“Resisting or Resting in Emmanuel” – Matthew 11:20-30

September 6th, 2015

Matthew 11:20-30 (Lk 10:13-16, 21-22)

“Resisting or Resting in Emmanuel”


Service Orientation: You are accountable for the Light you have been given.  Understanding the Light is a gift of God’s grace. You will never find the rest the Light offers until you repent and submit to His yoke.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. — Matthew 11:28-30


Background Information:

  • The odd thing about this passage is that while Matthew says that “most” of Jesus’ miracles were done in these three cities, two of the three cities are rarely mentioned in the Gospels. Of the three, we find by far the most references to Capernaum because that was where Peter resided and where Jesus made His headquarters for His Galilean ministry.  However, the town of Chorazin is never mentioned in the Gospels except here and in a parallel passage (Lk 10:13-16), and Bethsaida is mentioned only a few times.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 348)
  • (vss. 21, 23) There is no record in the gospels of the work that Jesus did, and of the wonders he performed in these places, and yet they must have been among his greatest. A passage like this shows us how little we know of Jesus; it shows us–and we must always remember it–that in the gospels we have only the barest selection of Jesus’ works.  The things we do not know about Jesus far outnumber the things we do know.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 13)
  • (v. 21) Tyre and Sidon were ancient Phoenician cities with a long-standing reputation for wickedness (Isa 23; Ez 27-28; Amos 1:9-10). God destroyed each city for its opposition to his people and for its wickedness as a center of Baal worship.  (Destruction for Sidon had come at the hands of the Assyrians in 676 B.C.; for Tyre it had come at the hands of Alexander the Great who had built a causeway out to the island fortress and had destroyed it in 332 B.C.).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 226)
  • (v. 23) Although Hades is sometimes used in Scripture to represent the place of all the departed dead, it is often used, as here, to represent hell, the place of eternal punishment for the unsaved. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 265)
  • (v. 25) Jesus does not mean actual children, of course, though children are not excluded, but those who are humble enough to look to him for salvation. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 199)
  • (v. 27) Jesus unequivocally equates Himself with God, calling Him My Father in a way that Jews would never do except when referring to His corporate fatherhood of Israel. Here is one of Jesus’ clearest statements of His deity, disclosing the intimate and absolutely unique relationship of the Father and the Son. In essence they are one and are inseparable.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 273)
  • (v. 27) The word that is translated as “knows” and “know” in this verse is in its intense form. That tells us that Jesus was saying something like this:  “No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son.”  In other words, He was saying that our knowledge of God, even as converted people, in infinitesimal.  The knowledge that we gain of the things of God in this world, even if we study intently all of our days, is nothing compared to the depths and the riches of who God is in Himself eternally.  To know the son in His fullness is something only the Father (and the Holy Spirit, of course) can do.  Likewise, only the Son (and the Spirit) can know the Father fully.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 357-8)
  • (v. 28) Kopiaō (to grow weary, or “to labor”) carries the idea of working to the point of utter exhaustion.  John uses the term to describe Jesus’ fatigue when He and the disciples reached Sychar after a long, hot journey from Jerusalem (Jn 4:6).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 275)
  • (v. 28) Anapauō (to give…rest) means to refresh or revive, as from labor or a long journey.  Jesus promises spiritual rest to everyone who comes to Him in repentance and humble faith.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 275)
  • (v. 30) The word easy is in Greek chrēstos, which can mean well-fitting. In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken.  The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on.  The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not chafe the neck of the patient animal.  The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 20)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does Jesus in His teaching seem to be bouncing back and forth between the blessings and benefits of following Him and the curses and judgments from not?


Answer:  I believe it is because He is acting as a wedge trying to force people to either crown Him Master, Lord and Savior of their lives or kill Him.  Jesus will have nothing to do with our indifference or our simply liking Him.


