, but also “follow” as in Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me” in Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17. In other words, Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28 has a semantic connection to His call to the life of Christian discipleship.

The rest for your life that you are looking for is not found in seeking after rest in and of itself. We will build upon this overarching point significantly over these next two months, but please know up front that rest for your soul will never be found in retirement or recreation, but in living the deeper life of imitating Jesus Christ who restores us to our divine work (our form and function) as the Imagers of God.[12]

 

Rest is found in not only putting your faith in Jesus, but then living the life of Christian discipleship. Rest is found in the midst of our work when we return our work to its original God-given purpose (Genesis 1:26-31). That great news is that God promises to reward us for our work (Matthew 25:21-46). Jesus describes the reward for those who live according to God’s way as an invitation in Matthew 25:34, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”[13]

 

The One who created you has redeemed you to find rest in the work He formed you to do in your life. As the Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”[14]

 

For this is the yoke you are being invited to put on and this is the cross you are being invited to carry. It is counter-intuitive because neither of these images produces thoughts of rest, but both the yoke and the cross are “conceptual metaphors” of taking on yourself the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ.[15] To do so is to choose the path you are going to take in the crossroad that you (and we as a church) find ourselves. Taking the yoke of Jesus Christ is to take for yourself the ancient paths of following God,[16] who is fully revealed to you in Jesus the Christ. Will you follow Jesus and find rest for your soul, for this life and for the life to come?
 
For ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on this topic, click HERE.
 
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FOOTNOTES
 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament.

 

[2] All word studies were done utilizing the Logos 8 Bible software.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 10:14–15.

 

[4] Ibid., Lk 6:46–48.

[5] Ibid., Lk 14:26–27.

 

[6] Ibid., Jn 5:39–40.

 

[7] Ibid., Jn 6:35.

 

[8] Ibid., Jn 6:37.

 

[9] Ibid., Jn 6:44–45. This scripture, in addition to verses 37 and 65, establishes the sovereignty of God as a determinant for who will come to Jesus. I will develop in a future study how this is also seen in Matthew 11:25-27 as the context for Jesus’ invitation “Come to Me…”. While we view this as an open invitation, these scriptures overwhelmingly indicate that for a person to respond to this invitation s/he must be given the effective means to do so by God. This should lead to an even greater humility in any person who has come to Jesus.

 

[10] Ibid., Jn 6:65.

 

[11] Ibid., Jn 7:37–38.

[12] I will develop this line of thought in a future teaching when we address what Jesus calls the “soul”. Jesus is actually quoting Jeremiah 6:16 when He uses this word, so we will examine the Hebrew word nephesh.

 

[13] Ibid., Mt 25:34.

 

[14] Ibid., Eph 2:10.

[15] “Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. If I use the word “Vegas” and all you think of is latitude and longitude, you’re not following my meaning. Biblical words can carry a lot of freight that transcends their concrete sense. Inspiration didn’t immunize language from doing what it does” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 387). More on this in a future sermon when we develop the yoke imagery, but for now it is enough to know that a communication/teaching device is being used by Jesus in His invitation to Christian discipleship.

 

[16] Jesus references Jeremiah 6:16 in His invitation of Matthew 11:28-30. While we will deal with the implications of this OT quotation in a later teaching, for now it is important to realize that the context of Jeremiah 6:16 is Yahweh putting before Israel the choice of following His “ancient paths” or worshipping pagan gods. They choose the later, to their own destruction. What will we choose as Jesus invites us to follow Him?


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Supernatural (Week 5)

Supernatural: When Heaven Came Down to Earth!

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

December 30, 2018 by Pastor Jerry Ingalls at First Baptist Church in New Castle, Indiana

 Message #4: “Angels: Participants in the Last Things!”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

(We apologize, but this week our sound system was disabled by an apparent power surge in New Castle.  We have a special version of the video to share with you.  Please click HERE to view it.)

Angels are God’s loyal army who deliver messages and faithfully minister to God’s people. Angels were present at the beginning, have had God-ordained roles throughout salvation history, and according to God’s Word have a direct role in the last things.

