Matthew 11:25–30: ‘Come’
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on . It is the first of two talks on Matthew 11:25–30.
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At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘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.’
You’ll be grateful to hear that it won’t be the whole of Matthew chapter 11, just the last five verses. Verse 25. “At that time, Jesus said, I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things that’d been committed to me by my Father.
“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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.”
Have you ever woken from a dream and wondered, “What on earth was that all about?” Or maybe you’re watching a film, or a TV program, or listening to something on the radio scratching your head wondering how it all fits together. Or perhaps, gentlemen, you’re a bit like me and you’re listening to a conversation to a lady, perhaps your wife or your mother, and you’re really tuned into what they’re saying. Then partway through, they change the topic and you’re left bewildered.
How on earth is it that they can change conversational topic in mid-sentence? How is it that women can do it and the other women get it as well, but us chaps can’t? They might be talking about a loaf of bread in one second, then in the next, they’re really annoyed because you’re not keeping up with the conversation, because now they’re talking about how Great Auntie Betty’s leg still hasn’t healed despite putting that poultice on it? How is it that these wonderful ladies in our lives can switch from one conversation to the next in one fell swoop, and expect us to understand their pattern of thinking?
Is it, I wonder, because women can multitask? Well, I think Matthew 11 as a whole is a little bit like that. Somewhere along the line, Matthew has decided to compile his gospel, but this chapter seems to be a pile of different things that aren’t linked together. If you know anything about preachers, they like to put things into context. This means they like talking around the subject that they’re going to talk about before they talk about it.
They want their listeners to understand why on earth Matthew is talking about children, praying and coming to God and learning from him, and yokes and burdens. If you scan through Matthew 11, there seems to be nothing that really links together, nothing that hints towards “Come to me if you’re weak and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11 is about John the Baptist and John wondering about whether Jesus really is the Messiah. It’s about Jesus speaking about John the Baptist, telling people that he was the forerunner to Jesus. It’s about Jesus seemingly having a rant about two cities that He knows well, where He preached in the past, and in spite of the remarkable things that had happened, the people remained bent on going in their own way.
I wonder whether these things are knit together in Matthew 11 because it talks about the Old Testament, and it talks about not really being sure about who Jesus was. Then at the end of the chapter, we get Jesus praying, which turns into an invitation about His listeners, about struggle and pain, and Him being able to offer them rest for their troubled souls.
Matthew 11 harks back to the Old Testament, and here, there’s something new. We know that the gospel of Matthew is written mainly for a Jewish audience, offering evidence that Jesus was the one who’d been promised centuries ago. The original five books of the Old Testament known as the Torah were given to the prophet Moses. This is what the Jewish faith was built upon, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Just as God had given Moses the old covenant, the old law, so He gives the new covenant, the new promises, this new way, through the new Moses, Jesus the one to whom Moses pointed forward.
The Jewish readers would’ve been taught what to believe. “Know the scriptures”, they would have been told. “Know the scriptures and be spiritually mature.” That’s why wisdom and knowledge in the Jewish world was so, so important. To know the whole Old Testament was to be a learned and especially spiritual person. To know the whole Old Testament would be to be there with God. For those who didn’t know or those who perhaps weren’t allowed to know because they were not of the Jewish faith, because they were gentiles, would have meant disdain or to have people look down upon you.
This is why there’s often great shock in the gospels when Jesus touches lepers, or speaks to women, or does miraculous miracles towards people who aren’t God’s chosen people. If you don’t know the right stuff, then you can’t come to God was the inference, but knowledge, wisdom, that’s the way. That’s the way to God according to many in the Old Testament.
Then, at the end of Matthew 11, Jesus slices through all of this with a stroke. At that time, Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children.” It’s almost kind of Jesus saying, “There’s a bit of a laugh, God, that you’re having here, aren’t you? Because it’s not to the learned, it’s to everybody. It’s to everybody. Yes, Father, this was your good pleasure. All things that have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except my Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” In this prayer, Jesus seems to be saying that perhaps very little of this scholarly knowledge really matters. What He’s saying here is that to come to Him requires to be like a child.
What Jesus is saying is that coming to God is actually quite a simple act. Coming to God requires a relationship like that of a good father to his child. Father and Son. Simply following Jesus didn’t fit with the complicated theories about God. As Tom Wright says, “As a result, Jesus had come to see that He Himself was acting as a window onto the living God.”
Last week, we looked at a number of photographs on the screen of many children who we know and are linked to our congregation. Some going to new classes, some going to new schools. Proud parents sharing their pictures on Facebook about how their children looked on that first day of school. Here in Matthew, we have perhaps a similar picture of Father God having a positive and deep relationship with His child. “That’s my boy.”
The Son reciprocating that loving relationship in return. The Son praising His Father. That all the background knowledge in Matthew 11 was in effect of less significance perhaps compared to what He was about to say. “Come to me. Like little children, come to me. Be with me. Come.”
I put this chapter into a bit of context today because we’re going to be looking at these famous verses this week and next. Now we understand a bit of the background, the context of Matthew 11. Here’s the heart of the message. Jesus says to everyone, not just to the Jewish people, not just to the learned, not just to those who have perhaps got it in their heads. Jesus says to everyone, “Come. Come to me.” We’ll be looking at verse 29 and verse 30 next week in more detail. For now, Jesus invites His listeners in this moment to come to Him.
Just two thoughts, really. Why should we come and when do we come? Why should we come to Jesus? Well, firstly it’s because it’s an open invitation. Invitations of this magnitude should be seriously considered. An invitation to come into the very presence of the creator God, without fear of being smited. To come as you are. To give something that is of worth, that is, your worship. To be a child in God’s presence.