The Word for the Day is . . . Accountable


What do we learn from this text?:

I-  You are accountable for the Light you have been given.  (Mt 11:20-24; see also: 2 Kgs 22:13; Isa 14:13-15; Mt 12:38-45; Lk 10:13; 11:37-54; 12:48; Jn 12:37-40; Rom 1:18-2:9; Heb 2:1-4; 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 2 Pt 2:20-22)


The Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon were powerful, but they were moral sewers and their pagan religions foul.  Jezebel came from Sidon.  God raised up Elijah to battle the abominations she imported into Israel.  “But,” said Jesus, “I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”  God measures sin by the light a man, a city, or a nation has been given.  The greater the light, the greater the responsibility.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 207)


It behooves us to remember that our nation has been given more light than that which was given to Capernaum!  We live on this side of the cross.  We have a completed NT.  The Holy Spirit has come.  Pentecost has come.  The church has been born.  In Capernaum’s day the Lord’s mighty works were largely in the sphere of the physical, but in our land spiritual miracles take place every day.  The full light of the gospel has blazed in our cities.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 208)


For the most part, the three cities mentioned here–which typified all the places where His miracles were done–did not take any direct action against Jesus.  They simply ignored Him. While the Son of God preached, taught, and performed unprecedented miracles in their midst, they carried on their business and their lives as usual, seemingly unaffected.  From the human perspective, their indifference appears foolish but it does not appear to be terribly sinful.

But indifference is a heinous form of unbelief.  It so completely disregards God that He is not even an issue worth arguing about.  He is not taken seriously enough to criticize.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 263)


That is to say, the thing that brings down the severest rebuke is not the angry antagonism of the men who are contending in half-darkness, with a misunderstood and therefore disliked Christ, but the sleek, passive apathy that is never touched deeper than its ears by the message of God’s word.  It is not a difficult thing to incur this condemnation.  You have simply to do what some of you are doing, and have been doing all your lives, as to Christianity, and that is–nothing!  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 143)


This gelatinous kind of indifference, as of a disposition not stiff enough to take any impression, is found most deeply seated, and hopeless, amongst–shall I venture?–amongst people like you, who have been listening, listening, listening, until your systems have become so habituated to this Christian preaching that it does not produce the least effect.  It all runs off you like rain off waterproof.  You have waterproofed your consciences and your spiritual susceptibilities by long habit of listening and doing nothing.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 144)


At the final judgment God will take into account not only North America’s and every North American’s moral standing and response to Jesus Christ and use of opportunities, as compared with, say, every Cuban’s use of the same–but also what both parties would have done if their roles and advantages had been reversed.  (D. A. Carson, God with Us: Themes from Matthew, 65)


Doubtless the people of Capernaum never groveled in the lusts of Sodom, but Jesus said that their sins were worse.  He said to them, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”  In God’s sight, to have lived in the light and privilege given to Capernaum and then to have repudiated that light was a sin worse than Sodom’s.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 208)


As far as is known, the people of Capernaum had no homosexual problem or any other apparent moral deficiency.  Most of them were upright, law-abiding, and decent.  Yet because they ignored and rejected the Son of God, their fate on the day of judgment will be worse than that of Sodom.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 265)


The self-righteous orthodox person is even more repulsive in God’s sight than the idolatrous and immoral pagan.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 266)


We will be judged according to the light we have received.  Every time a sinner hears the Word of God and resists it, his judgment is greater.  It is better for him to flee from the church and never come back, because then he will not have the light to make him more and more guilty.  Of course, he also will not have the light he needs to go to heaven.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 351)


The fundamental sin of man is not that he does not know God, but that knowing God he refuses to honor Him as God (1:21).  That is humanity’s natural state.  We know that God exists, but we do not honor Him.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 357)


Because his words were vindicated by his deeds (11:19), those people should have been eager to repent and believe.  Instead, they rejected Jesus, the Messiah.  Many had followed Jesus and had eagerly come to him to be healed or to watch him heal, but few had repented and believed in him as the “one who was to come” (11:3).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 225)


We cannot condemn people who never had the chance to know any better; but if those who have had every chance to know the right do the wrong, then they stand condemned.  We do not condemn a child in the same way that we would condemn an adult; we do not expect the person brought up in a deprived area to live the life of a person brought up in a good and comfortable home.  The greater our privileges have been, the greater is our condemnation if we fail to shoulder the responsibilities and accept the obligations which these privileges bring with them.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 14)


