ESSENTIAL DIVINE REVELATION IS TARGETED BUT UNIVERSAL DISCIPLESHIP INVITATION IS EXTENDED TO ALL
Craig Blomberg: The language of these verses (“hidden,” “revealed,” “your good pleasure”) is incontrovertibly predestinarian in nature, but the language of free will appears equally clearly in vv. 20-24, in which people are judged for their rejection of Jesus, and in vv. 28-30, in which Jesus offers salvation to those who will respond more positively. Scripture in fact regularly and without sense of contradiction juxtaposes the themes of divine sovereignty and human responsibility (e.g., Gen 50:19-20; Lev 20:7-8; Jer 29:10-14; Joel 2:32; Phil 2:12-13).
Grant Osborne: Jesus traces several themes here.
(1) God’s own elect sovereignty is made known in revealing the kingdom truths not to the so-called “wise” but to “infants,” i.e., the “little ones” (10:42), Jesus’ followers (11:25–26).
(2) The intimate union of Father and Son is demonstrated in their unique knowledge of each other and in the revelation Jesus has provided (v. 27).
(3) Jesus invites all who will to become followers and find rest in him by taking his easy “yoke” upon themselves (vv. 28–30).
The progression of thought is this: Jesus thanks God for his sovereign will in revealing salvation, then takes on himself that authority as the Son, and finally uses that authority to invite the weary to enjoy salvation and rest in him. In all of this Jesus is God’s Wisdom, the voice and presence of God in this world and the true authoritative interpreter of God’s truth.
David Thompson: Dr. Stanley Toussaint said that Matthew chapter 11 presents three main evidences that Israel had rejected Jesus Christ as King:
1) Israel was antagonistic to the King (11:2-19);
2) Israel was indifferent to the King’s message (11:20-24);
3) Christ’s invitation for all to come to Him indicates Israel has rejected the King (11:25-30).
This section of Scripture presents a major turning point in the book of Matthew. There is a major turn from the national to the individual. There is a major change from promoting an announcement of a national kingdom to an announcement of personal salvation.
Notice how verse 25 begins–“at that time.” The Greek emphatically stresses that this turn occurred in the time when Jesus was concluding His words of condemnation against the Galilean cities that had seen His miracles but refused to repent.
There is a wonderful, gracious invitation that is presented in this great passage of Scripture:
ANY PERSON WHO WANTS A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND DESIRES A HEART AND SOUL THAT IS AT REST WILL COME TO CHRIST IN CHILDLIKE FAITH AND LEARN FROM HIM.
I. (:25-27) GOD’S SOVEREIGN ROLE IN REVELATION
A. (:25-26) Praise for God’s Sovereignty in Revelation
- (:25) Grandiose Praise
a. Praise for God’s Sovereignty
“At that time Jesus answered and said,
‘I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,”
Grant Osborne: Jesus’ prayer flows out of the condemnation of the Galilean cities and prepares for another rejection scene in 12:1–8. Thus the “answering” probably means Jesus is responding to the Jews’ refusal to accept his message.
D. A. Carson: While exomologoumai soi (“I praise you”) can be used in the sense of “I confess my sins” (cf. 3:6), the basic meaning is acknowledgment. Sins truly acknowledged are sins confessed. When this verb is used with respect to God, the person praying “acknowledges” who God is, the propriety of his ways, and the excellence of his character. At that point, acknowledgment is scarcely distinguishable from praise (as in Ro 14:11; 15:9; Php 2:11; cf. LXX of Ps 6:6; 7:18; 17:50 et al.).
Here Jesus addresses God as “Father” and “Lord of heaven and earth” (cf. Sir 51:10; Tob 7:16). These are particularly appropriate titles, because the former indicates Jesus’ sense of sonship and prepares for v.27, while the latter recognizes God’s sovereignty over the universe and prepares for vv.25–26. God is sovereign, free to conceal or reveal as he wills. God has revealed “these things”—the significance of Jesus’ miracles (cf. vv.20–24), the messianic age unfolding largely unnoticed, the content of Jesus’ teaching—to nēpiois (“little children,” “childlike disciples,” “simple ones,” GK 3758; see Jeremias, New Testament Theology, 111; cf. Jn 7:48–49; 1Co 1:26–29; 3:18); and he has hidden them from the “wise and learned.”
b. Praise for God’s Revelation Program
“that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent
and didst reveal them to babes.’”
