I Will Give You Rest
Ordinary 14 Year A
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Matthew 11: 25 — 30
If we cast a glance at verses 20 — 24 just preceding this text, we will see our Lord discussing the very wide rejection of His teaching at all levels of His own society. In plain language, He appears to have failed to attract the people He had hoped would accept His instruction. He has reached some of the so-called “wise and learned,” but only a small number. His message has been grasped largely by disciples drawn from the peasant and working classes; but even these numbers were disappointing. Things improved later, but for now, our Lord is feeling the lack of response.
There can be no doubt that he is feeling this very deeply. As we shall see, he does not despair, but turns, instead, to prayer; and models for us the way through a seemingly hopeless situation. And we shall also observe this master teacher reversing the world’s formula for success. Instead of recruiting from the ranks of the economically powerful and the educated He takes His future messengers from the unlearned, average person: It is not their influence and knowledge he wants, but their trust and love. With these virtues he can extend the foundation of God’s Kingdom. And, as we know, He continues to build His Church as the foundation for the perfect establishment of God’s Kingdom and the Messiah’s Glorious Return.
We should note that the leading scholars talk of this passage as one of the most authentic and original and records of our Lord’s teaching. It is also one of the most important texts in the whole of Scripture.
Although our present text is only six verses, we will reflect on it in three steps, focussing on:
Step 1 ● Jesus’ prayer;
Step 2 ● Jesus’ majestic declaration;
Step 3 ● Jesus’ Great Appeal.
There are two passages, “For those who want to probe more deeply”, but they are only additional reading.
Some Reflections on our text
Step I — Jesus’ Prayer
Verses 25 and 26
At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these
things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them
to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
First:— a few textual notes.
• “At that time” — when the Apostles had just returned from a mission
assignment. There is probably a time lapse between verses 24 and 25,
during which the twelve had a break from intense instruction.
• “Jesus said in reply” — a Hebrew idiom for: “began to speak.”
• “heaven and earth” — Hebrew term for all things created.
• “you have hidden” — Hebraic way of expressing that things had been
hidden from those who declined enlightenment.
• “these things” — the teaching and works of Jesus.
• “the wise and the learned” — not a reference to those who had applied
themselves to the study of God’s Word, which He Himself had commanded,
but a Hebraic way of referring (by the contexdst) to those who had had the
opportunity and means to acquire knowledge and then wanted to control
its distribution as a means towards appropriating power and often, distinct
benefits or advantages for themselves.
We note in the Talmud (which although compiled later, say C.E. 170 through to including the Middle Ages, recorded much teaching in use many centuries earlier):
“In the days of the Messiah, every species of wisdom, even the most
profound, shall be revealed, and this even to children.”
(Synop. Sohar. Fol. 10. Approx. 3 — 4 century B.C.)
We need to remember that this is not a contrast of old and young, but a choice God makes between those who think they know enough about spiritual wisdom, and those who see themselves still needing to learn more who are therefore spiritually receptive. (“childlike”).
Our Lord is therefore, in His prayer, thanking His Father for graciously permitting the uneducated, the less gifted intellectually, the lowest in society, to understand and value what He, as Messiah, is trying to teach. In a Hebraic way Jesus seems to be thankful that the “wise and learned” can’t comprehend. But that would be an incorrect interpretation. Our Lord is highlighting the fact that spiritual truth is spiritually discerned. Yes, intellect must play a part if one has great gifts of scholarly learning; but all must approach Divine knowledge with humility and childlike openness.
Jesus rounds off His prayer:
“Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.”
He acquiesces to His Father’s reason for revealing understanding to the uneducated but loyal disciples for God’s “good pleasure”; a polite Jewish way to acknowledge the most holy will of God in prayer.
For those who want to probe more deeply
Jesus begins His short prayer in the traditional Jewish manner. He never prays informally when in public; but always according to the proper and respectful form, without great wordiness or repetition. (Let us take note.)
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
The sceptical might comment, “What sort of God would play tricks like that!”
Our Lord is not praising the Father for hiding the understanding of His teaching from the learned and scholarly. This is a very Semitic manner of writing (See Isaiah 12: 1) which emphasises the revealing of His message to the humble (which includes His chosen disciples). Our Lord has proclaimed the reign of God and its unfolding in the lives of His listeners. We would surely all agree that the Good News of Yeshua haMashiach — Jesus Messiah — is not grasped by human wisdom and intellectual pursuits alone, but rather by revelation: and by those humble enough to be open to receiving it. Among those “humble” are both highly educated as well as lowly people with little rabbinic training. The charge that Jewish learning and scholarship hindered educated Jews from understanding our Lord and His message, is misapplied frequently and indiscriminately. Such critics focus especially on the Torah — which they almost always label, “the Law”, in a derogatory way.
