Jesus has been teaching about the rejection of His Gospel—despite our sin, God’s people are saved by grace through faith and not by any works of their own. Galileans are refusing to repent even though the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. In the previous passage, Jesus claimed that if Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have heard the Gospel and had signs performed in them like were performed in Galilee, those cities would have repented and remained. Further, Jesus denounced the Galilean cities, claiming it would be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom than for them in the judgment because the Canaanite cities did not hear the Gospel and did not even have the invitation to repent.
Life on this earth weighs a lot. Our souls get tired because we can’t overcome the many giants we face. Sin is exhausting. Most human religion and morality seems to pin us down rather than set us free. Jesus has a promise for His people concerning the kingdom of Heaven and rest.
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.”
Christ’s election (v. 25-27)
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.
At that time, the time at which Jesus is denouncing some Jewish cities in Galilee because they have rejected Him, He praises the Father. If Jesus’s message is being rejected in Galilee, for what does He praise the Father? He praises the Father for hiding the meaning of His message from the wise and revealing the meaning to infants, or people who aren’t mature in knowledge (νηπιος). It is more likely that νηπιος refers to someone lacking knowledge in this case because it is juxtaposed with someone who is wise. Jesus praises the Father for hiding the meaning of the Gospel from those who believe they have life all figured out, from the dogmatic, and revealing it to people who knowingly don’t have life all figured out, to the humble or foolish. Jesus’s praise is consistent with His sermon on the mount, in which he condemned legalism and preached grace. Those who rejected Christ’s message were religious and legalistic in their religion. They knew how to live a “good life” and the meaning of Christ’s Gospel was hidden from them. This is correlation, not causation. The Gospel is not hidden from the wise because they already believe themselves to be righteous. The Gospel is not revealed to infants because they are seeking. The word “because” is absent from Jesus’s praise. God is the one working everything together. Jesus is praising the Father for working wisdom, foolishness, and the reception of Christ’s Gospel together the way He has.
Last week we saw that God is the one with authority to hide or reveal His word according to His own will. He kept the Gospel from being proclaimed in Sodom. He kept many Galileans from understanding even though it was proclaimed. Jesus now attributes people’s hearing, understanding, and responding to His Gospel to the Father’s election—not to people. I imagine, after seeing communities reject Christ’s Gospel, nearly none of us has praised God for His work in withholding the Gospel or hiding its meaning. Yet, that is what we see Jesus doing here, at the end of Matthew 11.
Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
Jesus continues His praise to the Father. This way, the way that God did things in withholding, hiding, and revealing Christ’s Gospel, was well-pleasing in His sight. Why is it well-pleasing to the Father that He withhold Christ’s Gospel from some so they don’t hear it, hide the Gospel’s meaning from some so it is rejected, and reveal the Gospel to some so that they repent and believe in Christ?
What we are reading in Matthew’s Gospel is a far cry from what we normally hear in churches across the United States and around the world—God is pleased when as many people as possible trust in Jesus, do good things, and make it to heaven. Whoever teaches that God’s plan is to get as many people to trust in Jesus, do good things, and make it to heaven is teaching something in direct contradiction to what Jesus is teaching here and from what we have seen so far in Matthew’s Gospel. We learn from Jesus’s praise that the Father chooses who will hear the Gospel, who will reject the Gospel, and who will accept the Gospel; He is well-pleased in doing things this way.
For some of you, your brain is anxiously trying to think of all the Bible verses to support the version of Christ’s message you’ve heard in every church you’ve been to. God so loved the world, right? God does not desire for anyone to perish but all to come to repentance, right? We’ve gotten ourselves into quite the serious pickle. Does the Jesus of John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 contradict the Jesus of Matthew 11? What is the truth? Does God desire to save as many as possible or does it please Him only to cause some to understand and accept His free gift? Does God give all people an opportunity to get into heaven or does He choose who will be citizens in the kingdom of Heaven? We will look at John 3:16 and 1 Peter 3:9 to see if they really do present a contradictory idea to what Jesus is presenting through His praise in this passage.
Read John 3:1-21. Notice that
- one must be born again before he can even see the kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3),
- one must be born of water and the Spirit before he is able to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5),
- the Spirit causes people He wishes to be born again (John 3:8),
- and whoever, by the Spirit’s choosing and working, believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
We must first be born again of the Spirit before we are able to believe. That’s what Jesus is praising God for in Matthew 11. There is no contradiction here. Scripture has been misinterpreted and misrepresented because people don’t read what comes before John 3:16. What about 2 Peter 3:9? Let’s look.
- 2 Peter 1:1- Peter’s letter is addressed to those who have received faith of the same kind as the apostles by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
- 2 Peter 1:3-4- God’s divine power grants us everything, and by His promise, we escape the corruption that is in the world by lust (επιθυμαι, meaning “desire”).
- 2 Peter 1:5-15- In response to God’s saving grace, His people pursue holiness.
- 2 Peter 1:16-21- The apostles trusted in the Scriptures, in this case the prophets, and not even their experience usurped the authority of Scripture but made the word surer.
- 2 Peter 2:1-11- There will be false teachers, but the Lord reserves a place of judgement, He rescues the godly from temptation, and He keeps the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgement (especially those who indulge in the desires, επιθυμαι, of the flesh).
- 2 Peter 2:12-22- The unrighteous are springs without water for whom the black darkness is reserved.
- 2 Peter 3:1-2- The righteous are encouraged to always remember the Scriptures
- 2 Peter 3:3-7- Mockers will come following after their own lusts (επιθυμαι) and questioning Christ’s return and judgment. The earth is being reserved for the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.