Capernaum seems to have had a sort of town motto based on Isa 14:13, “lifted up to the skies” (11:23), indicating perhaps a sense of civic pride in having Jesus’ ministry based in their city, but they smugly rejected him as their Messiah.  In the same way, modern countries that have been privileged to experience Jesus’ miraculous presence through the work of the church and Word and who may even boast, “In God We Trust,” as we do in America, are called to account for what we have done with Jesus.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 432)


Similarly, nations and cities with churches on every corner and Bibles in every home will have no excuse on Judgment Day if they do not repent and believe.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 226)


This is not the accent of one who is in a temper because his self-esteem has been touched; it is not the accent of one who is blazing with anger because he has been insulted.  It is the accent of sorrow, the accent of one who offered men and women the most precious thing in the world and saw it disregarded.  Jesus’ condemnation of sin is holy anger, but the anger comes not from outraged pride but from a broken heart.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 14)


The more light we have, the more culpable is unbelief and disobedience to that light, and the more severe will be our judgment.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 66)


These things are “what Christ was doing” (11:2) that John and his disciples should have recognized as pointing to Jesus’ identity as the “one who was to come” (11:3-5)–things for which the present generation is being judged (11:16-24).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 421)


The contrast is between those whose pride and self-sufficiency have caused them to reject Jesus’ message and those whose humility and recognition of their own neediness allow them to be open to God’s unqualified care through Jesus’ announcement of the arrival of the kingdom.  Jesus will use his teaching in parables as a way to test the hearts of the people, so that those who are spiritually responsive will learn more while those who refuse to repent will have their hearts and ears closed (cf. 13:10-16).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 421)


In Scripture Sodom is set forth as the supreme example of an overthrow without remedy.  God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom to blot it out and to declare for all time His abhorrence for the homosexual lifestyle it represented.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 208)


The greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility; and the greater the light, the greater the punishment for not receiving it.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 264)


Judgment against the moral abominations of Sodom will be exceeded by judgment against the spiritual indifference of Capernaum.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 265)


Jesus’ teaching perhaps mildly interested them, and His miracles entertained them, but nothing more.  His grace never rent their hearts, His truth never changed their minds, His warning about sin never provoked repentance, and His offer of salvation never induced faith.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 266)


He who has pride as his mother cannot have God as his Father.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 301)


They did not recognize that the miracles showed He was a messenger from God who commanded them to repent.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 349)


Tyre and Sidon were two chief Phoenician cities of antiquity that were known for their arrogant hostility toward God and His people.  Several of the prophets of Israel prophesied against them, and they eventually were conquered by Alexander the Great.  But Jesus asserted that if He had done the same miracles in Tyre and Sidon that He did in Chorazin and Bethsaida, those whole cities would have repented.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 350)


Sin God can deal with.  That is what the cross is all about.  It is stiff-necked, hard-hearted, unrepentant religious, pious, do-gooders who are lost and without hope.   (Steve Brown)


“When we call sin “not sin” we burn the bridge back to God because we can’t repent of something we don’t think is wrong.”  (Steve Brown)


When a man is humbled by the law, and brought to the knowledge of himself, then follows true repentance (for true repentance begins at the fear and judgement of God), and he sees himself to be so great a sinner that he can find no means how he may be delivered from his sin by his own strength, endeavor and works.   (Martin Luther; Galatians, 94)


“Willful sin reveal a very bad state or frame of heart.  It indicates that men have lost, in a great measure, the sense of God’s authority and the awe of His judgment, and therefore, such sins are the more heinous and offensive to God.  As Christ explained, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin” (Jn 15:22).  The coming in of so much light made their sin inexcusable and took away all pleas and pretenses that they had to excuse or cover it before.”  ”  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; 125)


It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent:  it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion.  They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance.  But more than any of that, these are the people who appreciate His goodness: they are parading into the kingdom before you:  for they have what you lack—a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy.  (Brennan Manning; Ragamuffin Gospel, 103)


“The worse sin toward your fellow creature is not to hate him, but to be indifferent toward him.  That is the essence of inhumanity.”  — George Bernard Shaw.


Love will find a way.  Indifference will find an excuse.


