The Greatest Need
When Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” even the happiest man, woman, or child is thankful for the offer. For we all bear burdens. Consider some of the burdens we bear:
We visit a couple we love and grieve when they speak most unkindly to each other. We worry about their marriage; we are burdened for our friends.
We learn that a friend or mentor in a distant place has cancer. He may not live to the end of the year.
We have a new job, helping a company improve its product. We thought we could help, and we certainly have the ability, but there are obstacles in the workplace that thwart every effort to turn things around.
For some reason you cannot seem to get a good night’s sleep. You wake up every morning burdened by near exhaustion.
Jesus bids us to come to him, that he may bear our burdens and give us rest. It is one of the sweetest promises of Scripture, but to understand it we first must see that Jesus bears a burden – a burden he explains in our passage, Matthew 11:25-30.
When Jesus promises to bear our burdens, he does so at the end of a chapter that first revealed a number of hard truths. First, in Matthew 11 Jesus said that even a true disciple can suffer doubts and struggles (11:1-15). Second, many ordinary people are blind to God’s truth and hostile to it. In Jesus’ day, many Israelites were impossible to please. God sent John the prophet and they judged him fanatical. Then God sent his Son and they rejected Jesus for having too much fun (11:16-19). Third, therefore, Jesus pronounced judgment on the towns that witnessed Jesus’ miracles yet did not believe (11:20-24).
But as he considers the unbelief of the towns of Galilee, Jesus assesses the situation from a theological perspective. Even though so many Israelites are rejecting the Kingdom, the Father remains Lord of heaven and earth because, Jesus says, he has “hidden these things from the wise and learned” (11:25). So Jesus broaches the mysterious hope of divine election – and praises the Father for it.
We might expect Jesus to lament the sin of Israel, and he does. But he also praises the Father for revealing the gospel to children and hiding it from the wise. This praise is also a confession, a declaration of God’s nature. He is the Father, but lest anyone presume upon his kindness, Jesus adds that he is “Lord of heaven and earth,” Lord of all things. As Lord, he is sovereign. He is free to reveal or to conceal “these things” as he chooses. He has not hidden everything from everyone; we would not have the Bible of the church if he had. Rather, he has hidden the meaning of his miracles and the truths of the Kingdom from “the wise.” But he has revealed the truth to “little children,” literally, to “babies” (11:25).
When Jesus’ first audience heard him mention “the wise,” they probably thought first of the Pharisees, but the wise also included any Israelite, Greek, or Roman who saw Jesus but did not believe. Today “the wise” means anyone who thinks he is self-sufficient, anyone who thinks Jesus has nothing to teach him. But babies know they depend on others. They are willing to be taught.
As one writer aptly states: “He who has pride as his mother cannot have God as his Father.” Here the language is borrowed from Cyprian, the early church leader, who said, “He cannot have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”
As Proverbs 3:34 (cf. James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5) states, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Do you want to become a son or daughter of the heavenly Father? You must become childlike in faith, trust, and dependence. You must become like a newborn; yes, you must become, as it were, born again.
Join us this week as we begin a brief series on “The Greatest Invitation Ever Given.” We start the series by asking the question, ‘What is our greatest need?’ Bring someone along with you as we study Matthew 11:25-30.