Why should we come? Because we’ve been invited and because we can. When do we accept this invitation? We were talking earlier about how precious time is, and so when do we come to God and under what circumstances? When we are weary and burdened is what Jesus says here. When you need to rest. When you have come to the end of your tether and you’ve got nothing else to give. When you’re fed up and the world is against you.
All the knowledge and wisdom in the world comes to naught if you don’t come to the one who can refresh and restore. All the knowledge of the Old Testament can’t help if you don’t accept this invitation to come. Isaiah chapter 40 highlights this. “Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The eternal, the everlasting God, the creator of the whole world, never, never gets tired or weary.” His wisdom is beyond understanding. God strengthens the weary and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
Young people will get tired. Strapping young men will stumble and fall, but those who trust in the eternal one will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run. Never winded, never weary. They will walk. Never tired, never faint. We hear all the time about ‘me’ time, looking forward to perhaps going on holidays to recharge the batteries. Why? Because we give ourselves permission to stop. We anticipate slowing down to appreciate again those important things in life.
I suggest that many of us aren’t very good at staying when Jesus invites us to come to Him. What then? When we come to Jesus, do we get a spiritual shot in the arm and then go out again? Psalm 23 suggests that, as the Good Shepherd, God invites us to rest, to abide, just to be, to enjoy his company. The word company is from two Latin words, cum, to share, and panis, which means bread. Come to share bread. Enjoy God’s company, and indeed one another’s. Not eating on the go.
Communion this morning, t he act of sharing bread, was deliberately slow and reflective so that we could take time with Jesus in our inner beings. Coming to Jesus can be something we do immediately. Remaining in his presence and living there is something totally, totally different. That’s where the relationship is best formed, in the slow.
Why do we enjoy the company, the presence of our favourite person? Because we love being with them. We enjoy their presence. We have a relationship with them. Those times perhaps when we just sit, maybe even unspoken time, sat at home together. Perhaps on a long journey when nothing is said. That companionable moment. Perhaps even that time when you hold the hand of somebody in silence at the hospital bed. Words don’t often need to be said, but the presence of somebody needs to be felt.
That’s the deepness. That’s the deepness of the ‘come’ that Jesus invites us to hear. That simple invitation to spend time with someone who deeply cares about you. Just you, right here, right now. In this moment, we begin to be present with ourselves and our God. That being, that remaining, that sense of breathing deeply and centring ourselves again does wonders for the soul because we’re human beings designed to come to Jesus.
So, be. Be. It’s okay. It’s primarily what you’re designed for, to be with Jesus. Why do we come to Jesus? Because there’s an open invitation from the creator God, who knows you and who wants to be present in this moment with you, and would love you to remain in His presence. When do we come to Jesus? Whenever you want to. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere. However you feel, or however close to God you think you are or you think you aren’t.
Come as someone who is happy and you’ve got everything worked out in life. Come if life is just plodding along. Here, Jesus invites you to come especially when you’re low, or depressed and sad and can’t go on. In those desperate times, when we’re burned out, when we don’t know where to go, when we are at the end of that road and we don’t know what else to do. Don’t go. Come.
God is for you. God doesn’t operate from a points or merit system, where if you know stuff, He likes more, or if you do stuff, that pleases Him, or if you store up points, you get to be on God’s side. That’s not good news. The good news is that in your moments of greatest despair, failure, or sin, or weakness, or loss, or frustration, or inability, or helplessness, or wandering, or faltering, God meets you there. He meets you in that place, when you come, in that moment, and He announces that He is on your side. He invites you to come.
I guess some of us are thinking, “Yes, but what about my …, my illness, what about my debt issues, what about my bitterness, or my loneliness, or my OCD, or my jealousy, or my exhaustion, or my sleeplessness, or my fears?” They all matter so much to God. They all matter so much to the God who loves you, so come, just as you are, warts and all.
Tell him about it. Trust him with these things. If none of the above apply and you just want to come, if you don’t know Jesus but would like to, perhaps, dip your toe in the water, then come. If you’re in a good place in the world, all as it should be, great. Come. Please, come. Don’t just come, but why not stay? Why not rest awhile? Come and rest. Come and rest and become unburdened. Please don’t leave here today in the same condition as you came. Come. Come closer. Receive the good things that our loving God has for you.
Next week, we’ll be looking more about the effect that coming to Jesus has, how we might learn from Him as we come to Him. For now, let’s focus our minds on Jesus. In the silence, let us come. As we draw our service to a close, you might want to remain seated enjoying that moment with Jesus, and that’s fine. You might want to talk to him in the quietness of your heart and pour out what you need to confide to him.
If you want to pray with someone, find someone you trust and let them hear what you have to say. There’s a loving Father God who wants to spend good company with you. Sometimes, that company is found in the presence of another follower of Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus, then come. He already knows you anyway, so why not get to know him a little more? Take that time now. There’s no hurry to leave.
Our final hymn can be sung as a prayer. You may wish to stand as a declaration. You may wish to sit and read or listen to the words and make it your prayer. You may want to stand partway through when you feel that you’ve done business with God. You may want to stand in God’s presence or to receive a prayer. Whatever is right for you in this moment, come.
The service closed with Just as I am. The hymn was written by Charlotte Elliot in 1835 , the final verse is taken from another of her hymns, published the following year. Her original words are:
Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
– O Lamb of God, I come!
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Scripture quotations marked NIVUK are from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.