At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
See the notes on Fourteenth Sunday of the Year (6 July 2014)
1. A similar text is found in Luke 10:21–22. Luke however does not have the paragraph, “Come to me …. my burden is light”. This is the sort of textual evidence that has given rise to the theory of “Q” – taken from the German word, “Quelle” meaning “source”. It is generally accepted that Mark is the most primitive of the Gospels with both Matthew and Luke depending on Mark for many of their texts; Matthew and Luke also share another “source” – Q – which Mark does not know; Matthew then has a third source that Luke does not know and Luke has a third source that Matthew does not know.
2. We should recognize that the use of the verb “to know” in the Semitic sense has a special depth to it that is often lost on people of the Western world whose minds have been shaped by the Enlightenment. In this context it means “to be in relationship with”, as in Hosea 2:20 (“I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.”) and Hosea 4:1 & 6 (“Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel; for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. …. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”) There is also a connection here with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah: “Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (53:11)
3. We see in this text – “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father …….” – a very particular affirmation of Jesus’ identity. He has unique access to the Father
with whom there is a reciprocity of knowledge and love. He is the exclusive revelation of the Father. Matthew has already indicated this in 1:23 where he refers to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 (“‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, “God is with us.””) and at the end of the Gospel (28:18) when he sends the disciples out, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me …..”
4. With the foregoing in mind, we can read this passage of Matthew as a declaration that the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (40:28-31) (Luke’s inclusion of Isaiah 61:1-2 (“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me ….” – see Luke 4:18-19) evokes a similar connection.)
5. The rabbis spoke of the “yoke of the Torah”. This “yoke” was made into a heavy burden through the legalistic and moralistic attitudes to Torah. In religion, legalism and moralism inevitably lead to a sort of organized despair. Jesus promises to set the people free from this death-dealing impasse. Interestingly enough, this invitation from Jesus is followed immediately by the story of the disciples picking corn on the Sabbath.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me ….” Jesus invites us to “come to (him)” and be with him in his intimate relationship with “Abba” (Father) – he uses that terms five times here. Jesus reveals in his person and teaching a new way of being.
It is as well to say immediately that there is ample evidence in Matthew’s Gospel to prove that Jesus is not dismissing the law or the prophets. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets ….” (see 5:17-19).
Jesus invites us to join him in a personal relationship with God as “Abba”. The primary focus for him is not Torah or the prophets but what gave birth to Torah and the prophets and what they in turn seek to promote.
We are reminded of the eternal question of means and ends. Means exist for the ends they enable, not vice versa. Human beings are forever forgetting this. We so easily turn means into ends. We find this in religion as elsewhere. When it happens, the very end for which the mean exist, is defeated. Matthew is here reminding us of the essence of discipleship. It is a lifelong process of learning, of remembering, of daily opening ourselves to an ever-deeper relationship with God. The starting point of the disciple’s life is knowing that you are loved – infinitely, unreservedly by God whom you can call “Abba”.