Matthew 11:28-30

Posted on: April 3rd, 2016

It is our prayer that an exegetical study of Matt. 11:28-30 will help those of us who are suffering and be an aide to those seeking rest for their souls. Jesus’ words here were not only for the multitudes who were listening (vs. 7), but for everyone until the end of time.
The terms “weary” and “heavy laden” in verse 28 are interchangeable. They include recurring and sudden challenges—physical, mental, and spiritual. For example, let’s examine guilt, a heavy burden indeed. Ancient Medievalists realized this and thus was born the confessional. The Bible tells us Christ’s blood is sufficient for one without a third party’s intervention. Illiteracy found the common people letting “their betters” explain the Bible for them. Little wonder when Gutenberg’s printing press began it was the Bible which was the first book printed. And by the middle of the 15th century people were reading and studying their own Bibles. Little wonder at the Reformation. People found they could pray directly to God through Jesus’ name to relieve them of, say, guilt.
Whatever our personal burdens, we have prayer. But we must avail ourselves to utilize it. During one of John Lennon’s many turbulent life episodes he penned a song whose lyrics repeated the refrain: “I’d give everything I got for a little peace of mind!” If he had accepted Jesus’ invitation here in the last of Matthew chapter 11, how differently his life might have been!
Verse 29 talks of His yolk. Most of us have seen pictures of yoked water buffalo or oxen to understand the literal definition. Throughout Biblical and secular literature it represents submission connotatively. Smith’s Bible dictionary informs us that yoke is predominately a reference for more than one wearer, that we can picture the collective aide of our brothers and sisters in Christ with us, or even Christ Himself. While it is true, as Galatians 6:5 states, we must bear our own burdens, three verses antecedent to it enjoins us to help each other in our burdens. And please note: this doesn’t mean sympathy and an “I’ll pray for you” only, although these are both necessary; sometimes their burdens can be lightened by our physical help.
The Greek interlinear translates “learn of” to “from”; Christ’s yoke is his life, deeds, and doctrine. “Much” and “lowly” become “gentle” and “humble”. This means one must eschew ego and pride, two qualities diametric to Christianity. If anyone ever deserved to have a big ego, the Creator of “all things” (Jn. 1:3) certainly did. But it is precisely these qualities which keep people from accepting Christ. Among the so-called seven deadly sins it is #1. Eve and Adam fell for the “pride of life”, that desire to become wise like God (Gen. 3:6, 22). In Milton’s Paradise Lost it was pride which prompted Satan and his cohorts to rebel against God (Jude 6).
The words “rest unto your souls” can be condensed into the Hebrew word “shalom”. Terry Slack told us March 11 during our gospel meeting the import of that word. It is a state of mind calming us, a buffer against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, a bastion from which no outside force can evict us. People sometimes use the term “limp as a dishrag” to describe feeling wearied by heat, work, or a combination of both. How sweet to have the cares and worries of our lives wrung out of us much as we wring out our washrags. We can renew ourselves whenever we feel the need through Christ our Savior.
To live without this peace is to be living a nightmare. Why be surprised at today’s rising suicide rate when there is no one to turn to? Why continue to live? Oh, but that is a sin. Yes, it certainly is; but why submit to the power of sin when one can take advantage of the power of God? Because of ego, pride. We are right back to them instead of meek and lowly.
The last verse (30) promises a light and easy burden, but make no mistake, we do have burdens to bear. Perhaps the Lord originally had planned life as a bowl of cherries, but mankind chose poorly right from the start, so burdens are here. We are not born into life and sleep until it is over; life isn’t a scary movie you can shut out by covering your eyes with your hands. However, we have our brothers and sisters in Christ. Think of the words to that old gospel hymn “God’s Family”—sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry. First John 5:3 tells us His commandments aren’t grievous. They only become that way if you put yourself first.
The solutions for our problems are in the Bible; the problems we suffer are in ourselves. “Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said We will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16). Use both common sense and sagacity when making decisions not only of the moment, but those which have the potential to affect us eternally.
Larry Purkey