D. A. Carson: Many restrict the “wise and learned” to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, but the context implies something broader. Jesus has just finished pronouncing woes on “this generation” (v.16) and denouncing entire cities (vv.20–24). These are “the wise and learned” (better, “the wise and understanding”) from whom the real significance of Jesus’ ministry is concealed. The point of interest is not their education, any more than the point of interest in the “little children” is their age or size. The contrast is between those who are self-sufficient and deem themselves wise and those who are dependent and love to be taught. . .
We must not think that God’s concealing and revealing are symmetrical activities arbitrarily exercised toward neutral human beings who are both innocent and helpless in the face of the divine decree. God is dealing with a race of sinners (cf. 1:21; 7:11) whom he owes nothing. Thus to conceal “these things” is not an act of injustice but of judgment—the very judgment John the Baptist was looking for and failed to find in Jesus. The astonishing thing about God’s activity is not that God acts in both mercy and judgment but who the recipients of that mercy and judgment are: those who pride themselves in understanding divine things are judged; those who understand nothing are taught. The predestination pattern is the counterpoint of grace.
Craig Blomberg: You hid does not mean that God completely concealed the things in question from the world’s wise ones, but rather that it is in his plan that the way to knowing them is not the way of human excellence or wisdom (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-19; 2:6-8). As far as human excellence in itself is concerned, these things are hidden, and that by the divine plan. Jesus does not define these things, but the expression “must refer, in one way or another, to the secret of the presence of the Kingdom which was the burden of Jesus’ preaching.” Some interpret it as speaking of eschatological happenings, and others of the knowledge the Son received from the Father and which he passes on to his followers. Or there may be a reference to the mighty works Jesus did and which the Jews in general were unable to understand as signs of kingdom. But all such views surely point to “the presence of the Kingdom,” and we will do well to take this as our starting point. . .
Their self-sufficiency means that they do not easily come to trust God for salvation. This does not mean that none of the world’s wise and clever people will come to know it. In every age there have been wise and clever people who have rejoiced in the revelation Jesus has made known. But the point is that they came to know it by their simple trust in Jesus, not by their intellectual skills and their knowledge of abstruse research methods. And that simple trust is open to the humblest of us all, to the babies among us.
Daniel Doriani: The spiritual question of the hour was this: Why did Israel respond so poorly to Jesus? The answer is twofold.
- First, Jesus says, it was their fault. Some were hard to please—fickle and spiritually lazy. Others had an academic consensus about the proper interpretation of Scripture and its laws. They were quite convinced of their orthodoxy and rectitude.
- But second, God hid the truth from those who claimed to be wise and revealed it to infants. He chose to turn the world upside down.
By this Jesus commends a childlike attitude. Some people think the commendation of children means that Jesus does not want us to bother with doctrine or with deep things of the faith. They say we must simply trust God and live by his commands. Anything more is superfluous. But this confuses the metaphor. Children are not thoughtless or foolish. Children think very hard about things that affect them, and so should we. Christians should have a child’s heart and an adult’s head.
Richard Gardner: Here the knowledge to be disclosed is the meaning of Jesus’ messianic deeds; the infants to whom God reveals these things are the disciples; and the wise and the intelligent from whom this knowledge is hidden are the scribes and the Pharisees. All of this, Jesus says, is a matter of God’s own choosing.
Donald Hagner: God’s mysterious sovereignty lies behind both belief and unbelief, yet without obviating the culpability of those who fail to believe. That some believed and others did not believe the message of Jesus can be described from this perspective as God either concealing or revealing the truth of that message.
Grant Osborne: God reveals his truths only to those who open themselves up to him with a childlike simplicity and receptivity, not to those who in their pride and self-sufficiency feel no need for it.
- (:26) Governing Principle of God’s Sovereign Revelation
“Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.”
B. (:27) Primary Role of Jesus as the Revealer of the Father
- Authority for Revelation Delegated to Jesus
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father;”
Richard Gardner: According to verse 27, Jesus plays a pivotal role in the process of revelation. Note the formula of authorization in 11:27a, which appears again at the end of the Gospel (28:18a). There Jesus announces that he has been given dominion over all. Here the claim is that Jesus has been granted knowledge of all, which he in turn shares with others: God alone knows the divine purpose at work in Jesus’ mission; and Jesus alone has access to this divine understanding.