II-  Faith in the mysterious, divine Light is a gift of God’s grace to the humble.  Unbelief is the greater sin of the proud.  (Mt 11:25-27; see also: Dt 29:29; Job 11:7-8; Prv 3:34; 6:16-17; Isa 29:14; 55:8-9; 66:1-2; Dn 4:35; Mt 10:15; 16:16-17; 18:3; Lk 10:22-24; 18:9-14; Jn 1:18; 3:5-9; 6:29; Rom 9:20; 12:16; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16;  Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tm 2:25; Jam 4:6)


It is to spiritual babes, those who acknowledge their utter helplessness in themselves, to whom God has sovereignly chosen to reveal the truths of His kingdom.  It is to the “poor in spirit” who humbly confess their dependency that God makes the way of salvation clear and understandable.  By the Holy Spirit they recognize they are spiritually empty and bankrupt and they abandon all dependence on their own resources.  They are the cringing spiritual beggars to whom Jesus refers in the first beatitude–the absolutely destitute who are ashamed to lift up their head as they hold out their hands for help.

Babes are the exact opposite of the kind of person the scribes, Pharisees, and rabbis taught was pleasing to God.  They are also the exact opposite of the imagined ideal Christian touted by many popular preachers and writers who glorify self-assertion and self-worth.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 271)


God hides things from those who are wise in their own conceit and reveals them instead to those who will simply take Him at His word.  It is the way God works.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 209)


The wise and intelligent sarcastically refers to those who are intelligent in their own eyes and who rely on human wisdom and disregard God’s.  The Lord does not exclude smart people from His kingdom but rather those who trust in their smartness.  Paul was a brilliant, highly educated scholar, and he did not forsake his intelligence when he became a Christian.  But he stopped relying on his intelligence to discern and understand spiritual and divine matters.  It is not intelligence but intellectual pride that shuts people out of the kingdom.  Intelligence is a gift of God, but when it is perverted by pride it becomes a barrier to God, because trust is in the gift rather than in the Giver.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 270)


God’s spiritual truth is not empirically, objectively knowable.  It cannot be externally discovered, but must be willingly received through man’s heart as God reveals it.  As someone has said, “The heart and not the head is the home of the gospel.”  No amount of human reasoning or speculation can discover or explain God’s saving truth, because, as Paul continues to say, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (v. 14).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 270)


God is not looking for big shots.  He is not interested in the somebodies of this world.  He is interested in the nobodies (see 1 Cor 1:26-31).  Are you enough of a nobody for him to be interested in you?  That is, before him do you humbly confess your unworthiness, emptiness, and helplessness?  Do you acknowledge that you are not good enough for God? Or has your education, wealth, power, position, talent, or knowledge puffed you up (cf. 1 Cor 8:10) and made you like a proud peacock, with your feathers spread too wide to walk through the narrow gate to freedom?  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 303)


Why were they so superior?  Because they had Moses?  Because they had the prophets, the law, the temple, the priesthood?  By no means.  Because they had Him.  So He sets Himself forth as being the highest and clearest of all the revelations that God has made to the world, and asserts that in Him, in His character, in His deeds, men ought to find motives that should bow them in penitence before God; motives sweeter, tenderer, stronger than any that the world knows besides.  There is no such light of the knowledge of the glory of God anywhere else as there is in the face of Jesus Christ.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 141)


God’s sovereignty should be the foremost thought in the mind of every witnessing believer.  We should remember with confidence that His plan is always on course and that even the most unrepentant, wicked, vindictive, and cynical rejection or our testimony does not alter God’s timetable or thwart His purpose.  Our responsibility is simply to make our witness faithful (1 Cor 4:2); it is God’s responsibility alone to make it effective.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 269)


The religious man who relies on tradition or good works to please God is just as far from God as the atheist.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 270)


Pride cannot be the ruling principle in your life.  Pride cannot be the authority over all your actions.  Pride cannot be the voice telling you what to do.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 301)


Why do some people come to Christ and others don’t?  One side of the coin is God’s sovereignty:  “I…will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (see Ex 33:19; cf. Rom 9:15).  The other side of the coin is human responsibility.  Humility opens the door to the kingdom, and pride keeps it closed.  And in 11:23, 25 the door-slamming sin of pride is addressed by our Lord.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 302)