The Torah, the first five books of the Bible (term actually referring often to the whole Old Testament), is the Hebrew term for the “Teaching” of God. It does include His Laws, or Commandments, but is more than these two terms convey. It is God’s chosen and expressed description of His love for His people, and in fact, for His Creation. Some of the most brilliant rabbis in our Lord’s time gave His teaching their full attention — and in fact became His most ardent followers. Thus knowledge of Torah was not, in itself, in any way, an obstacle to hearing and understanding the Teaching of our Lord, and His unfolding of the Kingdom of God.
Just as it is not human knowledge which brings understanding of Rabbi Yeshua’s Teaching, so it is not human wisdom which necessarily gets in the way. Our Lord is clear, concise and utterly emphatic: He is talking, not about facts and intellectual knowledge, but about humility, openness of heart, a strong desire to learn from Him, and a desire for a close, loving and personal relationship with God. These are what allow understanding of His message. It is the absence of these — in our Lord’s days on earth as well as in our times — which result in our becoming spiritually distant, dull and dead. We are well aware, of course, that many senior Scribes and Pharisees in our Lord’s time were totally deaf and blind to His message: not because of their knowledge of Torah, but as Jesus later pointed out, their lack of true knowledge and love of God’s Teaching revealed in His Sacred Scriptures! They revelled in the false opinion that their chosen manner of observing God’s Commandments was all they needed to worry about! That ‘mindset’ is alive and well in the world today, and will always be a danger for religious people of any culture.
Some modern scholars go so far as to talk of the Messiah’s Teaching “superceding” the Law, the Torah. Sadly they use the term crudely and carelessly, and miss the point our Lord is making. The Torah is embodied in His own Teaching and indeed extended — thus beautifully fulfilled and renewed.
Let us move on through the text.
Step 2 — Jesus’ Majestic Declaration
All things have been handed over 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
wishes to reveal him.
For the Apostles, this was an astonishing statement which would have received plenty of “unpacking” by our Lord. We will do a little ourselves.
First:— a couple of notes on the text.
• “All things” — power and wisdom. Therefore Jesus alone, and not
“the wise and the learned” of the world, is the source of faith and
salvation for “the childlike”.
• “no one knows” — This exclusive mutual knowledge and
communication of divine revelation by the Son in His own
right implies the divinity of Jesus and His perfect equality
with the Father. (L. F. Miller, S.T.D.)
There are two great truths expressed in this power-packed verse.
□ Jesus remains for all time the dispenser of the revelation of
God to humanity.
We are going to strike this situation all through the New Testament: the senior religious authorities of the day often see themselves as the source of knowledge about spiritual things and understanding the Scriptures. Jesus never ever denies the importance of such knowledge but insists that God is always the source and that we all have access to that treasury through Him.
Christian teachers will likewise, always need to exercise great care that they do not slip into the same mindset our Lord is up against. It is a very natural, human tendency.
□ Any understanding we have of spiritual truth is not the result of
our own abilities or wisdom, but is the gift of God which Jesus chooses
to share with us for the Father’s Glory.
All the great teachers of the spiritual life down through the centuries (millennia, in fact) warn how pride can easily distort our whole religious outlook and performance. It is one of our Lord’s greatest fears with regard to His disciples.
We now move to Step 3.
Step 3 — Jesus’ Great Appeal
Verses 28 and 29
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for
I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find
rest for your selves.”
First: some textual notes.
• “all you who labor and are burdened” — burdened with the
miseries of life and the weight of sin. Our Lord is actually being blunt
here as well as caring.
• “I will give you rest” — relief from man-made burdens, as we have
discussed. Jesus means more than this, but that comes later.
• “Take my yoke” — the teaching, the Torah, the yoke of Jesus.
Perhaps one of the most important sayings of Jesus in all Sacred
Scripture. We will examine it more fully. Appendix 1 gives a beautiful
• “learn from me” — I am your Rabbi; no one else.
• “meek” — kindly, gentle, caring and not about to impose excessive
burdens. Meekness is not weakness. King David was the meekest and
yet most successful of warriors.
• “humble of heart” — not just outwardly, but spiritually, ready and
willing to help in any way at any time.
• “you will find rest” — whilst the disciple of Jesus is called to sacrifice
everything for the Glory of God and the mission of the Lord, Jesus
nevertheless gives a very warm word of encouragement for those who
follow Him. They will receive the gift of our Lord’s own rest. They will
share in His perfect fulfillment of His mission. More about this great
Now let’s look at the message these verses contain.
