Come Unto Me (Matthew 11:25-30)
Guest post by David M. Freeman
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:25-30
We all, as finite human beings, experience our own limitations every day. We all have our limits. Our strength runs out. We’re asked a question we can’t answer. We face a problem we can’t solve. What do we do when this happens? Do we dig in and try harder? Do we hope things will be better tomorrow? Do we give up?
When we’re running low on our own resources, Jesus tells us to come to him. When we’re exhausted, Jesus promises rest. But what does this mean? This morning I hope to help us understand this command, and to help us respond in faith to this invitation.
In the context of this passage, Jesus is remarking on the fact that many had rejected his teachings despite his many miraculous works. But Jesus turns to his Father and affirms that his Father is in complete control despite outward appearances. Because so many people were rejecting his message, it may have seemed that Jesus was failing to live up to his role as Messiah. But, in fact, we learn in Verses 25-26 that the Father was actively and sovereignly at work through his Son Jesus both to hide truth from those who would consider themselves wise and to reveal truth to those who recognized that they were but infants in their understanding of the mysteries of God.
And then, in Verse 27, we hear Jesus declare, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father.” Not only is the Father in sovereign control of all that was happening in the ministry of Jesus, but Jesus himself had been vested with all power and authority by the Father. He was no failure. He was not at the mercy of unbelieving men. He had not failed to enact his Father’s plan despite his best efforts. No, he was living in perfect unity with the Father and was fully able to reveal the Father to whomsoever he would.
And finally, having provided us a window into the perfect unity between Father and Son, Matthew records the command of Jesus: “Come unto me.” And of course this command is also an invitation. An invitation to approach and be received by the Christ into whose hand all things have been delivered by the Father, the Christ uniquely able to impart true knowledge of the Father. And those who obey this command and respond in faith to this invitation are promised that they will find rest for their souls.
1- The Sovereign Father 2- The Sufficient Son 3- The Sensible Response
The Sovereign Father (11:25-26)
How do we respond to rejection? The experience of rejection can be painful and therefore can elicit a strong response. Perhaps you’ve even experienced something similar to the rejection that Jesus was experiencing: you were attempting to be a faithful witness and serve others by speaking the truth in love. But despite your sincere and perhaps even sacrificial efforts, your witness was rejected. Instead of being appreciated you were argued against, shunned, scorned, or worse. If you’ve shared the gospel with others, it’s likely you’ve experienced some such form of rejection along the way. In fact, Paul teaches in 2 Timothy 3:12 that we should expect some form of persecution if we are attempting to live a godly life in this ungodly world. And, of course, being rejected as we bear witness for Christ is an example of this.
So then, how have we responded to the rejection we’ve experienced? Perhaps this has happened in your workplace, among family members, at school, among friends, or on social media. How have you responded?
This is certainly an area of life in which we experience our own limitations. We can be worn down quite quickly by the experience of rejection. Perhaps such rejection makes you feel like giving up and never trying to share the gospel again. Perhaps we complain to God about how tough it is to point people to the truth without knowing in advance how people will respond. Do we grow angry and respond to hostility with hostility of our own? Or perhaps we try to find relief in a season of self pity?
We may respond to rejection in ways that are unhealthy, unhelpful, and even sinful. But, how did Jesus respond to rejection? He was dedicating his life to the faithful fulfillment of his Father’s will, and yet many rejected everything he taught and lived for. How did he respond? Was he dejected to the point of giving up on the work he was sent to do? Or did anger move him to utterly turn his back on sinful humanity? Did he yield to despondency and despair? What sort of response does Matthew record in this passage?
In this passage, Matthew records Jesus responding to rejection in the same way he would respond throughout his ministry, even when those who rejected his message demanded his crucifixion. Peter describes this response 1 Peter 2:23, where he writes that Jesus, “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” Instead of seeking personal vengeance, Jesus committed himself to his Father by affirming his confidence in his Father’s sovereignty and in his Father’s wisdom. And again, in one of the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah in which he prophecies of the coming Messiah, the response of Jesus to rejection is described as we read, “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:5-7). Jesus did not yield to despair or give up. He knew that his Father would help him, and he set his face like a flint to continue down the path of obedience. Despite outward appearances, he knew his efforts would not be in vain.
I am dwelling on this point because I want to encourage any of you who are feeling discouraged by whatever rejection you are experiencing as you minister to others in the name of Jesus. This can make us very weary! The experience of rejection and the appearance of failure can be a heavy burden to bear! Perhaps you are a pastor serving a church. Perhaps you are a parent raising your children. Perhaps you’re engaged in evangelistic outreach of some sort. In whatever way we are bearing witness to Christ, it may be the case that our efforts seem to make very little difference! In fact, sometimes it may feel like our efforts have made things worse instead of better! How are we to respond?
