As I prepare my heart for Christmas this next passage is one of what I would call a “fork in the road” passage. After you read and understand this passage you are faced with a critical life changing choice. Either you accept the idea that Jesus is the Son of God and humbly submit to His authority as Lord or you don’t. There is no middle ground with this passage. In this passage, Jesus is either a “wacked out” Jewish wannabe rabbi, or he is truly the Son of God. Whichever way you decide to go on this road, The call that Jesus has to the world is the same… 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Father Revealed in the Son
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 “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.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I think that one of the keys to understanding this verse is to look at it from the “eastern thinking” mind of a Jew living in first century Palestine. This passage would have astounded a Jew listening to it for the first time…but why? There were many rabbi’s who taught radical ideas at this time and there were even some who performed miracles. In fact, the concept of taking on someone’s authority or “yoke” over your life was quite common as well. Jesus used a common, even ancient “concrete” symbol of authority, to communicate a mind blowing truth.
As a Jew, I would be pretty selective about whose yoke I would submit to, and this guy Jesus is telling me that all things are committed to him by God, That would mean taking on the yoke of Jesus would be equal to taking on the yoke of the Torah, God’s word, God’s law…and that compared to the burden carried when following the authority of God’s law, at least as it was administered by the religious leaders of the day, the authority of Jesus is easy and his burden is light…In response, my entire world view would have been shaken to its core. If I were a Jew at that time I might be thinking…”How dare you Jesus, you mean to tell me that that You have been given the ultimate authority by God, all things have been given you by God, that you have the ultimate relationship with God and that, unlike the authorities of the world, You are gentle and humble in heart and we can trust you with our lives.”
Remember, when we look at this passage we must look at it from a concrete, “Eastern” worldview. When we “Westerners” think of trusting Jesus with our lives. We look at this concept from an abstract world view. We apply concepts like eternity and consciousness to our perspective of spiritual life. There’s a”next life” separation between the reality of our physical world and the reality of our spiritual world. To the Jew listening to Jesus at that time, the concept of soul and the very breath they were taking at that moment were one and the same. There was a real black and white, life and death atom bomb of a reality check that would have been triggered by the words that Jesus spoke.
This brings us to another key concept that Jesus taught in this verse… and this is really the primary key to understanding and receiving the whole truth of the passage. If, on one side, we see “yoke” as a key symbol of authority to the Hebrew worldview. On the other side we see “little children” as a symbol of absolute humility. From the Hebrew perspective there is nothing more vulnerable than a child. Jewish culture took the responsibility of caring for children very seriously. To be a child in Jewish culture of the day meant that you were in one of the most humble positions of complete dependence on your parents for food, direction, education and sometimes even vocation.
Since the New Testament is written in Greek the word used to convey this idea is νήπιος (népios). This word translates directly to the word “infant” and can also be translated figuratively as a “simple minded” person. Since the testimony of Matthew was directed primarily at Jews I believe that the emphasis of the term “little children” as it is used in this passage is placed more on the vulnerable and humble neediness of a child and less on the figure of a “simple minded person.” The “wise and prudent” of the day did not see themselves in this vulnerable state of humility.
With all of this in mind, while the truth of this passage offers those who follow Christ a tremendous amount of peace and we can take comfort knowing that as vulnerable children who desperately need God we can find rest in Christ, I do not believe that this passage is a passage primarily about rest. I believe that this passage is primarily about the ultimate authority of God, who gave ultimate authority to Jesus, His son, with whom He has the ultimate relationship and through whom is calling us to acknowledge our childlike, absolutely vulnerable and humble state. In all of this, Jesus calls us to trust in His Authority as our Lord who will Love us, Teach us and give rest to our souls.
There is so much depth and richness to this passage that I am not covering here and I urge you to dig deeper into this passage for yourselves…
Some of the resources I used for this post include…
Old School Resources…
- NIV Bible – (Used as a thought of thought translation.)
- NASB Bible – (I like to use a word for word translation sometimes to cross reference. in this case the NASB translated népios as infant where as the NIV translated the same word as little children.)
- The Englishman’s Greek New Testament – (For Greek Neophytes like me. Great book to compare original Greek writing with tranlated words.
- Vines Complete Expository Dictionary – (A staple in my Bible study ever since my Bible Interpretation prof recommended it in college.
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Love the Numbers)
- Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries
- http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=2753 – Great Post…with tons more info to discover that I studied here.
- His Name is One, By Jeff A Benner – Found this book to be fascinating and helpful. For this post I studied the history of how the word El for God came into being. Try searching for the word Yoke in the book…
- The Rights of the Child – Jewish Perspective – by Rabbi David Rosen