 

Listen to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 

These words, like all prophetic words in scripture, were given for this reason: to comfort God’s people in the face of current sufferings and hardships and the fear and anxiety caused by the unknown of the future. In the same way that God gives us His Word to comfort us, God sends his heavenly host (angels) to minister to us. As Hebrews 1:14 asks, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”

 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 discusses the rapture of the Church from the earth, the taking of God’s people to Heaven in preparation for the seven years of tribulation which are necessary for the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. This is the imminent expectation and hopeful promise for the Church. God’s people are living in the season of the Second Advent—we live in anticipation of what has been promised as God is leading us toward the consummation of all things which includes the fulfillment of all His covenant promises! I believe the promises of the Second Advent will be fulfilled the same way that the promises of the First Advent were fulfilled—literally, spiritually and fully according to God’s Word. God’s promises are for the whole of God’s creation because God’s purposes for creating the heavens and the earth will not be thwarted by evil or sin, but will be redeemed by truth and grace as revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

But we must not make the same mistake that the religious leaders (Sadducees and Pharisees) of Jesus’ time made. The Sadducees missed the First Advent because they did not believe in certain supernatural realities, such as angels and the resurrection from the dead. Their view of scripture did not allow them to see Jesus for who He so clearly declared and showed Himself to be. In fact, their view of Scripture caused them to not just miss it, but to reject and demonize Jesus. On the other hand, the Pharisees missed the First Advent because they too rigidly held to their literal interpretations of the prophecies of the coming Messiah so they too not only missed Jesus as Messiah, but they rejected Jesus as from being of God and ultimately killed him, because He and the events around Him didn’t happen according to their interpretations and timelines. Both ways of thinking are gutters still today, either extreme of prophetic interpretation: the lack of spiritual insight to the Scripture or the rigid adherence to a limited perspective of what has been revealed.

 

Did you hear that the voice of the archangel will be a part of the Rapture of the church? This is not the only time we will see the angels at the time of the last things. Jesus teaches about angels in Matthew 13:37-43, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

 

The angels are participants in the end times of God making all things right because angels are God’s heavenly host. God’s army will not fail in bringing to completion that which God has willed. Revelation 12:7-11 proclaims of the angelic involvement of the final victory over evil, “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’ And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

 

And this paves the way to the greatest reality of God’s will. That God is going to purify and perfect this cursed creation to bring about our final blessed home in the Eternal Kingdom of God—the earth shall return to what God intended: God’s family all together in Eden. The Bible calls this redemption of all things the New Heaven and New Earth. In Revelation 21—22, the angel shows John God’s final dwelling for us with Him. It will be just as Adam and Eve were with Him before the Fall, but even better! This time we’ll be in a glorified state where there will be no more possibility of rebellion (sin), for evil will have been judged and removed from creation, and there will be no more death. And guess what, it is right down here, on earth.

 

When Heaven is on Earth! The Second Advent will be fulfilled just as literally and just as spiritually and just as fully as the First Advent! Listen to sections of Revelation 21:9—22:5, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

 

Church be comforted for you have a heavenly army (angels) who will ensure that the will of God happens in each of our lives and for all of creation. Just as angels were there at the beginning, they will be there at the end. Just as we have celebrated and proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promises for the First Advent (Christmas), let us celebrate and proclaim the Second Advent (the Second Coming of Christ).

 

As Paul says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

 
For Additional Resources, click HERE.

 


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Supernatural (Week 4)

Supernatural: When Heaven Came Down to Earth!

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #3: “Angels: Proclaimers of Peace!” (Luke 2:1-20)

(Luke 2:1-20)

 

This is the 3rd message in our Christmas series of messages on angels, called Supernatural. Throughout this series and even just in our Christmas Bible reading today, have you noticed how much the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? The angels have delivered key messages of hope to the main players in the Christmas story. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed as essential to the greatest miracle in history—Christmas!