We must respond the same way Jesus responded. We must look to the same Father to whom Jesus looked. We must commit ourselves to his care, we must be confident that he will help us, we must persevere in obedience knowing that we shall not be put to shame! In whatever way we are laboring to obey God through faith in Jesus Christ, our labor is not in vain! Don’t look at yourself or your circumstances for strength. Look to the Lord of heaven and earth.
And look further at the example of Jesus: He not only rejected the temptation to complain about the stubborn unbelief of many to whom he was preaching, but he actually thanked his Father for the way his ministry was progressing! He prayed, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth” He expressed zero doubt that his Father was on his throne and he was thankful for this reality. By addressing his Father in this way, Jesus expresses his certainty that everything he was experiencing - including all the difficulties and heartache - were part of his Father’s plan.
Moreover, Jesus knew that his Father wasn’t merely making the best of a bad situation. No, his Father was actively orchestrating all things according to the pleasure of his own will! Even as many reject and scorn his message, Jesus exclaims, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The Father’s plan was not held captive to the will of sinful men. No, Jesus addresses his Father in the same manner Paul describes him in Ephesians 1:11, as the one “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
But let’s consider what this means. How could this situation be part of the Father’s plan? Well, we must not take this the wrong way. To say that it is the Father’s good pleasure to hide truth from hardened sinners is not to say that God takes some sort of sadistic pleasure in doing so. In fact, we read in Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” And yet, God is certainly willing to sentence the wicked to death in satisfaction of his justice. And in so doing God is glorified and his Son is vindicated!
But if all this was part of God’s plan, were those who rejected Christ still personally accountable for their sin? Yes, we are all personally accountable for all the sins that we commit. We cannot blame our sins on his sovereignty, for, as James teaches, “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” And yet it was according to the Father’s good purpose that the truth of the gospel was hidden from those Jesus calls “the wise and prudent.” In other words, it pleased the Father through the ministry of his Son to strike blind those who boasted that they could see. It is just as Jesus said in John 9:39, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” And, once again, these “wise and prudent” and “they which see” seem to be the same people as those spoken of in Luke 5:31-32, where Jesus proclaims, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
And so, let me pause to ask: Do you consider yourself whole this morning, apart from the healing power of Jesus? Do you consider yourself righteous on the basis of your own merits? Do you take comfort in your own wisdom and prudence, and boast of your ability to see things as they truly are? If so, it is no wonder that you cannot see Jesus for who he truly is. It is no wonder that his teaching seems foolish to you. Jesus did not come to save those already righteous, to heal those already whole, to give sight to those who can already see, or to teach those already wise and prudent. No, according to Jesus, it is the Father’s good pleasure to hide truth from those who believe themselves to be sufficient apart from Jesus.
But the main point I am making is this: If you, like Jesus, speak truth in love and in the power of the Holy Spirit only to have it rejected by those who prefer their own wisdom to that of God, then you, like Jesus, can take refuge in the reality that God’s plans are not hindered by such unbelief. You are witnessing the judgment of the Father upon those hardened in their sin.
But, at the same time, we must be careful as we draw parallels between experiences we may have with the experiences of Jesus. In particular, we must keep in mind that we are not Jesus. When Jesus spoke truth, he spoke it perfectly. He spoke it with perfect love for his Father and perfect love for his neighbor. He mixed no unnecessary offense with his message, and therefore those who rejected his words were wholly in the wrong while Jesus was wholly in the right. This cannot always be said of us. It is all too easy to mix too much of our own personality and opinion in with the message of the Gospel. It is all too easy to speak truth with a condescending tone, with harsh impatience, or while living a blatantly hypocritical lifestyle. And so, to whatever extent we sin even while attempting to speak truth, we ought not blame the consequences of our sin on the purpose of the Father. It may be that our message is not rightly received simply because our message was not rightly communicated. And so we must pray for the Spirit’s help as we attempt to live and speak in such a way that communicates the truth of Jesus to the world around us!
Nevertheless, to whatever extent we do faithfully represent Christ, even if our witness is rejected, we can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.” It is a sobering reality on display when people perish in willful ignorance of the knowledge of Christ - but even in such judgment of sinners God is causing us to triumph in Christ as Christ is vindicated by God despite Christ’s rejection by men.
But, while the Father hides truth from the wise and prudent, Jesus declares that his Father reveals the truth to babes. That is, to infants. As we’ve already read, Jesus came into this world that those who see not might see, that those who are sick might be healed, that sinners might be brought to repentance. Yes, the Father sovereignly hides truth from those who reject Christ while boasting in their own wisdom, but he also sovereignly reveals truth to those who receive Christ apart from any claim to their own merit or entitlement.