- Access to Revelation Determined by Jesus
“and no one knows the Son, except the Father;
nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son,
and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
D. A. Carson: The reciprocal knowledge of Son and Father where the Father is God presupposes a special sonship indeed. And this unique mutual knowledge guarantees that the revelation the Son gives is true. . . There is a self-enclosed world of Father and Son that is opened to others only by the revelation provided by the Son. . .
What is made clear in this passage is that sonship and messiahship are not quite the same. “Sonship precedes messiahship and is in fact the ground for the messianic mission” (Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 165–67, esp. 167).
Donald Hagner: Jesus is the unique agent of the Father—the one fully known by the Father alone. He is the sole mediator simultaneously of the knowledge of the Father and of his salvation purposes, for the Father and his will are fully known to Jesus. Jesus reveals this knowledge only to those who will receive it. Yet the invitation remains open to “all” (cf. πάντες in v 28).
Grant Osborne: The main idea is that God has shared his authority and his wisdom with his unique Son, and Jesus alone can truly reveal his Father (cf. John 1:18).
II. (:28-30) MAN’S ACTIVE ROLE IN RESPONDING TO UNIVERSAL SALVATION INVITATION
A. (:28) Come to Jesus and Find Rest
- Essence of the Invitation
“Come to Me,”
Walter Wilson: Having established his intimate and exclusive role in relation to divine knowledge, Jesus issues an invitation to participate in the scheme of revelation just articulated (11:28).
Warren Wiersbe: “Come.” The Pharisees all said “Do!” and tried to make the people follow Moses and the traditions. But true salvation is found only in a person, Jesus Christ. To come to Him means to trust Him. This invitation is open to those who are exhausted and burdened down. That is exactly how the people felt under the yoke of pharisaical legalism (Matt. 23:4; Acts 15:10).
- Targets of the Invitation
“all who are weary and heavy-laden,”
- Promise of the Invitation
“and I will give you rest.”
Craig Blomberg: The rest Jesus offers his disciples enables them to overcome a certain measure of “fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and meaninglessness in the joy and peace of God’s very presence in Jesus Christ.” By way of contrast, most Jews found the interpretations of the law imposed on them by their leaders increasingly burdensome (23:4; cf. Acts 15:10, which uses the identical “yoke” imagery).
Donald Hagner: What Yahweh promised in the Jeremiah passage [6:16], Jesus now promises to those who come to him and follow him in discipleship: he will give them rest for their souls, i.e., a realization of a deep existential peace, a shalom, or sense of ultimate well-being with regard to one’s relationship to God and his commandments (cf. the “rest,” κατάπαυσις, of Heb 4:3–10).
Grant Osborne: In the Hebrews passage as here, the rest is both present and future, both the present relationship with God and the eternal rest in heaven. In coming to Jesus, the disciple enters the rest of God (Heb 4:3, “we who have believed enter that rest”).
B. (:29-30) Commit to Discipleship and Find Rest
- (:29) Discipleship Involves a Learning Process with Eternal Benefits
a. Essence of the Invitation
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me,”
Grant Osborne: The essence of true discipleship is hearing and doing all that Jesus teaches (cf. 28:19, “teaching them to keep everything I have commanded you”). This in fact is the meaning of “righteousness” in Matthew, living life by God’s (and Jesus’) rules (see on 3:15; 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33). For Jesus (indeed, for the NT as a whole) to “hear” is to “obey,” to “learn” is to “do.”
Leon Morris: To be a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple and therefore a learner. It is not enough to indicate that one would like to be a follower of Jesus; to commit oneself to him means to commit oneself to a learning process. This is not meant to scare people or make them think that the way Jesus teaches is much harder than that of the rabbis. Jesus affirms that he is gentle and humble in heart. This taking of a lowly place is noteworthy. Leaders and teachers have always tended to take a superior place, but Jesus has no need of such gimmicks. He left his place in heaven and on earth took the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7). In heart locates these qualities at the center of his being. It was not that he pretended to be humble and made a show of being lowly: he really was lowly, and that at the very center of all that he was. Because of what he is in his innermost being, meek and lowly, those who come to him find rest.
b. Characterization of the Master
“for I am gentle and humble in heart;”
Charles Swindoll: Before entering a permanent relationship, such as a marriage, you need to know the one to whom you’re committing. If you’re going to “yoke up” and share with someone both the direction and pace of life, you need to know that person’s character, convictions, personality, and passions. Hence, Jesus offers a description of Himself – “gentle and humble in heart.”
c. Promise of the Invitation
“and you shall find rest for your souls.”