 

The heart of Christmas is supernatural! It is the miracle of the incarnation—God who is Spirit and exists outside of creation took on flesh and came amongst us into creation. The Christmas miracle of Immanuel—God is with us! God had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but because of their sin He justly removed them from His presence (the Fall). God made a way for humanity to be in His presence once again. At the heart of the Big Story of the Bible, Christmas is God’s rescue mission to humanity and the angels are God’s heavenly host, participating fully in Heaven invading Earth to bring God’s peace through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Angels are called the “heavenly host” (Luke 2:13). The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46). Angels are not a little bling in the Christmas story to make it more marketable to a pop-culture consumer. Angels are not like the lights on the tree to make it more festive. Before angels were key characters in your favorite Hallmark movie, angels were important messengers and ministers to the cast of characters in the actual historical event that is the Christmas story we remember and celebrate every year.

 

The Loyal Host of Heaven have been watching the Big Story of the Bible unfold from the beginning (Job 38:6-7 points to them being there at Genesis 1) and the angels will continue to watch the greatest story ever told unfold before them until its completion (Revelation 21:12 points to them being there in the New Heaven and New Earth). They have front row seats in the very presence of God in Heaven, but they heard something that first Christmas that not a single one of them could have known or even dared to imagine. What did they hear? The cry of a little newborn baby named Jesus. Jesus who would grow up and fulfill every ancient prophecy of the Messiah. Jesus who would die a sinner’s death on the Cross for humanity. Jesus who would defeat death and Hell itself, forever removing the sting of death. Jesus, God, Eternal… a baby…

 

Let’s read one more time the role of the angels in just this one part of the Christmas story in Luke 2:9-15, “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’”

 

The angels make promises to the shepherds that are fulfilled when they went to investigate the supernatural claims of God’s heavenly messengers. The shepherds found baby Jesus just as the angels said He would be found! They worshipped baby Jesus! In fact, their response to their investigation of the supernatural claims about Jesus was this: The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

 

Just like with the angels, you too can be forever touched if you seek to explore the supernatural promise of God made to humanity through the angels. The Loyal Host of Heaven proclaimed on that first Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

 

The angels may be proclaimers of this peace, but only Jesus Christ can give you this peace! Jesus is the Immanuel—God who is with us! Peace among men can only be found when we first have peace with the God who demonstrated His love for humanity by sending His unique Son that those who believe in Him will have eternal life with God and not taste of the second death, which is an eternal state of being separated from God, the only One by whom we can experience lasting peace (John 3:16). The first Christmas was a rescue mission and that rescue is still happening in our world today!

 

Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”[1]

 

God keeps His promises! This is why Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, to bring peace between humanity and God. The angels knew this and they watched God bring peace to humanity by becoming the Christmas miracle: Immanuel – Jesus is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.

 

Have you opened your mind and heart to receive the first and greatest Christmas gift ever given?

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] As Chrysostom (4th Century Church Father) said in Demonstration Against the Pagans 2.8–10, “Why did Christ speak in this way [referencing John 14:27]? Because the peace which comes from a human being is easily destroyed and subject to many changes. But Christ’s peace is strong, unshaken, firm, fixed, steadfast, immune to death and unending” (Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007], 33).
 

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Supernatural (Week 3) A Musical

“Supernatural: A Preparation for Advent Story”

Angel stories adapted from Luke 1-2, & Matthew 1
 
NARRATOR: (Kevin Stonerock)
From the beginning of time as you know it, God’s plan was to be in communion with His creation. But He did not want it to be a forced relationship, but rather one of choice. He loved the man and woman that He created and wanted them to choose to love Him in return.
 
But they made the choice to want to be like God, which was the same thing that caused Lucifer (Satan) and a third of the angels to be cast out of heaven. Rather than being in love with Him and being thankful for what He had given them, they listened to Satan speaking through the snake and threw it all away for a lie.
 
God’s desire to be in communion was still there, even though they chose separation. So He began a plan of restoration, keeping the lines of communication open. He wove what many call ‘a scarlet thread’ throughout the tapestry of the history of the world. God kept reaching out, speaking through the prophets and sending angels to let them know He still loved them and would be sending a Messiah, IMMANUEL, which means “God with us”. While Satan tried to derail this plan, God kept showing mankind that He was working all things together for their good. They cried out for a Deliverer, someone to help end their suffering. But God showed them that what they really needed was a Savior, One whom could restore the relationship between God and man. And God’s plan would not be delivered in the way that many expected.
 