If you are looking to Christ rather than yourself this morning, this is a beautiful truth! And it is this truth to which Jesus seems to return in verses 28-30. And we will return to this teaching when we consider those verses in light of verse 27. For it is in verse 27 that we read of
The Sufficient Son (11:27)
In Verse 27, Jesus follows his affirmation of his Father’s sovereignty by also affirming his own. Jesus tells us that his Father has delivered all things into his hand. Jesus lacks nothing he would need to accomplish the work he came here to do. He lacks no power. He lacks no authority. He lacks no skill or wisdom. And, in particular, he lacks no knowledge of the Father.
This last point is important, for the scripture teaches that Jesus came into the world to speak on behalf of the Father (Hebrews 1:2), and that he came to make known the God who cannot be seen by human eyes (John 1:18). Here in Verse 27, Jesus is affirming that he is fully qualified and equipped to accomplish these aspects of his earthly mission. The Father is the only one who fully knows the Son, and the Son is the only one who fully knows the Father. In other words, the Father and Son exist in uniquely perfect knowledge of one another. Therefore, Jesus is uniquely able to make the Father known to mankind.
Jesus also emphasizes that he is uniquely able to grant access to the Father in John 14:6, where he declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Put another way, one cannot claim to know God apart from knowing Christ, for Christ teaches in John 6:45, “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” There is no true knowledge of the Father apart from true knowledge of the Son.
And note also, Jesus says that he makes the Father known to “whomsoever he will.” This is also important, because it clarifies the fact that the purpose of Jesus in his earthly ministry was perfectly aligned with the purpose of the Father. In other words, those to whom Christ would reveal the Father are precisely those to whom the Father is pleased to reveal Christ. Do you see this? Verses 25-26 teach us that the Father is sovereign in revealing the Son, and Verse 27 teaches that the Son is sovereign in revealing the Father. This means that if the Father is pleased to reveal spiritual truth to someone, so is the Son. If the Son is pleased to reveal spiritual truth to someone, so is the Father.
The point is that the Father and Son were at work in perfect unity through the earthly ministry of Jesus. Jesus did not attempt to save people while wondering if his Father would make his efforts effective. No, Jesus was able to save each and every one he attempted to save - because he labored in perfectly unity with the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth.
This is why I am saying that this verse teaches us the sufficiency of the Son. The authority he received from his Father, the knowledge he had of his Father, and the unity of purpose he shared with the Father was sufficient to ensure that Christ could and would accomplish the work he came to accomplish.
Before moving on to our last point, I want to connect Verse 27 with another statement Jesus makes about himself later in the Gospel of Matthew. In particular, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus declares, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” In Matthew 11:27, Jesus teaches that he is able to accomplish the work he has been sent to do because the Father has given him all things. Here, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus teaches that we are able to accomplish the work we have been sent to do because the Father has given him all things. Christ is sufficient not only to accomplish his own work, but to enable us to accomplish ours! We are sent forth to make disciples of all nations precisely because all power has been given to the Son by the Father. Jesus is indicating that the power by which he was able to accomplish the Father’s will is the same power that makes us able to accomplish the Father’s will. Of course, we are not Jesus and we fall far short of his perfect obedience in so many ways. And yet, to whatever extent we by faith attempt to embrace our Father’s will, we can be confident that the power of God is at work in and through us. Is this not what Jesus taught when he said to his disciples in John 20:21, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”
Jesus was sufficient to accomplish his own work, and through his sufficiency we are enabled to accomplish ours. Having considered the sovereign Father and the sufficient Son, we are now ready to consider the only sensible response to these truths.
The Sensible Response (11:28-30)
Consider what Jesus is commanding when he commands, “Come unto me.” Yes, he is commanding us to come to the one who has been rejected by the majority of mankind. But he is also commanding us to come to the one unto whom his Father has delivered all things. He is commanding us to come to the one who is uniquely able to reveal the Father to mankind.
The reason I say that we are considering the “sensible” response to the truths of Verses 25-27 is that if Verses 25-27 are true, then why would we not come to Christ despite whatever obstacles may lie in our way? If God has graciously given us even a mere glimpse of the sufficiency of Christ, how can we refrain from coming to him? To come to Christ is the only sensible response to the knowledge of Christ. It is the only sane response!
But who does Christ indicate will take this command to heart? Who will actually come? In light of the sovereignty of the Father as seen in verses 25-26, it seems fitting to answer this question at least in part by quoting John 6:37, where Jesus teaches, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” All those ordained by God to eternal life are those who come to Christ. Those chosen in accordance with the sovereign will of God come to Christ.
