Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
When Jesus was conducting his earthly ministry, presenting himself as our saviour, he called all those who are 'weary and burdened' to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28-29). Regarding this passage, Michael Green writes, 'Jesus is quietly claiming to be the locus of all revelation; the centre of all God’s self-disclosure is Jesus of Nazareth' (Green 2000, pp.140-141).*
Jesus had already praised God for revealing his truth, not to the wise and learned, but to spiritual babies (11:25-26). He had stated that he represented God as his ambassador, and that all the riches of God’s wisdom were invested in him (11:27a). Furthermore, Jesus claimed a mutual and exclusive understanding between himself and the Father, and, because of this, only he could reveal the Father to others (11:27b).
Jesus gave this teaching soon after John the Baptist had questioned his Messiahship (11:2), and John’s doubts and disappointment were probably still on Jesus’ mind. This is the comprehensive answer to John and to all who doubt. Jesus’ words are an astonishing statement, and evidence indeed that he was – and is – the promised Messiah. Those who consider Jesus to be 'a good man', but not divine, must think again. Good men do not make the claims that Jesus made. An ordinary human who said such things - 'Come to me, I am the One, only I can reveal God to you' - would not be a good man at all. He would be either seriously deluded, or a deliberate liar and deceiver. Jesus was either one of these, or he was all he claimed to be – God on earth, the Messiah, the Saviour.
Calling all to come to him for rest, Jesus was offering release from the relentless search for truth, and from the Jewish law which had – over the centuries – become an increasing burden. In saying, 'come to me', Jesus is implying that he has come to seek us. Unlike all other religious leaders who direct people towards some unattainable goal, Jesus says 'come to me' and reaches out welcoming arms. In inviting his followers to take his yoke upon them (11:29), he is not, like the Pharisees, setting heavy loads on his people (see Matthew 23:4). This is a yoke of love, not of duty; to take Jesus’ yoke is 'the response of the liberated, not the duty of the obligated' (Green 2000, p.143).
The image of the heavily burdened and weary approaching Jesus for rest is a powerful one. We all know how it feels to be seriously weighed down by physical burdens, or loaded with emotional turmoil that feels like a heavy weight across our shoulders. We can imagine having those burdens lifted from us; having that inner turmoil resolved.
Humans are difficult to please. John the Baptist was viewed with suspicion because of his asceticism. People said he had a demon (11:19). Jesus was called 'a glutton and drunkard' because he followed a normal lifestyle, joining with others, including 'sinners', to eat and drink (11:19). It seems that even John became disillusioned with Jesus. However, those who consider seekinganother Messiah, another Saviour (11:3) could well reflect on where else they would find a God who goes to such lengths to reach his lost children, who goes to such depths to bring them help and comfort, who is “gentle and humble in heart” (11:29).
*Green, Michael 2000, 'The Message of Matthew', IVP.