Relevant Verses: Matthew 11:28-30
Leading Question: Jesus said, “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest.” Is it possible to find rest without coming to Jesus?
Jesus’ well-known rest invitation comes at the end of a record of tumultuous events. John the Baptist has been put in prison and Jesus pronounces strong judgment on some of the cities where he had been most active, including Capernaum. After all that he “commands” the weary to come to him for rest.
Question: Does one need a command to come to Jesus? Does one need to come to Jesus in order to come to God?
Comment: This invitation to rest includes three commands: “Come,” “Take,” and “Learn.” These are all commands from Jesus. But what about those who don’t know about Jesus or about God? Note, for example, this Ellen White quote about the heathen who do not know about God, and this C. S. Lewis quote about Emeth, the worshiper of the pagan god Tash, who dies and finds himself in Aslan’s kingdom.
Ellen White: Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God. – Desire of Ages, 638
C. S. Lewis: But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek. – C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, 149
Both these quotations point to a God with wide-open arms for anyone who seeks to do what is right. These are not rebels, but they have not known about the God who revealed himself in Jesus.
Question: Matthew 11:29 refers to a “yoke.” How is his idea of a yoke positive or negative?
Comment: Galatians 5:1 uses the term yoke in a negative sense, “yoke of bondage.” Yet a well-fitting yoke also allows for a more productive life. Ideally, one becomes so “comfortable” in the yoke that one is hardly aware if it.
Tangentially related to the idea of a well-fitting yoke is the concept of freedom: discipline gives freedom. Tennis players know that if they want the ball to go where they hit it, they will need discipline.
C. S. Lewis suggests that the goal of all this is a certain independence.
He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 39
The use of the phrase “law of liberty” in James 2:12 is also related the need for discipline if one wants to be free. Finally, we should refer to that astonishing passage in Galatians 5:18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not subject to the law.” This passage is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, a letter which is often used in a more libertarian way. Yet the works of the flesh listed in 5:19-21 indicate that Paul fully affirmed the value of “law”:
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Question: How can a burden be “light,” as promised in Matthew 11:30.
Comment: A shared burden is a “light” burden. Moses’ father-in-law noted that he needed to “share” his burden with others (Exodus 18:13-22). A New Testament parallel is found in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the “body of Christ”: the whole body works together in a way that virtually eliminates the burden because it is a shared burden.