Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. 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. For
my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
There are many passages in the Bible that have been
a special source of inspiration and encouragement to
people down through the ages. The 23rd. Psalm is one
of these. The passage for our study certainly ranks
very highly on any hierarchy that we may establish of
such passages. The passage shows one of the great characteristics
of Jesus: his deep and broad capacity for compassion.
We note a number of things from this passage.
The desperate and wearied search for truth ends
with Jesus. One of the reasons that so many people
followed Jesus during his brief ministry in Galilee
is that they were desperate for the truth. They had
come to know Jesus as one who spoke with conviction
and authority. They were astonished at his teaching
for "he taught them as one having authority, and not
as the scribes" (Matthew 7:29).
The search for truth often drives the searcher to
weariness, frustration and despair. This sets the
immediate context in which Jesus makes the invitation:
the need to be free from the burdensome demands of
religion. The orthodox Jew had made religion into
a burden. Legalism had demanded that people subscribe
to a set of rules and regulations which had proven
too burdensome even for the strict Jew to adhere to.
In another instance, this hypocritical approach to
religion provoked Jesus' indignation and led to the
woes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23.
Jesus points to himself as the one to whom the
searcher for truth can come and find freedom.
The invitation is open to all; the only qualification
for coming is that one is burdened and worn out. Saint
Augustine, in his Confessions came to the great truth
that God has made us for himself and our hearts are
restless until they rest in him. It is not that Jesus
is pointing the searcher to an easy way out for he
is inviting him, paradoxically, to a new kind of burden,
one which is easy and light.
A new "yoke" of freedom is placed around the
neck of the one who finds his rest in Jesus. The
Greek word for "yoke" is chrestos which means "well-fitting."
It was a wooden harness placed around the neck of
the ox. It had to be specially made so that it could
fit neatly around the neck without causing discomfort
or abrasion. This is indicative of two realities:
Submission. Once the yoke is in place
the ox cannot have a mind of its own. It is
at the mercy of its master to be guided by him
to the task ahead. Without this submission the
ox is likely to behave in unseemly ways and
Training. The yoke helps the ox to
keep focused and to stay on a straight course.
It is thus able to dig a straight furrow. Without
the yoke and the steady hand of the farmer guiding
it, work cannot be properly accomplished.
Thus, as the searcher is yoked to the truth in Christ
he is completely surrendered in obedience to him.
If you surrender, you cannot come up with the terms
of surrender. It is only the victor who can draw up
these terms and you can only pray that he will be
merciful in what he asks. In coming to him whose yoke
is easy and burden light, we are not coming to one
who is arbitrary or capricious in his dealings with
us. He wants only what is good for the one who finds
rest in him.
By submitting to this new yoke the searcher finds
that there is a new focus and discipline in his life
which can only make for productivity. It is a productivity
of love which is the new law that Jesus places in
the heart of the surrendered. The commandment or new
law that he lays down is that the surrendered must
love others as he has loved them (John 15:12, 17).
This is not too much of a burden to keep, though often
it is made to be so. Yet this is the path of discipleship
which Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us is costly. It
involves self-denial and taking up the cross daily
For this reason, ever since I heard about your
faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love for all the
saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking the
God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father,
may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better. I pray also that
the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order
that you may know the hope to which he has called
you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the
saints, and his incomparably great power for us
In this important letter to the Ephesians, Paul is
writing to his flock with a pastorís heart. He remembers
their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for each
other. This memory is sufficient to fill a pastorís
heart with pride and thanksgiving. It is good for a
pastor to know that his work among the flock is bearing
fruit. As they grow in faithfulness and love he understands
that they are truly being equipped for ministry, which
is one of the principal duties of his office.
So Paul is grateful for their growth and so he holds
them up before his heavenly Father in prayer. He prays
basically for three things.
That they be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
The word that Paul uses here for wisdom is sophia which
means coming to a deeper understanding of God; having
a deep insight into spiritual things. He wants them
to be led into a deeper knowledge of eternal truths,
not just to be concerned about superficial things concerning
This is very important for the person who seeks for
truth. Religious truth is not easily understood nor
is it easy to transmit as some would suppose. The dawning
light of truth often comes after a long journey of exploration
and struggle. No one should be forced to accept such
ďtruthĒ but should be allowed to struggle with it and
to come to his own appreciation of it. Paulís hope is
that by gaining wisdom, the Ephesian Christians will
be led into a greater appreciation of the truth he has
taught them about God.
That they be given a fuller revelation and a fuller
knowledge of God. Our knowledge of God is never
complete and Christians should be willing to admit this.
If we can accept this in humility we will be open to
the new revelations that will be unfolded and are made
available to the one who has not closed off all routes
to knowledge. We should strive to know God better every
One of the reasons that continuing education is so important
is that no one can ever assume that they know everything.
In every area of life new knowledge and new ways of
doing things are opening every day. The person who gets
better at what he is doing: the surgeon in surgery,
the architect in architecture, the teacher in teaching,
to name a few, is the person who will subject himself
constantly to study and who has a thirst for knowledge.
He will be amply rewarded. So should it be too with
That they may know the hope to which they have been
called. In an age of pessimism Paulís prayer rings
true for the believer. It tells him that in the midst
of struggle when the odds are overwhelming and things
seem not be working out, that he can dare to believe
that there is a brighter tomorrow dawning. The hope
of the Christian is not an empty or abstract concept.
It is grounded in the belief that what God has promised
he will accomplish.
Living on that promise he does not become oblivious
of the struggles he is facing or try to escape from
them by doubtful behavior. Instead, he grounds his faith
in God and lives out that faith in expectation that
the afflictions of the hour are momentary and pale into
insignificance when compared to the glory to be revealed.
He lives in the present but hopes for a better tomorrow.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in
Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw
heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending
on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven:
"You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,
and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted
by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels
(Mark 1: 9-13).
In this brief description, Mark presents his account
of the temptation of Jesus. With the fast pace of his
presentation he does not tarry to relate the details
of the temptation. This task is left to Matthew and
Luke (Matthew 4: 1-11; Luke 4: 1-13). All the accounts
locate the temptation after the baptism of Jesus in
the Jordan. They are also in one accord that Jesus was
led by the Spirit into the wilderness and while He was
there the devil or Satan put Him to the test. In the
baptism Jesus had received the confirmation of his identity
as the Son of God. This was also confirmed on the Mount
of the Transfiguration (Mark 9: 2-9).
It is interesting to note that this testing takes place
at the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Galilee. The
temptation represents His internal struggle to come
to terms with the enormity of the task that was before
Him. The desert (or wilderness) represents a place where
He can be apart with His heavenly Father in intense
contemplation of the work ahead.
The test that He would undergo would determine whether
He was equal to the task; whether He was who He believed
Himself to be and whether He was in fact called to the
task He was to begin in Galilee and which would lead
eventually to the cross in Jerusalem.
This internal struggle is not unlike any that a person
is called upon to undergo at the beginning of any task
that can effectively transform his life for good. Often
we do not subject ourselves to this kind of intense
scrutiny and we are likely to proceed ahead not being
clear of the destination to which we are headed and
how we may get there.
In the temptation we are told that Jesus is not prepared
to take His call for granted. The aftermath of the temptation
will show that He was equal to the task. Are you equal
to the task as you meet life's tests?