 
ANGEL 1 (Kenton Durham) There was a priest name Zacharias serving in Judea under Herod, the Great, king of Judea. He was married to Elizabeth, who was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. Both were found righteous in the eyes of God, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and requirements. But sadly, they were childless because Elizabeth was barren and they were both past the age of having children.
 
One day while he was serving in the temple, he was chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar…
 
 
SONG:  “The Father’s Plan” Duet with Zach & Angel  (by Matt Hurst)
 
ANGEL 1 (Kenton) When he went out and was unable to speak, by the signs he was making, the crowd realized he must have seen a vision. He returned home after his duties were fulfilled, and Elizabeth became pregnant. She secluded herself for 5 months, saying…
 
 
ELIZABETH (Tina Durham) How kind and gracious the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) Meanwhile, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel visited a young woman by the name of Mary who was engaged to Joseph the carpenter in the village of Nazareth in Galilee
 
 
GABRIEL (Jared Evans) Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you! (pause for Mary’s reaction) Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!
 
 
MARY (Emily Hurst) How can this be, since I am a virgin?
 
 
GABRIEL (Jared) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth is pregnant with a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.
 
MARY (Emily) I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) A few days later, Mary went off to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth. When she entered the house, at the sound of her greeting, the baby leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…
 
ELIZABETH (Tina) Mary…..God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, my baby boy jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin) Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, then returned home. But while she was away, the angel visited Joseph in a dream (Joseph played by Matt H.)
 
GABRIEL (Jared) Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, for he will save the people from their sins.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin) When he awoke, he did as the angel told him and took Mary to be his wife.
 
 
SONG: “MARY DID YOU KNOW” (sung by Jared)
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) Just before the child was born, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken, which required everyone to return to their ancestral towns to register. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea. He and Mary traveled there from Nazareth. There was not a room to be found in the town, but they found shelter in a stable, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. In the fields nearby, there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared among them with the radiance of God’s glory surrounding them, and they were terrified…
 
(Shepherds played by Brandon Atwood, Kevin King and Elijah Abrams)
 
ANGEL 2 (Kolby Durham) Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And you will recognize him by this sign; You will find the baby wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth and lying in a manger
 
 
SONG: “Agnus Dei” (Sung by Kolby)
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) The shepherds knew that they must go and see what the Lord had told them about. They rushed to the village and found Mary and Joseph with the baby lying in the manger, just as they were told.
 
 
SONG: “Noel” (sung by Kenton)   NARRATOR (Kevin S) Thankfully, the story does not stop here, but rather marks the change in history where God came down in a supernatural way in the form of human baby that was fully God and fully man. His Son grew up, in favor with God and man, and began His ministry by calling 12 men to follow Him, promising that He would make them ‘fishers of people’. He performed miracles, signs and wonders, and ultimately gave His life up as a ransom for many. But He rose again, showing himself to his followers and charging them with the task of taking the message of grace, hope and love to a world that needs to restore their communion with God on a personal level. God poured out His love on us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The Lamb of God, taking all of our sins to the cross, became the ultimate sacrifice, something that no ordinary man could ever do. Just like on that first Christmas night, we are all invited to come to the Messiah, and recognize our need for the Savior.
 
 
SONG: ‘Is He Worthy’ with O Come Let Us Adore Him (Lead by Brandon Atwood, sang by entire cast)
 
 
 

List of Characters:

  • Narrator: Kevin Stonerock
  • Angel 1: Kenton Durham
  • Zachariah: Ken Durham
  • Elizabeth: Tina Durham
  • Gabriel: Jared Evans
  • Mary: Emily Hurst
  • Joseph: Matt Hurst (non speaking)
  • Baby Jesus:  Eliza Hurst
  • Angel 2: Kolby Durham
Shepherds (non speaking; could also be part of crowd):
  • Shepherd Kevin King
  • Shepherd Elijah Abrams
  • Shepherd Brandon Atwood
Angel Costumes made by Betty McQueen and Marcia Ireland
Tech Crew:  David Maddy, Cheryl Gideon, Michael Dabrowski, Max Harter, Caleb & Staisha West
 

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