But, in giving this command and issuing this invitation, how does Jesus describe those to whom he speaks? He speaks to those who “labor and are heavy laden.” This fits very well with what we’ve already been considering. One who is laboring under the burden of a heavy load may be one to whom God is revealing that their own strength is insufficient. If so, this person is like the spiritually thirsty to whom Jesus spoke in John 7:37, when he cried out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” This one is like the spiritually hungry to whom Jesus spoke in John 6:35 when he taught, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger.” If, as you labor and struggle under your burdens, God is making you aware that you need his help, then you are among the blind to whom Jesus promised sight, the sick Jesus came to heal, the sinners Jesus called to repentance, the infants Jesus came to make wise.
So then, are you weary? Are you laboring under a heavy burden? For what are you laboring and why is it wearing you out? What is it that threatens to crush you under its weight? Are you laboring for peace? Not just a feeling of peace within your own mind and heart, but peace with God? Does this seem an impossible goal? Why? It may seem impossible because it is impossible to find peace with God by our own means! The weight of our sin is a soul-crushing weight. Our own labor will never suffice to bridge the gulf between sinful man and God in his holiness.
So what are we to do? Where are we to turn? There may be a thousand voices crying out for your attention and promising solutions. You may be distracted by a multitude of dangers and difficulties. Your mind may be abuzz with anxieties and uncertainties as you try to make it through one more day while feeling yourself sink under seemingly inescapable guilt and a growing sense of futility. But you must hear one voice above all others - you must hear Christ as he commands, “Come unto me.” And you must come! For Christ and only Christ can give you rest! Only Christ can lift the burden of sin from off of your back and bridge the infinite gap between you and God!
But what does it mean to come to Christ? It means to believe his word. It means to trust his ability to save you from God’s wrath and reconcile you to God. It means to repent of sin and learn his ways.
And it is important to notice what Jesus does not say, “Come to me, and earn your rest.” No, the rest given by Christ is a gift freely given. To come to Christ is to receive his grace, not to prove our merit. In this command, Jesus is indicating that the reason we come to Christ is that we have come to the end of ourselves and have realized our utter lack of merit! Jesus speaks to the exhausted, the worn out, the desperate! Is that you? Then come to him!
And as we come, Jesus commands, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” To come to Christ is to take his yoke upon your shoulders. This imagery of a yoke calls to mind oxen pulling a plow through a field or pulling a cart down a road. A single yoke would join two oxen in order to labor together. When you take the yoke of Christ upon yourself, you are placing yourself side by side with Christ to labor together. And so, to take the yoke of Christ is to engage in eternally worthwhile labor alongside Christ in the service of God. And, in laboring alongside Christ, we learn about the heart of Christ. We experience and are changed by his meekness and lowliness. His gentleness and humility.
And what will happen as a result? We will find rest for our souls! So then there is a two-fold rest promised to those who come to Christ. There is the initial gift of rest given to those who come to him in faith, and there is a continual discovery of further rest as we labor at his side in the Kingdom of our Father.
Thus the rest promised by Jesus is not an absence of activity. No, the rest we find in Christ is found while we labor and learn. And Jesus explains that this is possible “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You see there is a difference between the work done by a pair of oxen and work done by a Christian alongside Christ. The two oxen bear their burden in equal measure. Thus they must both contribute essentially the same amount of effort to accomplish their task. But when we labor alongside Christ, he is the one who provides all the power, all the strength. And remember, the Father has delivered all things to his Son. Therefore, Jesus will never run short of whatever it takes to help us accomplish our Father’s will. Is this not what Jesus teaches in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Jesus does not expect us to live the Christian life in our own strength! So don’t try!
In this sense, the yoke of Christ is easy! It is easy in the sense that everything we need to live the Christian life is supplied by our Savior Jesus. The burden we carry in the service of God is light because the strength we need to bear this burden is found in Christ.
Have you come to the end of yourself? And have you come to Christ? If so, don’t lose heart as you labor alongside your Lord! Does his yoke seem hard? His burden heavy? It’s true that the Christian life can be hard to live, but this is not because the yoke of Christ is hard! The Christian life is hard only because of the sin around us and the sin within us. The yoke of Christ helps us overcome the sin around us, and the sin within us. And so the more fully we bear his yoke, the more fully we will enter into his promised rest. Don’t be deceived. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Continue to learn of Christ, and find rest for your souls.
If you have not yet come to Christ, then come. Stop looking to yourself and your own limited resources - they will never be enough! Come to Christ. Believe his word. Believe that he is the all-sufficient Son of God, the only one who can grant true knowledge of the Father. Believe that he is the Savior of sinners. Trust his ability to save you from your sin, and to reconcile you to God. Repent of your sin and learn his ways. Receive his gracious gift of rest.