Just as we have seen several times in Matthew already, Jesus here indicated that there are degrees of punishment in hell. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 351)


He said the Father had hidden these things from “the wise and prudent,” that is, from those who believed they understood God and His ways through their own wisdom.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 356)


He went on to thank the Father because He had revealed these things to “babes,” that is, to those who were lowly of heart and willing to receive Jesus on faith.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 356)


“Men know their course is evil and such as God condemns.  They know that this and that and the other practices which they indulge in are sinful.  They dare not justify them, but they still their consciences with the thought that they intend to repent later.  They reckon upon no great difficulty in this, assuming the repenting is theirs, under their control, and all will be well.   They do not seem to realize that these purposes to repent in the future abundantly harden and make them bold to continue in sin against all counsel and reproof.  But alas, repentance is not so easy a work.  The heart that is now so much in love with sin and so full of enmity against holiness will not be easily changed.  A deceitful heart will find other excuses when the present ones are answered.  The old man will struggle hard before it is subdued.  Perhaps they do not know that  repentance is a grace of God’s giving.  The heart of stone is too hard for any created power to break.   Repentance is a gift that only God can give and fortunately when He gives it He does so freely.  Because men can only repent when God enables, Paul said to Timothy, “God peradventure will given them repentance” (2 Tm 2:25).  Many that presume upon having repentance at leisure find themselves disappointed.  Either a sudden death arrests them or a hard heart and a sleepy conscience seizes upon them.  It is a very bold adventure to reject God’s gracious offers, presuming upon future time or grace.”  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; 131)


III-  You will never find the rest the Light offers until  you repent and submit to His yoke.  (Mt 11:28-30; see also: Psa 95:7-11; 125:1; 138:6; Isa 26:3; 40:31; Jer 2:20-22; 5:4-6; 6:13-23; 30:8; 31:25; Ez 34:27; Mt 3:2; 4:17; 5:3-10; Lk 13:1-5; 18:9-14; 19:10; Jn 6:35; 7:37-39; 14:6, 27; 16:33; 17:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 15:10; 17:30; 20:21; Rom 5:1; Phil 1:6; 4:12, 19; 1 Tm 1:15; Heb 3:11-4:9; 1 Jn 2:3; 4:4; 5:1-5) 


There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country people came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 20)


Jesus says:  “My yoke fits well.”  What he means is:  “The life I give you is not a burden to cause you pain; your task is made to measure to fit you.”  Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 20)


The phrase “weary and burdened” does not refer to physical weaknesses or to what we might call the burdens of a difficult life, though it may include them.  It chiefly refers to a sense of sin’s burden and the need of a Savior.  The context makes this clear, for the earlier verses describe the rejection of John the Baptist and Jesus by the Jewish masses, followed by the Lord’s denunciation of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for their failure to repent at Jesus’ preaching.  They were not burdened by sin.  They were getting along just fine.  Still, there were people who were burdened, and these people believed that Jesus could lift sin’s weight and turned to him to do it.  These people listened to him, trusted him, and found salvation.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 200)


Toil is a curse; work is a blessing.  But all our work darkens into toil; and the invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor,” reaches to the very utmost verge of the world and includes every soul.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 155)


There is rest in faith.  The very act of confidence is repose.  Look how that little child goes to sleep in its mother’s lap, secure from harm because it trusts.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 161)


So much of our fatigue and burdensome toil stems from pride.  If we are successful, our egos are inflated and we try for more.  If we falter, the rejection of others and our self-condemnation weigh us down in guilt and self-doubt.  It is much more freeing to take Christ’s attitude of serving others.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 230)


The rabbis used to refer to the Law as a yoke, and a disciple as one who put his neck under it.  But Jesus addresses a winsome invitation to those who found the endless details of the Law, as the Pharisees interpreted it, a burden too heavy to bear.

