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

“Jesus, the Perfect Example!”

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.
Rest Week 6:  Listen to it here
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[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).