"The Blessedness of Being a Burden" Bible Study on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
July 2, 2020, 8:33 AM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (Common English Bible).

16 “To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others, 17 ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’19 Yet the Human One [ Son of Man] came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have shown them to babies. 26 Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.

27 “My Father has handed all things over to me. No one knows the Son except the Father. And nobody knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 30 My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus is frustrated and angry.  He has come among family and friends, his own people, offering words of liberation and blessing, and yet some of them have responded like spoiled brats (Matthew 11:16-19).  Matthew's use of "this generation" usually designates the world that is unfaithful, unrepentant, and defiant of the preaching of God's prophets (see Matthew 23:29-36) just like some in Noah's generation mocked his preparations before the flood.

One of the group of brats wants to play like they are at a wedding but are unable to entice the others to join in the celebration.  The other group wants to play as if they are at a funeral but can't get the others to mourn.  John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, came preaching repentance, but no one wanted to mourn their sins.  Jesus preached joyful celebration, and people responded by calling him "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."  The bratty children just sit there hurling taunts at each other.  And so it goes.

Even the once great John the Baptist failed to win popular approval,  and it looks like that will be the fate of Jesus as well.

And yet the rejection and the failure that Jesus encounters, perhaps makes the acceptance that he has received shine all the brighter.  We listen in on his prayer of a sermon in Matthew 11:25-30 where Jesus gives thanks for the "babies" who receive his message.  Those who are reputed to be "wise and intelligent" (11:25) have stood aloof from his call to discipleship but not the babies.  The "wise and intelligent" are too smart for their own good.  They cannot see the good news of God unfolding before their very eyes.

You may recall that earlier, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus blessed those who are often cursed by the world.  Now he has praise for those who assume his yoke and who submit to his teaching (11:29).  This leads Jesus to an invitation to discipleship (verses 28-30).  A primary way that Jesus failed to meet our expectations was his statement, "Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Put on my yoke, and learn from me.  I'm gentle and humble.  And you will find rest for yourselves.  My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light."

It's a curious invitation, when matched with our expectations.  What we may hope for is a messiah who comes to us and relieves us of all yokes and responsibilities, all burdens and loads.  True, Jesus says that his "burden is light," but a yoke is still a yoke and a burden is still a burden.  Here we come before Christ and say, "These are burdens that I'm bearing that I wish you to take off my back," and Jesus responds by giving us other burdens and another yoke.

"We thought God had come to deliver us, but you have given us even more burdens bear," we say, "You didn't measure up to our expectations for a messiah.  We want a messiah that removes all of our burdens and cares, not one who places burdens and cares upon us."

Let's be honest.  Most of us hope for a life that's unburdened, where we are free from all yokes around our necks.  Then here comes God's Son, our Savior, freeing us of some of the burdens the world tries to put around our necks, true.  But also placing burdens upon us and yokes around our necks to guide us.  And so we ask Jesus, "Are you really the Messiah, or should we keep looking for another who will tell us what we want to hear?"

Ironic, don't you think, that on this weekend when we celebrate our day of national independence, the Church has us celebrate our interdependence?

Jesus said, "The truth shall set you free."  It's a strange truth that frees us to bear one another's burdens.

Have a happy 4th of July!

Pastor Greg Rupright 


07-09-2020 at 3:08 PM
Pat May
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