In exercise of His authority He invited all such to come to Him and find rest for their weary souls.  If they would bow under the yoke of the good will of God in submission and obedience, they would discover the secret of the life of blessing.  When yoked with Christ in service, they would discover that the yoke of God’s will raises no sores on the shoulder.  The yoke would gall only if they pulled in a direction other than God planned.  His yoke only rests the one who bears it, for with it there is supplied the strength to carry the load.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 66)


Jesus does not invite those who have found their self-worth.  He does not invite the self-satisfied.  He does not invite the self-righteous.  He does not invite those living the life of ease, with their legs outstretched and their feet pushing through the soft sand of the beach.  Here Jesus invites “all who labor and are heavy laden” (v. 28).  He invites the tired, the poor, the tempest-tossed, the wretched refuse, those huddled masses yearning to be free. (Hendriksen, Matthew, 505)  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 306-7)


Rest comes from working.  Rest comes from laboring.  Rest comes from obedience.  Rest comes in seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  Rest comes from God’s will being done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Jesus did not say, “Take my chair” or “Take my mattress.”  That’s equipment for sitting and sleeping.  There’s no sitting.  There’s no sleeping.  He said, “Take my yoke.  You’ll be working, walking, moving forward, carrying what I tell you to carry, even your own cross.  Life might be uncomfortable, hard, and trying, but (irony of ironies) walk my way and you’ll find rest–the refreshment that comes with forgiveness, the renewal that comes with purposeful living, the rest that comes from working for me!” (See 2 Cor 4:16-18; cf. Rom 8:18; Mt 5:10-12).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 307)


If you don’t enjoy rest it may mean that you either are not working hard enough to complete the work God has given you to do so you can rest; or, it may be because you are working with the wrong attitude or spirit to enjoy and benefit from the rest God desires to give you.  — Pastor Keith


“Come unto Me,” being translated out of metaphor into fact, is simply “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 158)


After all, there is no question that it was the Lord Jesus Christ himself who said, “repent and believe in the gospel.”  Some immediately react by supposing that this contradicts the “only believe” of the Christian message.  Does “repent and believe the gospel” imply that the sinner must do two things to be saved, and not one only?  The exhortation is really only one requirement.  The instruction, “Leave London and go to Los Angeles” sounds like a two-fold request, but it really is only one: it is impossible to go to Los Angeles without leaving London.

Likewise, it is impossible to believe truly without repenting.  The difference between true faith and what the Scripture calls false faith is simple:  it is the lack of repentance.  Without a doubt, many who seek to win sinners to the Savior without specifying repentance in their presentation nevertheless hope that true repentance, a mighty change of mind, heart, and life, will ensue, and rejoice when it happens.  But their disappointment when it does not happen should compel them to reword their message so that there can be no misunderstanding whatever.  (January 1, 1982 Christianity Today, article by J. Edwin Orr, 27)


Think of a Jewish peasant of thirty years old, opening his arms to embrace the world, and saying to all men, “Come and rest on My breast.”  Think of a man supposing himself to be possessed of a charm which could soothe all sorrow and lift the wright from every heart.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 153)


It is difficult to think of an invitation more important or more gracious than this–and it comes from the lips of the one who has just pronounced the most withering judgment on the citizens of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 200)


Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him.  The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God.  He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ.  Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself.  To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 275)


A student was often spoken of as being under the yoke of his teacher, and an ancient Jewish writing contains the advice:  “Put your neck under the yoke and let your soul receive instruction.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 277)


A yoke symbolized obedience, and Christian obedience includes learning from Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 277)


I think it is clear, based on the context of this passage, what burden Jesus was talking about.  He was not speaking of the burdens that we deal with in our daily lives; business matters, family squabbles, and other things that create trials for us.  Instead, He was referring to the burden of sin.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 358)


Where else can we go with our guilt?  Who else can take it away?  Then He promised that those who came to Him would receive “rest.”  In biblical terms, to enter heaven is to enter permanent rest.  The Sabbath day each week is designed not only to give us rest from our earthly labors but a foretaste of the permanent rest that is in store for our souls.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 358)


What he is really saying, therefore, is that simple trust in him and obedience to his commands out of gratitude for the salvation already imparted by him is delightful.  It brings peace and joy.  The person who lives this kind of life is no longer a slave.  He has become free.  He serves the Lord spontaneously, eagerly, enthusiastically.  He is doing what he (the “new man” in him) wants to do.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 505)


Men are often willing to be baptized, to pay their money, or do anything that is respectable, rather than humble themselves by repentance.  But it is all of no avail.  We come to the footstool of sovereign mercy only by genuine self-abasement.