Our Lord is “debriefing” His “key personnel” — His very dear protégés, after an exciting but exhausting mission into the surrounding countryside. They are tired and, although exhilarated by some spiritually stimulating experiences, they are also nursing a few sore spots. Jesus therefore speaks to them in a way He has been carefully saving for this moment.
In verses 28 and 29 Jesus draws on three beautiful and well-loved ancient Scriptures (linked in the text below by the letters a, b, and c.) and brings them to a perfect fulfilment. They are worth a little pondering in themselves.
“Come to me” (a), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (b). Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves (c).
(a) Isaiah 55: 2 and 3
“…Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live”.
(b) Exodus 33: 14
“…My presence will go with you,
and I will give you rest.”
(c) Jeremiah 6: 16
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
which is the good way,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
All are invited to come. All are promised rest. Jesus invites his listeners to enter into an even closer bond: “Learn from me. Take my yoke upon you (i.e. my Law, my Commandments, my Way to the Father). Then you will truly find rest for your souls.
The above quotations illustrate the purity of Biblical teaching Jesus wishes to restore.
In Matthew 11: 28 and 29, our Lord is unmistakably referring to the strain experienced by the ordinary person in honouring God’s Commands of the Mosaic Law — the Torah. But note: the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus is deeply concerned, not with the Law itself, but with the burdens placed on the people by some (not all) religious authorities. His concern, in fact, anger, is with those who exploit their power to impose man-made burdens. Such abuse offends God — Giver of Torah!
Let’s look at a specific example of a burdensome overzealous application of the Divine Law. God’s command to “do no work” (Exodus 20: 10) on the Sabbath forbade such works as ploughing, harvesting, carrying heavy things — all as an expression of God’s loving care to ensure His people obtained genuine rest from hard work. Some of the teachers of Israel in Jesus’ day almost buried the original provisions of God by insisting on so many detailed sub-rules, that the people were just about afraid to move without approval of a rabbi. These lesser details (which diverted people from God’s original purpose) included:
• forbidding braiding two threads, or separating them;
• tying or untying a knot;
• sewing two stitches;
• writing two letters of the alphabet.
We make no judgment on the intended value of these. However such “commandments” made life insufferable. These were NOT the Torah! They buried the Torah! Jesus pushed them aside to restore the Law, the Torah, and openly fulfil every word of it. In this way He relieved those who were burdened and spiritually exhausted. Thus He Himself became, for them, the Living Word. His Torah, His Law became the Words of Life: not imprisoning and burdening people, but freeing and spiritually energising every faithful follower. And what is Jesus’ Torah?
When asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments? — Jesus replied quoting the ancient ‘definition’ from Deuteronomy 6: 4 — 5:
“The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’.”
He then in the rabbinic custom of the day, went on to say:
“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(St. Mark 12: 29 — 31)
The Torah of Jesus is the Torah of love.
Let’s now look at the last verse of our reading.
Verse 30 Jesus concludes his short but power-packed instruction with one of his favourite sayings:
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The rabbis used “yoke” as a figure of speech for the instructions a teacher passed on to his students. Our Lord had spent many an hour helping His father, Joseph, build yokes as part of their small business. He is emphatic that His students, are bound to Him by the yoke, as it is with two beasts of burden. It is He who will bear the weight. His disciples would spend the rest of eternity pondering this mystery of love and devotion which He has for those whom the Father has given Him. They would learn that Jesus’ burden is light, not because there were fewer demands — there were more — but because they were truly linked, yoked, united to Him, and that He would therefore walk the path with them, wherever they were called to go.In this way they would find “rest for their souls”. This fulfilled Exodus 33: 14 in terms of the rest Jesus promised. But it fulfilled even more. (See conclusion.)
For those who want to probe more deeply
St. Matthew 11: 28 — 30 are sometimes referred to as, “The Great Appeal”. A correct understanding of this passage will help us understand better what St. John wrote in (John 1: 14), “….. and the Word became flesh …..”. Our Lord is, indeed, appealing to His listeners to listen to Him, to learn from and about Him, and find rest in Him. He is laying the foundation of a new understanding of Torah — God’s Teaching, and how His followers are to relate to it. They will eventually come to see that God’s Teaching, His Law, is literally embodied in His Son. Jesus Messiah is the Law, the Torah to which they should be attached. He has, in Himself, renewed the Law of Love. This passage is therefore an extremely important one to understand and teach correctly.
