Today I thought we would do something a little different than we usually do. I thought we would perform a commentary on a certain aspect of scripture, almost like an expository sermon. I feel like we as Christians need to hear this message specifically, not because we don’t know it, but because we don’t actually practice it.
When I was a child, my grandmother would sing a couple of old hymns as I fell to sleep. One of my favorites was and has always been, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” As a child, some of these hymns are seemingly inapplicable as our parents are always around to understand, take care of us, and mitigate any situation (hopefully). It isn’t until we’re adults that we have to choose the matter of giving everything to God and Christ to handle in exchange for submission or to try and get there, wherever ‘there’ is, all on our own. We’re going to take a look into the main passage where this hymn comes from-the whole thing- and see exactly how much Jesus meant this statement and, more importantly, what does burdened and heavy ladened mean?
Matthew 11 starts off with an interesting introduction, John the Baptist-the same one who heralded the coming of Christ- sends a message to the Messiah saying “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?”(V. 2, CSB) Many theologians even today seem to think John the Baptist had his doubts; however, I don’t think he ever doubted Christ being the Messiah, He simply became confused about the Messiah’s mission. Sitting in a bleak jail cell as a political prisoner tends to make one ask God to do something. He was hoping in his own mortality that Christ would actually be that political leader that was going to have victory for the Jews, probably to get out of prison.
Christ answered him in a way that didn’t answer his human anxieties at all, He said “Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me”(V.4-6), I believe Christ added that last one to strengthen John personally. But Christ answered him in a way to show John how God works, not how humans want God to work.
We’re going to skip down a few verses to verse 25, after Christ had sent word back to John, after He preached to the crowd about who John was, and after he condemned the cities that didn’t put their faith in him even after the miracles that were performed.
So what does He do all of this? He talks to His father and thanks him and we learn some interesting facts about their relationship but it can also help us understand our relationship with the Godhead better as well. Christ prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants.Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.
We see that the Father and Son know all things together as they are the same, but more interesting is this wealth of information that we see about God’s plan. If you are wise in earthly wisdom and rely on yourself, God won’t reveal salvation to you. It is almost a waste. How can one trust in Christ completely if they rely on themselves and their wisdom? Second, we realize in the last verse that the Son chooses to reveal the Father to whom He wants. This is a choice by the Son and only by the Son. So if you’re sitting here reading this today and you know salvation, then you should feel very blessed with the knowledge that Christ chose you personally.
He also revealed one more interesting thing, that not only has the Father hid this information from those with worldly wisdom, the things of the divine are so easy an INFANT can understand them. So not only did He exclude them, but to add insult to injury, he made it so easy that they could have grasped it if it was revealed to them!
Finally, we get to the final paragraph, and it is indeed what we started this post about. Christ gives the final bid to the crowd after the prayer “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened [labor and heavy laden, KJV], and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(V.28-30)
There’s two points I want to make with this and then I’ll be done for the day.
The first point is this, we are all either burdened or heavy ladened or both. A burden (or labor) is something that you bring upon yourself while being heavy laden is a weight placed upon you by someone else. While John was doing the work of the Lord, he was thrown in jail for his ‘crimes’. He got upset sitting there, because honestly, he knew he would get out. It wasn’t a legal imprisonment by any means, and eventually the Roman authority would reprimand the pontificate that put him there. But he was upset because he wanted Christ to be what the Jews expected Him to be when he was imprisoned. He wanted Christ to come save him from his earthly prison. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt that Christ is Lord and the Messiah, in that moment however, John hoped that he was wrong.
The second point is how Christ responded. He said, “I’ve healed the sick, made the lame walk, gave the blind sight. I’ve been changing what I AM directly responsible for. But if you keep being unafraid and unoffended of my name, you will be blessed.” God is responsible for His creation, He is responsible first and foremost for nature. He cares about each and every sparrow, and He also cares about you.
Many times you may find yourself on your knees almost violently asking God why He didn’t do something you wanted or even helped in the way YOU wanted. John was probably close to that, and the issue honestly wasn’t even that bad. He was just pretty uncomfortable, and Christ knew he would get out. Just like Christ knows when the thing you’re going through will end and whether you live or die, it really isn’t that bad when put in His light.
The whole point of the final three verses is that we need to switch our responsibilities. Our responsibilities are to submit to God and in the process let Him take care of your burdens and weights. Some may call that irresponsible, but I call that trusting Him at His word. The psalmist tells us “Be Still and Know that I am God”(Ps. 46:10). To me? That sounds like I’m supposed to do nothing and assume He’ll ask if He needs help with taking care of it (He won’t).