Who does not like the idea of rest? The word simply brings positive feelings within us. Rest always sounds good. I just want to have some rest. The reason rest sounds so good is because we are weighed down by the burdens of life. Life is full of difficulties and hardships. Jesus has come into the world with the good news of rest. But there has been a problem. People’s expectations of Jesus are keeping them from coming to him. We noticed this in the first half of Matthew 11. People are rejecting Jesus because he is not doing what they want. But Jesus made the point that it did not matter how they came to the people, they had hearts that were not going to receive him. This is what leads Jesus to make a judgment proclamation in Matthew 11:20-24 and an invitation in Matthew 11:25-30. Let’s begin by reading Jesus’ judgment proclamation in verses 20-24.
Who Will Respond? (11:20-24)
We are told that Jesus denounced the cities where his miracles had been performed but did not repent. Verses 21-24 records his denunciation. The towns that he lists: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, are all towns in the region of Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee. Consider the shocking words that Jesus proclaims in verse 21. If these miracles had been performed in Gentile towns like Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago. When you read the prophets you will see Tyre and Sidon has leading cities that historically were full of arrogance, self-sufficiency, and stood in direct opposition to God and his will. Yet if Jesus had come to those towns, they would have deeply repented.
This is stunning because Galilee is in Israel and they should have been ready for the Messiah’s arrival. They should have been looking for the Christ, been ready for the Christ, and responded to the Christ when he came to those towns and performed his mighty works. Now I really want you to hear the words of Jesus in verse 23.
If the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (Matthew 11:23)
Jesus presses this further in verse 24. It will be more tolerable for Sodom than Capernaum on the day of judgment. Even Sodom would have responded to the offer Jesus was making. Even the Gentiles would have responded to the works Jesus was performing in these towns.
Now I want us to notice something about what has happened in these towns with Jesus. Jesus is performing miracles and the people in those towns are not responded. Miracles are being performed and repentance is not happening in the hearts of the people. If we think that all we need is a sign to believe, then we are lying to ourselves. We have the tendency to think that a mighty work of God would be a game changer in our lives. If we just had a sign, then we would believe. If we just saw a miracle, then we would be faithful. If we just had some piece of evidence, then we would no longer doubt. I want us to see that Jesus is performing miracles and people are not responding. Miracles do not equal automatic repentance from people. Mighty works do not create disciples.
So here is the first big consideration from our text. Do not throw away your repentance opportunity. Jesus is observing that these towns in Galilee have thrown away their repentance opportunity. They have taken what God has given to them as their chance to receive the good news and leave their slavery to sin to rejected it. Do not waste your wake up call. Do not waste your repentance moment. Do not take the work that God has done in your life, whether it be life changing in a positive way or life changing in a painful way, and throw that repentance moment away.
Will You Respond? (11:25-30)
This sad response from these towns moves Jesus to a prayer and to an invitation. Jesus’ prayer is in verses 25-27. Jesus praises the Father for the nature of the gospel message. But you might be surprised what he praises about it. Jesus says that the Father has hidden these truths from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. Then Jesus underscores this in verse 26. It was the Father’s good pleasure to do this.
God’s plan was to put the gospel in such a way so that those who are wise and intelligent in their own eyes will not respond to the message. God’s plan was to put the gospel in such a way so that the humble and insignificant would respond. Jesus opens the Sermon on the Mount by saying that those who are poor in spirit are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Why? Jesus opens with this because they are the only ones who are going to listen and receive the gospel message. God’s truths are going to stay hidden from those who are wise and intelligent in their own estimation.
I also want us to hear Jesus saying that the Father made the message this way. God has hidden these things from those who think much of themselves and has revealed it to those who do not think much of themselves. This was God’s plan. This is how God predestined people for salvation. God did not predetermine a person’s salvation or destruction against their will. But God did predetermine the heart that would be necessary to receive his salvation. Jesus is not saying that God is actively preventing the wise and intelligent from responding. We know God loved the world so that he gave his Son (John 3:16). We know that God does not want any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But the nature of the gospel requires people to look at themselves differently. The gospel message requires people to look at the world differently. The gospel message requires people to look at God differently. It is only by looking differently that we can truly see what Jesus is offering. This is why so many people could see the miracles of Jesus but not respond to his teachings. It was God’s predetermined plan for the humble to come to him. It was God’s predetermined plan for those who will not trust in themselves to enjoy eternal life. This is how the Son chose to reveal the Father and why no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (11:27).
