In my study the other day, I came across one of my favorite passages, but before I get there, I want to back up a few verses. Jesus had just finished condemning three towns in Galilee where He has performed miraculous works and powerful preaching. Despite seeing the power of God on display with their own eyes, the people of these towns failed to repent of their sin and to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (Matt 11:20-24).
In the next two verses, Jesus thanks the Father for actively keeping the truth from those who are thought to be smart according to the world’s standards, or at least according to themselves. Instead, the Father reveals the hidden truth only to those who are humble, like “little children”. “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!'” (Matt 11:25-26)
In this passage, Jesus identifies two things: First, those who are wise in their own eyes overestimate the value of their thoughts, which comes with the temptation to excuse away anything a person does not like or prefer. Since Jesus didn’t come as a fierce warrior king as the self-labelled wise men expected, they decided Jesus wasn’t the Messiah.
Second, God chooses to hide what should be obvious from those who are arrogant and full of pride. He keeps them from understanding what they choose not to understand; He hardens their hearts. To truly follow Jesus, we are to listen to His teaching not to waste what is holy on those who will not hear it, because they will twist it and use His holiness against us (Matt 7:6).
“Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’. They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; He looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord. Terror will grip them, for God is with those who obey Him. The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed, but the Lord will protect His people. Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When the Lord restores His people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.“ (Ps 14:1-7)
Jesus goes on to tell those who would listen: “‘My Father has entrusted everything to Me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'” (Matt 11:27-30)
The Father has revealed all truth, all things, to Jesus, the Son. They are both united as God together in the Trinity, along with the Holy Spirit, and yet are distinct from one other. This is a great mystery, but it is also a great declaration. Jesus is not hiding who He truly is from those who are listening. He is fully claiming to be the Son of God.
Jesus’ Jewish listeners were engaged in a mighty struggle to know God the Father. Their religious leaders had placed enormous burdens on them (Matt 23:4), and they were laboring to carry those burdens in hopes of being approved by God. Jesus has just said that He can reveal His Father to anyone, and He immediately offers rest to everyone who is weighed down. Jesus isn’t talking about physical rest, necessarily, but indeed “rest for your souls”.
The only path to the Father through Jesus (John 14:6) is not one of weary labor and heavy work. From the view of the world, following Christ means taking on difficult circumstances and giving up worldly pleasures. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Salvation, from the view of eternity, means that following Christ has us give up the impossible task of carrying our own sin. Christ does not say it in this passage, but the gospel reveals that Jesus offers to carry the burden and already did the work (death on the cross and His resurrection) in order to lead those who come to Him—those who are “yoked” to Him—to the Father. “Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one He has sent.'” (John 6:29). I pray this message is put before those whose hearts are not yet hardened to God’s truth. In the precious name of Jesus, amen!