A man who has counterfeit money is worse off than one who has no money.  Preaching unscriptural ideas of repentance does, perhaps, more damage than not preaching repentance at all.  It is harder to unlearn an error than it is to learn the truth.  (B.T. Roberts; Fishers Of Men, 125)


If the truth about my salvation lies in the realm of my feelings, my digestive system, my nervous organism, I am going to be a poor Christian; because that will be changing from day to day according to the weather or to something else.  Oh no!  Truth; where is the truth?  “Not what I am, but what Thou art,” That is where the truth is, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  Free from what?  Bondage!  What bondage?  Satan clapping his chains of condemnation upon you because today you are not feeling up to scratch.  You are feeling bad in your constitution, and you are feeling depressed, you are feeling death all around, you are feeling irritable, and Satan comes along and says, You are not a Christian!  A fine Christian you are!  And you go down under it.  Is that the truth?  It is a lie!  The only answer for deliverance and emancipation is, “it is not what I am, it is what He is; Christ abides the same.”  He is not as I am, varying here in this human life from hour to hour and day to day:  He is other. (T. Austin-Sparks; The School of Christ, 25)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:  Jesus is not only the Light but a wedge, forcing you to choose between repentance and crowning Him Master, Lord and Savior of your life or killing Him.  



Jesus’ early period of popularity was ending, and opposition was growing in amount and in intensity.  As Jesus would soon make clear, the only possible alternatives are acceptance or rejection.  A person is either for Christ or against Him (Mt 12:30; cf. Mk 9:40).  Consequently, Jesus’ teaching became more and more specifically directed either to those who accepted or those who rejected Him.  Side by side are messages of judgment and of compassion, or warning and of encouragement, just as we see here.  Jesus had just presented the God of judgment and wrath (Mt 11:20-24), and now He presents the God of love and mercy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 268-9)


Worship Point: When you discover Christ’s custom  fit yoke for you, in this wearying, labor intensive life with its heavy burden, you will worship.


Now some people do not like this first part, the call to repentance.  ‘Why don’t you come to the gospel?’ they say.  ‘Why don’t you just offer Christ to the people?  Why don’t you just tell us what God has to give us in Christ?’

Again, my only answer is that I know full well that nobody will really listen to the gospel until they have seen their need of it.  Why do so few of the people around us claim to be Christians?  It is because they have never seen any need.  Why do they not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Their answer is, ‘Who is he?  What has he got to give?’  They are not interested–‘Couldn’t care less,’ they say.  They regard the Christian faith as something played out, finished, totally irrelevant to life at the present time.  So it is no use standing up and saying, “‘Come to Jesus.’

‘Why should we come to Jesus?’ they say.  And it is our business to show them why. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 19-20)


Judgment precedes and defines mercy.    You have to have judgment before mercy is relevant.   Judgment is a pre-requisite of Mercy and grace.  It is no wonder that the people of America do not understand the message of grace.  They have a terribly perverted view of justice.  (Steve Brown on Isaiah)


God uses difficult times to drive us to repentance.   Because of our wealth, we choose to insulate ourselves from many of the judgments that God gives to us to drive us to repentance.  Instead of being sensitive to God’s judgments in our lives that should soften our hearts and lead us to repentance, we merely protect ourselves from His discipline with more insurance, addictions, or wallowing in materialism.  — Pastor Keith


Gospel Application:  Your understanding the Light of the Gospel, your response to the Light and your taking upon yourself Christ’s yoke is all a work of God’s grace.  


It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All theses are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”   Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you. (C. H. Spurgeon as quoted by Alister Begg; Pathway to Freedom; 228-9)


If you and I know the Father and the Son, it is not because of anything we have done.  It is their unspeakable mercy and grace that allow us to know them.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 358)


Spiritual Challenge:  Strive to enter the rest that comes by being “in Christ”.  Tremble at God’s Word if you have no motivation to strive.  (Isa 66:1-2)


It is not your sin that will keep you out of heaven . . .  It is your thinking that you are righteous . . .  That you don’t need Jesus.  —Steve Brown



Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Jesus  —Matthew 11:28







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