This brings us to Jesus’ invitation in verses 28-30. Jesus has an offer for the world. Jesus has an offer for you. Everyone who is weary and burdened should come to Jesus. Everyone who is carrying heavy burdens should come to Jesus. Let me ask you if you feel tired. Do you feel like you are carrying heavy burdens in your life? All of us have those heavy life burdens. We carry the burdens of pain, suffering, loss, guilt, hurt, and sin. With each step in life, the burdens get heavier and heavier. Have you ever noticed this about carrying heavy things? You pick them up and you think you can carry them. But after you go a short distance, your arms get tired and your legs get weaker so that you have to set the burden down or hurt yourself. Jesus is making an offer to each one of us because each one of us is carrying life’s burdens and we think we can carry it ourselves. But our arms are getting tired and our legs are getting weaker. The humble see that they cannot carry the burden and need to set it down to rest. Those who are wise in their own eyes think they can carry these life burdens.
Listen to what Jesus says. Come to him with your burdens and he will give you rest. There is the word we want to hear. Jesus is offering rest. Please think about this. Rest is available. Rest is not elusive. Rest is possible. But rest is not available by pursuing the ways of the world. Rest is not available by continuing to live our lives the way we always have. What we can fail to see is that the reason we lack rest is because sin does not give rest but more burdens. Sin enslaves us all the more.
Now Jesus gives us the directions for accepting his invitation. Look at verse 29. Here is Jesus’ one direction for you to receive rest. Take his yoke and learn from him. Notice you have a decision to make. You have to take the yoke. You see that these towns where Jesus has been teaching and working miracles are refusing to take the yoke. They do not want the rest that Jesus is offering. Now I would imagine that we are resistant to the idea of a yoke. The yoke is a picture of submission. In fact, you see what Jesus means by this image in the rest of the sentence in verse 29. You are going to listen to Jesus. You are going to learn from Jesus. You are going to go where Jesus tells you go in your life. You are going to let Jesus teach you.
Why should we listen to Jesus? Why should we submit our lives to Jesus? Why should we learn from Jesus and go where he tells us to go with our lives? Jesus answers these questions. First, you should listen and learn from Jesus because Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. What does Jesus mean? Jesus is not going to hurt you. You can trust him with your life. Jesus is not a harsh master. Jesus is not going to drive us into the dirt. Jesus is not going to wear you out. Jesus is gentle. Jesus is compassionate. Jesus is humble.
Second, you should listen and learn from Jesus because this is the way you will find rest. Jesus says this at the end of verse 29. Jesus will give you the rest you are looking for. I know that it does not seem to be true. Our wisdom and intelligence tells us that Jesus is going to make life harder. But Jesus is trying to tell us that he is going to make life easier so that you can have rest. In fact, you see this in verse 30. Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Now when I say that Jesus will make your life easier, I do not want you to think I mean that following Jesus is easy. Jesus made clear that the way to life is hard and that following him requires carrying a cross. So how can Jesus say his yoke is easy and his burden is light? Why would I say that your life will be easier when the path is hard?
Here is what we often miss. The yoke of the world is hard and its burdens are heavy. Let me try to illustrate this idea in a way that will make sense in our world. Why do we like to use the GPS on our phones? Because trying to get somewhere and not knowing how to get there is stressful and hard. If I were to only give you an address to my old house in San Diego and told you to go there without a map, without a GPS, and without directions or asking for directions, do you think you could get there? If you have never been there, then there is no way you can find it. There are too many options. There are too many roads. There are too many turns. There are too many choices. You might be able to head in the general direction but you can’t make it to that destination without more information. You also cannot follow your feelings or listen to your heart to find it either. Your wisdom nor your intuition is going to work for you.
But what if I came to you and said, “I have driven this road before. Here is how to get to my house. Here are the street names to look for and here are the turns to take. Make sure to take the third right after the bend in the road. It is easy to miss but here is how you can make it safely. I did this and so you can too.” Now the journey is so much easier. Sure, it will be a long drive. Sure, there will be some difficulties along the way. But you know you can make it because you are not wandering aimlessly, trying to figure out what you need to do.
This is what Jesus is telling us. Jesus knows the Father and knows the way to his Father’s house. Jesus knows the turns you need to take in this life because he has gone the same road himself. Jesus is the map you need for life. Jesus is the GPS you need to get you home. Jesus is giving you the directions you need so that you can find rest. His way is so much easier than going the way the world tries to go. But here is the thing: you have to listen to his directions and follow them. Taking his directions and driving your own way is not going to work. You have to submit to his directions. So many of the heavy burdens we carry is because we ignored his directions because we were wise in our own eyes. Remember what Jesus said earlier. The way is hidden from those who are wise and intelligent in their own eyes. But the way is clear for those who are humble and listen to him. Come to Jesus, all of you that are tired and burdened, and he will give you rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light because he will give you the directions to go home and have rest with him for all eternity. Only Jesus can give you the rest you are looking for.