Scripture: Matthew 11:25-30 (alternate reading: Matthew 8:1-4)
25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Meditation: Do you want to know the mind and heart of God? Jesus thanks the Father in heaven for revealing to his disciples the wisdom and knowledge of God. What does Jesus' prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father and Lord of earth as well as heaven. He is both Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and at the same time, goodness and loving care for all his children. All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15).
Pride - the root of sin
Jesus' prayer also contains a warning that pride can keep us from the love and knowledge of God. What makes us ignorant and blind to the things of God? Certainly intellectual pride, coldness of heart, and stubbornness of will shut out God and his kingdom. Pride is the root of all vice and the strongest influence propelling us to sin. It first vanquishes the heart, making it cold and indifferent towards God. It also closes the mind to God's truth and wisdom for our lives. What is pride? It is the inordinate love of oneself at the expense of others and the exaggerated estimation of one's own knowledge and importance.
Simplicity of heart
Jesus contrasts intellectual pride with child-like simplicity and humility. The simple of heart are like "infants" in the sense that they see purely and simply without any pretense or falsehood. They instinctlively recognize their utter dependence and reliance on those who are stronger, wiser, and more capable of giving them what they need to live and grow. Those who are truly simple of heart seek the one thing alone that can sustain us in good times and hard times and in every circumstance of life - the "summum bonum" or "greatest good" who is God himself.
Simplicity of heart is wedded with humility, the queen of virtues, because humility inclines the heart towards truth and grace - the favor and help freely given by one who is all-giving, gracious, and kind towards us. Just as pride is the root or every sin and evil, so humility is the only soil in which the grace and favor of God can take root. It alone takes the right attitude before God and allows him as God to do all - all the good that he wishes to do for us for our own benefit and welfare. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). Only the humble in heart can receive the wisdom which comes from God and and the understanding of God's perfect goodness and plan for our lives. Do you trust in God with your whole heart and submit to his wisdom and plan for your life?
Jesus makes a claim which no one would have dared to make - he is the perfect revelation of God because he has been with the Father before all creation and time existed. He and the Father are united in an inseparable bond of love and unity. That is why Jesus alone can truly reveal the fulness of God's mind and heart and purpose for our lives. One of the greatest truths of God's revelation and our Christian faith is that we can know the one true and living God. Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing some things about God and his nature, but we can know God personally because God desires to be closely united with each one of us in a bond of love through his Son, Jesus Christ.. The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and all other religions, is the personal knowledge of God as our Father - the one, true and eternal Father who knew us before we were knitted in our mother's womb. Jesus makes it possible for each one of us to have a personal direct relationship and experiential knowledge of God as our loving and gracious Father.
To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God - a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of sacrificing his only begotten Son who freely gave up his life for our sake on the cross. Paul the Apostle tells us that Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). He is the perfect revelation of God - a God who loves us totally, unconditionally, and without reservation. What can separate us from the love of God? Only our own stubborn pride, willfulness, and rebellious attitude towards God and his will for our lives.
Jesus makes an incredible promise to those who acknowledge him as their Lord and Savior. If we pray in his name - the name Jesus means God saves - then the Father in heaven will hear us as if his only begotten Son was speaking to him directly. That is the unity, blessing, and promise he wishes for each one of us. And that is why we have the confidence and boldness to pray as Jesus taught his disciples, Our Father who art in heaven... give us this day our daily bread, and deliver us from temptation. Do you pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence in his perfect love and care for you?
The sweet yoke of Jesus
What does the yoke of Jesus refer to in the Gospel (Matthew 11:29)? The Jews used the image of a yoke to express submission to God. They spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of the kingdom, the yoke of God. Jesus says his yoke is "easy". The Greek word for "easy" can also mean "well-fitting". Yokes were tailor-made to fit the oxen well. We are commanded to put on the "sweet yoke of Jesus" and to live the "heavenly way of life and happiness".
Jesus also says his "burden is light". There's a story of a man who once met a boy carrying a smaller crippled lad on his back. "That's a heavy load you are carrying there," exclaimed the man. "He ain't heavy; he's my brother!" responded the boy. No burden is too heavy when it's given in love and carried in love. Jesus offers us a new kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. In his kingdom sins are not only forgiven but removed, and eternal life is poured out for all its citizens. This is not a political kingdom, but a spiritual one.
The weight of glory and yoke of freedom
The yoke of Christ's kingdom, his kingly rule and way of life, liberates us from the burden of guilt and from the oppression of sin and hurtful desires. Only Jesus can lift the burden of sin and the weight of hopelessness from us - and give us a weight of love and glory in exchange. Jesus used the analogy of a yoke to explain how we can exchange the burden of sin and despair for a burden of glory and yoke of freedom from sin. The yoke which Jesus invites us to embrace is his way of grace and freedom from the power of sin. Do you trust in God's love and submit to his will and plan for your life?
"Lord Jesus, give me the child-like simplicity and purity of faith to gaze upon your face with joy and confidence in your all-merciful love. Remove every doubt, fear, and proud thought which would hinder me from receiving your word with trust and humble submission."
5 They crush thy people, O LORD, and afflict thy
6 They slay the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;
7 and they say, "The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive."
8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?
9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?
10 He who chastens the nations, does he not chastise? He who teaches men knowledge,
14 For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The grace of Christ bears us up, from an anonymous early Christian teacher
"'My yoke is easy and my burden light'... The prophet says this about the burden of sinners: 'Because my iniquities lie on top of my head, so they have also placed a heavy burden on me' (Psalm 38:4)... 'Place my yoke upon you, and learn from me that I am gentle and humble of heart.' Oh, what a very pleasing weight that strengthens even more those who carry it! For the weight of earthly masters gradually destroys the strength of their servants, but the weight of Christ rather helps the one who bears it, because we do not bear grace; grace bears us. It is not for us to help grace, but rather grace has been given to aid us." (excerpt from the INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 29: PG 56:780)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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