The leading Scribes and Pharisees had encrusted the Torah with legal applications and sub-rules. It had become an arduous burden for the average person. Much of the old rabbinic interpretation had been genuine and well-intended, and indeed, often necessary. Our Lord did not so much react against this Oral Law as against those who used all the minute conditions to exert power over people. He had come to give the people a new level of applying the moral code about living and loving. It would exist, in the first instance, in Him as Messiah and all whom He commissioned to pass on His Teaching; and only then in written records. Jews strap parts of the Divine Word to their body daily for the duration of prayer time. In like manner, when people bound themselves to Jesus’ yoke, they became, in fact, bound to Him in a loving, life-giving union. St. Paul later called this, “Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ”.
Discipleship, being yoked to Yeshua Messiah, does not dispense with meticulous discipline. On the contrary, He will demand far more than anyone had before Him. But it would result from a bonding of love and would radiate His living presence and be manifest in gentleness, humble service; and would reflect a sense of completeness and deep restfulness.
This is a fulfillment of the Prophet Jeremiah’s words (in Jeremiah 6:16.) where He teaches that the rabbis should be upholding by word and example the paths of the Patriarchs and Moses, avoiding novelty and unnecessary complication in religious practice.
Some excellent Reading
● “Rest in Torah”, by J. A. Benner: Appendix 1
● “Advice From a Fourth Century Bishop.” Appendix 2
In chapter 33 of Exodus, God commands Moses (whom He called His “intimate friend”) to break camp and lead the People Israel on into the Promised Land. Moses pleaded with God not to command them to move forward unless God Himself would remain present with them; for that, said Moses, is what made them different from all other peoples. And God acceded to the plea of Moses His “dear friend”. God endorsed His promise with the words, “I myself will go along to give you rest“.
Even more, God (Exodus 34: 10) pledged that with His Presence assured, His People would do marvels never before witnessed on earth: provided they kept God’s Commandments — that is, provided they responded to His love, by genuine love of their own.
In our passage, Jesus chooses this moment to promise the perfect fulfillment of God’s Promises. Our Messiah promises to yoke Himself to His dear friends and to remain present with them on their journey. Indeed, this Divine Presence would be the great point of difference between His disciples and all other peoples. Yoked to Jesus, His disciples would perform not only the works He performed, but even greater. Yoked to Him, by His Commandments (His Torah — His Law) no task asked of us would be too heavy or too hard. Yoked to Him we are to take His Presence to the far corners of the earth knowing that we cannot be closer to Him than when we follow His commands: “Come to me! Take my Yoke upon you! Learn from me!” Obedience to His Torah, leads us into fulness of LIFE, and with us, those with whom we have shared His love.
Blessed be He whose glorious
Kingdom is forever.
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I Will Give You Rest
Ordinary 14 Year A St. Matthew 11: 25 to 30
1. Many a Christian commentator on this Gospel has claimed that the wisdom
2. God the Father has ordained that all spiritual truth and knowledge is to be
3. Our Lord’s words, “Come to me,” are not a weak, sweet and sickly
Further: He has commanded, “Take my yoke upon you!” He did not say, “If
Let us pray for one another to have the trust and tenacity to remain yoked to Jesus
Rest In Torah
By Jeff A Benner
Yeshua said; “Come to me all who labor and are burdened and I will find rest for
A simple reading (peshat) of this verse is that Yeshua will give rest to those who
In the first part of the passage we read; “Come to me all who labor and are
Yeshua begins to identify this rest when he says; “take my yoke upon you and
Yeshua then says that he is “humble and gentle of spirit, you will find peace for
We could easily translate Yeshua’s next statement; “for my yoke is pleasent and
In summary, Yeshua wishes to yoke us to himself through the Torah which will not
Advice From a Fourth Century Bishop
St. Matthew 11: 25 — 30 is a passage of awesome splendour, and
Next, having brought them by His words to an earnest desire, and having
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and
But how are they duly performed? If you become lowly, and meek, and gentle.
# His words — this is what we call His Torah, His Commandments.
Matthew 11: 25 — 30
Ordinary 14 Year A
NEW AMERICAN BIBLE
25 At that time Jesus said in reply, (14) “I give praise to you, Father, Lord
26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows
28 (15) “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, (16) and I will
29 (17) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
14 [25-27] This Q saying, identical with ⇒ Luke 10:21-22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus’ preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father’s revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.
Note by AHC — N.Z. The reference to a “Q saying” means material common
15 [28-29] These verses are peculiar to Matthew and are similar to Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (⇒ Sirach 51:23, ⇒ 26).
16  Who labor and are burdened: burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees (⇒ Matthew 23:4).
17  In place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation, Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest; cf ⇒ Jeremiah 6:16.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised