Matthew 11

Matthew 11:  Need Rest? Come to Jesus!

This chapter contains three of my favorite verses at the end with one of the Lord’s most gracious calls and invitations to all of us who are weary and heavy laden. It is an invitation to a rest – and as we look at this rest, we discover there are two distinct rests. One rest  is given and the other found.    I fear that while many of us have experienced the rest that is given, we have not learned of the rest that Jesus says you will find.

The chapter begins by telling us following His commandments ( instructions) to his 12  apostles in what we could describe as their ordination, Jesus, himself went on to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.  It is interesting to note while the apostles had been empowered to perform miracles, Jesus confined himself to teaching and preaching.  Healing of the sick involves the saving of the body from disease and various illness, but the preaching of the gospel was to provide the saving of the  souls.  It would seem from the emphasis the greater miracle and greater work is the saving of the soul rather than the saving of these mortal bodies.

I also like the fact, although Jesus delegates, He does not remain idle. We have all had bosses and those in position of authority who delegated tasks for those under them, in order they might enjoy playing golf or some other idle pleasures.  Jesus, our example, makes use of his time wisely by preaching the gospel.  The gospel was a Greek word that simply means – ‘ good news.’ In fact the word was made popular by Augustus Caesar who used the word gospel to describe the new world order represented by the reign of the Roman Empire.  This man thought this empire would last forever. No one could see or imagined this Jesus of Nazareth and his followers would establish a kingdom that would outlast the Roman Empire and be eternal.  It was  ‘ this kingdom that John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus proclaimed was ‘ near, at hand.’

The gospel or good news of this kingdom was a classic bad news, good news scenario. Here is the bad news first:  Everyone is wrong! Then comes the good news:  Everyone is loved! Everyone is called or recognize this and repent, change.   The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate good news. It is a body of truth with a specific message. Through this Gospel- we are saved. Paul said: “ I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!” (Romans 1: 16)

The Gospel is God’s instrument to save lives. The Gospel brings salvation. It is available to everyone who believes. No wonder the enemy, the devil, wants it banned, belittled, and most of all not believed.

Now the story switches back to remind us of John the Baptist. We recall John the Baptist was arrested and put in prison by Herod Antipas.  Some time, perhaps over a year, has elapsed and John the Baptist who is receiving reports about Jesus from his disciples sends them to Jesus to ask Jesus this question:  “ Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? “

What is going on here?  We can only speculate that John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet who shows up in the New Testament and bears witness to the One, he proclaimed to John and Andrew was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is wanting confirmation.  Perhaps John expected Jesus would have already taken the throne and assumed his rightful position as King. It could be, his disciples were questioning was Jesus really the one who was to come and John the Baptist and his disciples both needed to have their questions answered. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from when he was in his mother’s womb.  He heard the voice of God and saw the Spirit of God descending from heaven and lighting on Jesus.  It is hard  for us to believe he has doubts about what has happened. Perhaps he is concerned with timing. Wondering why he hasn’t been freed from prison and Jesus has not set up his kingdom.  Maybe , we speculate, his disciples needed confirmation. After all he sent Jesus his first two disciples, Andrew and John.  Either way- we see where one always goes with any doubts- and doubts will come to all of us. We go to Jesus and His Word.

Have you ever been in a prison of circumstances that made you doubt is God really who He says He is?  Can God really do what He says He can do?  If God is – then why has He not done something about my circumstances?   It is a scheme that has worked well for the enemy to question us in times of difficulty, in seasons of waiting to ask us- ‘ did God really say?”    Are you really sure?    Faith is often mixed with unbelief. As we read the whole Bible- we see one story after another of individuals and a whole nation that questioned God’s reality and abilities in times of trouble and seasons of waiting.  Why do we have such seasons?  To reveal to us where our faith is not yet mature, where it needs to be strengthened.

Where do we go in such times as these?  We go where these did- to Jesus. “ Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17. Interesting in the NIV version is says ‘ faith comes by hearing , and hearing by the Word of Christ.’   Got doubt? Go to the Word of God/Christ.

Jesus replied : “ Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured,  the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news ( gospel) is preaching to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” ( Matthew 11: 4-6)   These acts were a fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah in Is. 35.

This would be the word,( rhema) to John the Baptist this was the Messiah,the Christ, the One to come.

There was a question asked and the answer was there in the Word of God. Notice Jesus did not send back the message to John that he would set the captives free.  John knew this was the work of the Messiah, but since Jesus did not quote this as a work he was doing at that time, John was to stay in prison.

John may have been experiencing what we have often experienced or are experiencing now- in that God has his timetable and his plan and it does not always coincide with our timetable. What Jesus is saying is  trust me- I know what I am doing. In fact- suffering and death lie ahead for Jesus Himself.

So the first question is asked and answered with Scripture.  Ultimately all our answers to all our questions are found there.

The second question is a series of  rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are used by teachers for teaching and examples.  “ What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear fine clothes are in king’s palaces. Then what did you go to see? A prophet. YES, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “ I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare  your way before you.” Questions asked- questions answered with Scripture from Malachi a prophecy of the one who would come like Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah.

John the Baptist was the last  Old Testament prophet who crowds were going out to see and hear in the desert. He was opposed to the finery of corrupt political power. He lived a rugged, disciplined life. He was not a reed swayed by public opinion, or the lure of materialism. He was a man on a mission and he finished the mission.  His mission to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah was a one theme message- Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Why then does Jesus say- of men born of women, there were none greater than John. But yet, he who is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. All of us who have the complete Word of God and are God’s children by adoption and the new birth have greater knowledge and opportunity than John.

Then comes a quote that is from a children’s game at that time, as Jesus is comparing this generation to children playing make-believe games.  The game –where they imitated adults involved playing flute- but you would not dance. Then singing a funeral dirge but you would not mourn. John came with his disciplined life, unusual dress and diet and they said he had a demon.  Jesus came to welcome sinners, ‘ a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ One came with a funeral dirge- repent, be sorry about your sins. The other came with an invitation to live the abundant life- they rejected them both.

Then Jesus proclaims this truth from which we can enter into his rest for he proclaims: “ All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

“ 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 light.” ( Matthew 11: 28-30)

Do you know what eternal life is?  Where the abundant life comes from?  “ Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” ( John 17:3)

Do you know who can introduce you to God, the Father, Creator of all things?  The Lord Jesus can bring you before God when you are clothed in His righteousness.   The happiness of mankind is found in this relationship. And no man comes to the Father except by Jesus, the Son. ( john 14)

Look who Jesus is inviting?  All who labor, who are weary, all who are heavy laden- burdened.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles ; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ( Isaiah 40)

Are you worn out? Tired? Weary? Burdened with the cares of this life- family, finances, health, uncertainty and doubt?  Would you like some rest?  Jesus says come to Him- and He will give you rest.   Peter said ‘ cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.’   He will never leave you or forsake you.  Do you hear the Lord’s invitation? Come to me- all who fit this description of weary, burdened people. What is his promise?  I will give you rest.

Now if you hear this message today- here are your instructions:  “ Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as you did in rebellion.” ( Hebrews 3).  This was written about the nation of Israel who Moses led out of Egypt. They heard and rebelled.  This group spent the next 40 years wandering the wilderness unable to enter into the rest of the Promised Land.

“And to whom did God swear that they would not enter His rest: if not to those who disobeyed ? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19)

What happened?  God gave them directions, just as the Lord Jesus gave the apostles directions, and gives us directions.  You can choose this day- which direction you want to go- the narrow way or the broad way.  Oh yes, a Christian can choose not to obey God and not go the narrow way. They have left Egypt, but not entered the Promised Land. They will wander in the wilderness –the abode of the carnal Christian.

Listen again to the wisdom of days of old:  “ This is what the Lord says:  Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘ We will not walk in it.” ( Jeremiah 6)

“Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of us be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached unto us, just as they did, but the message they heard  was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed have entered the rest,just as God said, “ So I declared on oath in my anger,they shall never enter my rest.” ( Hebrews 4)

Does this mean we will never have trouble? No. The Lord said we would have trouble in this world, but we are to rejoice for He has overcome the world, the devil and the flesh.

We will have the burdens of living in a fallen world. We will find ourselves in storms of various kinds- trials, troubles and heartache.  There is only one way to get through these burdens- take up the yoke of the Lord.  Would it not be appropriate that the yoke the Lord would have me get under with Him was  built just for me by the Carpenter of Nazareth. It fits perfectly . It does not chafe. And it makes bearing the burdens easier. In fact- it is the only way I can bear them.

You see, the yoke which we share with the Lord Jesus is in the shape of a cross. This is my cross, the yoke and I am paired with the Lord Jesus. He has promised to never place more on me than I can bear. I have to learn how to follow Him- or else I only make the burden worse. I chafe my neck, I strain, and strain- but I am getting nowhere- but worn out when I try to go in a different direction than where he wants me to go.  The Lord is in the lead- and where He leads I will follow.

Are you a slow learner?  Are you as stubborn as a mule sometimes?  Paul writes: “ But you have not so learned Christ.” ( Ephesians 4:20, KJV) Isn’t that an interesting phrase and reference? Learned Christ.  It is like his life is my lesson.  He is both teacher and lesson. He is the Guide and the Way.  He is everything to me and everything I need.  He is my all in all!!

What a teacher He is because of these wonderful traits- he is gentle and humble in heart. He is not an arrogant teacher, a pompous know-it-all ( although he knows it all)  he is an encourager, one who takes time to make sure you get it. He is not impatient, but patient. He is not the professor who states at the outset of the course- not many will make an “A” in my course- it is that difficult.  ( My response is- you must be a poor teacher- if not many make an A- for the purpose of the teacher is to cause the learner to learn.) Who would not enjoy school and learning from a teacher like our Lord Jesus.

Do you see what the rest is for?  It is ‘rest for your souls.’ You see our teacher gives us wisdom and understanding and that is where we find the true rest for our souls- our minds, will and emotions.

Well, you might be thinking to yourself, I wish I could do that- find rest- cast my cares upon Him. But I keep picking them up each day.  Guess what?  Most of us do the same thing. As long as there is a burden, we must keep coming to Him for rest and help in bearing the burden. If the same burden is there tomorrow morning- guess what? You are not alone.

So you woke up this morning with the same burden you tried to give to the Lord last night and thought you had, only to find it sitting on your neck again this morning. Then know the Lord knows what you have need of before you ask Him.  Know that last night He neither slept or slumbered. His thoughts toward you and me outnumber the grains of sand. When you awoke this morning – here is what is waiting for you:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. I say to myself – the Lord is my portion I will wait for Him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait  quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young…. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.”  ( Lamentations 3)Great is thy faithfulness- all I have needed thy hand has provided.

Keep on casting your cares on the Lord. That is where you will find rest. And when you awake- remember His mercy, His love and His compassion are new and fresh every day. Gather the manna you need for the day.  Do not worry about tomorrow.  Take up your cross, your yoke and follow Him. He will lead you to the way everlasting.  There are going to be tests in this life. But they are ‘open book tests’. Open the Word of God and there you will find all the answers to all your questions. Wouldn’t it be a shame to fail the test- when you can look up the answer in the book?  “ Study to show yourselves approved a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightfully dividing the Word of Truth.” (2 Timothy 2)

Learn from Him.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14