Rest for Your Souls

What is a yoke used for? In Matthew 11:28–30 Jesus not only describes his yoke, he invites you to take his yoke.

Take Christ’s yoke upon you. Christ calls you to take his easy yoke. The yoke symbolized bondage and toil. The yoke was what the ox pulled against as he plowed. A symbolic yoke, formed by three spears tied together, formed an frame through which those defeated by Rome’s armies passed as they entered slavery. A yoke was used by people to carry burdens. The law, particularly as it was interpreted and applied by the rabbis, became a cruel, unbearable, yoke for God’s people, Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:10. Ultimately the law is a burden because we are sinners, rebels against God. In contrast, the yoke Jesus offers is easy. He opposes the superficial legalism of the Pharisees, see Matthew 12:1–14. He offers himself as the Savior. “This yoke is easy and this burden is light, not because these command­ments are no heavy de­mands to man’s self-love and self-assertion (cf. Matt. 7:13ff), but because it is Jesus who teaches them. For he is ‘meek and lowly in heart.’ He himself is one of the ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘the meek,’ to whom he preaches the gospel. He is the Lawmaker, but he is also entirely dependent upon God, rejected by men, on his way to the cross.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 254). Still, Jesus does require a commitment. His invitation (because it comes from him, it is really a command) is to take his yoke upon you. As the Messianic King he summons you to take his yoke, to be part of his kingdom.

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Worse Off Than Sodom

What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? In Matthew 11:20–24 Jesus takes the judgment that fell on Sodom, and warns that the inhabitants of Sodom will be in a (relatively) better position in the day of judgment than those who reject him.

Responsibility accompanies privilege. The towns of Galilee witnessed Christ’s powerful works. Much of Jesus’ ministry had been focused in Galilee. The miracles of which Jesus speaks are specifically works of power. As Jesus overcame blindness, healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead, the dynamic power of his kingdom confronted and overcame the kingdom of darkness and its effects. These miracles were powerful enough that, had they witnessed them, the inhabitants of the notoriously wicked cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have repented. (These words are spoken by the One who is the God-man, and knows all things.) Those cities were wicked, and had experienced God’s judgment. These inhabitants of the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had witnessed these miracles. Their failure to turn from their sins and acknowledge the messianic King made them liable to judgment.

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Go, and Tell John

How can you be sure you have a genuine article? Matthew 11:1–15 tells us that John the Baptist had a similar concern—and it ought to be yours as well.

Don’t fall away. John was perplexed. Matthew sets the scene. After instructing his disciples Jesus was preaching in the towns of Galilee. John the Baptist, who had heralded Christ’s coming, and who was now in prison because of his pointed preaching to Herod, sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he is really the coming One. John may have been discouraged with his own imprisonment. More likely, he was concerned that Jesus Christ didn’t seem to fit the model he had of the coming Messiah. John had spoken of an ax at the root of the trees, and the dead wood being burned in fire. The coming Messiah was to baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire, Matthew 3:10-12. But the reports that reached John in prison spoke of Jesus teaching and performing miracles. Were was the ax? Where was the winnowing fork? Was this really the Messiah, or could John have been mistaken? As we’ll see, Jesus’ response to the question was not a direct answer, but rather involved pointing to the miracles he had been working. It’s a powerful answer. He is concerned that John not waver in his trust in the Messiah.

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Confess Christ!

At times you don’t want to be associated with someone else (parents and teens sometimes feel that way about each other). But in Matthew 10:32 Christ calls you to acknowledge him.

Confess Christ! Acknowledge Christ as your Lord. Jesus summons his disciples, about to set out on their initial missionary trip, to be willing to acknowledge their association with him. That would not be easy in the face of opposition. Jesus calls you to confess gladly your relationship with him. Acknowledge that he is your Savior. Be willing to submit to him as your Lord.

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