- 2 Peter 3:8-9- The Lord is not slow, referring to the accusations of the mockers, but is patient toward “you” (those to whom the letter is addressed, who have received faith by the righteousness of God), not wanting (βουλομαι, meaning wish, want, or will) any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
- 2 Peter 3:10-18- Since things are being destroyed, the righteous are to be preparing for the day of the Lord. The righteous are to be committed to the Scriptures without twisting them. They are to be on guard and steadfast, regarding God’s patience as salvation.
Peter’s message is consistent with Jesus’s praise in Matthew 11. People get into trouble when they take one verse at the end of Peter’s letter and interpret that verse in a way that contradicts the rest of Peter’s letter and the whole of Scripture. Sadly, the incorrect interpretations are the interpretations that have become popular.
Jesus doesn’t tell us why this particular way of doing things pleases the Father. I think we do see the answer in Ephesians 2:8-9 as Paul explains the same concept Jesus is praising the Father for in Matthew 11,
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.
So that no one can boast? It pleases the Father to do things this way because He is the one to receive all glory. No one who is saved can claim to have come to Christ. This truth keeps us from clinging to our religiosity or from thinking that we were good enough to get God or get into Heaven. Our boasting is excluded and all attention is on God for the salvation of His chosen people.
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.
After Jesus praises the Father for the way the Father is working all things together, He teaches the crowds that the only people who can know the Father are those to whom Christ wills to reveal Him. This means Christ wills to reveal the Father in accordance with the Fathers ordaining and predestining work. According to Jesus, all people are unable to see God or know Him. Christ alone reveals the Father. He chooses to whom the Father will be revealed. Christ’s teaching is consistent with His praise and coherent with the doctrine we see presented in all of Scripture. Christ’s election is unconditional; there is nothing we can do to merit it because we don’t even have the ability to see God let alone earn His acceptance in any way. Christ’s atonement is particular (or limited in its extent); Christ does not reveal the Father to everyone—Jesus withheld the Gospel from Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom and hid its meaning from many in Galilee. Jesus takes responsibility for this work here in verse 27. We can’t explain it away or sugar-coat it. We just want to be honest about what God’s word teaches.
Christ’s invitation (v. 28-30)
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Jesus follows His teaching on election by inviting all who are weary and heavy-laden to come to Him. He promises to give those who come to Him rest. This invitation follows from Jesus’s unconditional and particular work of election. All those who come will come because God has not withheld His Gospel and because God has caused them to understand His Gospel.
Verse 28 echoes verse 25. Jesus is only asking those who are weary and heavy-laden to come to Him to receive rest. He is not calling on those who presume to be wise but the humble and foolish. Jesus has been consistent with this kind of invitation from the beatitudes in His sermon on the mount to His statement in Matthew 9:13, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” When we consider this invitation with its cotext in verse 29, we see that those who are weary and heavy-laden are so in their souls. Jesus is inviting those with weary or heavy souls to find rest for their souls. What do you think it means, then, for someone to be weary or heavy-laden in his or her soul?
Matthew’s Gospel to this point has been against works-based religiosity and in favor of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Matthew is writing to Jews in defense of Jesus as the Messiah. Galileans were rejecting Christ’s Gospel in favor of a false system in which they must work to keep the Law and merit God’s favor. The most natural reading of the text indicates that the person who is weary and heavy-laden is the person who is wearied by the world’s and human-centered religion’s expectations and who is burdened by his or her inability to keep up with those expectations or keep God’s Law. I know that I have been in churches and around people who have expended so much energy trying to persuade me to live or believe a certain way. From those little sticker-charts in children’s Sunday School to people trying to fix me into their version of perfection. That’s tiring and burdensome. Always trying to be good enough for other people and for God is exhausting and it weighs too much to carry. Jesus doesn’t say, “Try harder,” “Have more faith,” or “You must become a better person.” Instead, Jesus simply invites us out of works-based religiosity, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Christ promises rest from having to work to be good enough, rest from our legalistic labors, rest from our merit-based lives. We will be talking more about Christ’s rest as we get into the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.
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.”
Jesus makes His promise again. He doesn’t pile moral expectations up on us like human-centered religion does. He doesn’t count His people’s sins against them. He doesn’t expect us to be good enough. In fact, Jesus takes all the responsibility for His people’s salvation upon Himself. He is the only one who can build His church. He invites weary souls to come into His rest, to take up His yoke, and to learn from Him.
This is why we simply walk through Christ’s word together instead of preaching or teaching and plucking Bible verses from their context in order to support our own claims. Jesus is our teacher. The person teaching Christ’s word is simply a mouthpiece with the responsibility to explain Christ’s word correctly and apply it rightly. Sadly, we live in a time when most churches or religious groups are using the Bible to teach something contradictory to what Christ teaches. Christ asks us to learn from Him, and from Him we shall continue to learn. His burden is light because He carries all the weight.
What we’ve learned about the kingdom of Heaven so far:
|Kingdom of Heaven||Kingdom of This World|
|Kingdom of priests||Kingdom of consumers|
|Kingdom of prestige even for the least||Kingdom of comparison and contrast|
Kingdom of judgment even for the greatest
|Exists throughout time—even before Christ’s incarnation|
|A people not a physical location||Defined by visible structures and conquests|
|Kingdom of suffering in the midst of this world||Kingdom of force|
|Able to hear and understand Christ’s teaching||Unable to hear and understand Christ’s teaching|
|Kingdom of wisdom||Kingdom of faultfinding|
|Kingdom of repentance||Kingdom of pride|
|Chosen and built by God’s will alone||Rejected by God’s will alone|
|Kingdom of rest||Kingdom of merit|
- When people reject Christ’s true Gospel, what is our usual response?
- How does this differ from Jesus’s response?
- Why does it please God to choose who will accept, reject, and never hear Christ’s Gospel?
- What might it mean to find rest for our souls?
- We will see more about Christ’s rest as we walk through Chapter 12.