Grant Osborne: As elsewhere this rest is inaugurated, present in the sense that the believer has peace in the midst of life’s troubles, and future because final vindication is promised for Jesus’ lowly followers (Rev 7:13–15; 21:3–4).
D. A. Carson: The “yoke” (zygos, GK 2433), put on animals for pulling heavy loads, is a metaphor for the discipline of discipleship. If Jesus is not offering the yoke of the law (Pirke Avot 3:6, cf. Sir 51:26), neither is he offering freedom from all constraints. The “yoke” is Jesus’ yoke, not the yoke of the law; discipleship must be to him. In view of v.27, “learn from me” cannot mean “imitate me” or “learn from my experience” (contra Stauffer, TDNT, 2:348–49) but “learn from the revelation that I alone impart” (cf. Josef Schmid, Das Evangelium nach Matthäus [Regensburg: Pustet, 1959]).
The marvelous feature of this invitation is that out of his overwhelming authority (v.27) Jesus encourages the burdened to come to him because he is “gentle and humble in heart.” Matthew stresses Jesus’ gentleness (18:1–10; 19:13–15). Apparently the theme is connected with the messianic servant language (Isa 42:2–3; 53:1–2; cf. Zec 9:9, cited in Mt 21:5) that recurs in 12:15–21. Authoritative revealer that he is, Jesus approaches us with a true servant’s gentleness. . .
The implicit contrast between Jesus’ yoke and that of others is not between antinomianism and legalism, for in a deep sense his demands (5:21–48) are far more radical than theirs; nor between salvation by law and salvation by grace (contra Barth, “Matthew’s Understanding of the Law,” 148 n. 2); nor between harsh attitudes among Jewish teachers of the law and Jesus’ humane and humble approach (Klostermann). No, the contrast is between the burden of submission to the OT in terms of Pharisaic regulation and the relief of coming under Jesus’ tutelage as under the authority of gentle Revealer to whom the OT, the ancient paths, truly pointed (cf. H. D. Betz, “The Logion of the Easy Yoke and of Rest [Matthew 11:28–30],” JBL 86 : 10–24).
- (:30) Discipleship Demands Are Challenging But Not Burdensome
“For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
Michael Wilkins: Jesus’ easy yoke is in stark contrast to the burden of Pharisaic Judaism. The Pharisees spoke of 613 commandments, and their halakot (binding interpretations) produced an overwhelmingly complicated approach to life. In our quest to know God’s Word it is good to remember that we can turn Jesus’ yoke into an equally unbearable burden unless we consciously recognize that discipleship to Jesus is not essentially a religious obligation. Rather, ours is an intimate relationship with the One who calls, “Come to me” and “learn from me.” As complicated as life may become, discipleship at heart simply means walking with Jesus in the real world and having him teach us moment by moment how to live life his way.
William Barclay: He says: ‘My yoke is easy.’ The word easy is in Greek chrëstos, which can mean well-fitting. In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not chafe the neck of the patient animal. The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.
There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country people came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make. In those days, as now, shops had their signs above the door; and it has been suggested that the sign above the door of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth may well have been: ‘My yokes fit well.’ It may well be that Jesus is here using a picture from the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth where he had worked throughout the silent years.
Grant Osborne: The rules of the Pharisees never stopped burdening the Jews with endless regulations over every area of life. The so-called “freedom” of the libertine world of our time functions in the opposite direction, yet burdens even more terribly. Note the summary of Doug Webster:
… for those who live under the yoke there is absolutely no other way to live. Who in their right mind would go back to the gods of Self, Money, Lust and Power? Who would return on bended knee to the shrines of pious performance and judgmentalism? Is not love better than hate, purity better than lust, reconciliation better than retaliation? And is not “better” really “easier” when measured in character rather than convenience, rest for the soul rather than selfish pride?
Charles Swindoll: As Solomon once wrote, “The way of the treacherous is hard” (Prov. 13:15). Looking at those around Him who were overwhelmed with guilt and shame —even the hard-hearted unbelievers from the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum —Jesus urged them to come to Him, to trade their rebellion for submission, their burdens for belief, their heavy yoke of sin and guilt for His light yoke of peace and joy. Jesus ended His harsh condemnation of the unbelieving Jews with an open invitation to come!