Many people believe that Jesus came in order to establish an even tighter set of Rules on believers (in His day, that would be the Jews) who were already struggling to keep the Law. More Rules like (to paraphrase): Thou shalt not look at a woman lustfully (Mt 5:28); Thou shalt forgive thy brother seventy times seven times (Mt 18:21-22); Thou shalt be pure in heart, or else thou shalt not be able to see God (Mt 5:8) (although that’s not actually what it says!). The list goes on. Usually, these sayings of Jesus that are translated as modern-day ‘new’ commandments are simply blessings that humans have turned into Rules. In actuality, Jesus gave only two commands: Love God, and Love your neighbour as yourself (Mk 12:30-31; Jn 13:34). Other supposed ‘commandments’ were either blessings that have been turned into conditional blessings (and therefore Rules) by modern-day Pharisees – like the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12), or they are things Jesus was saying to those around Him at the time who were dependent on their own works of righteousness for their justification before God. So, when Jesus said that ‘Your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees’ (Mt 5:20), and all these other things like the ‘lustful commandment’ above, He was meaning precisely that failing on one point of the Law (James 2:10) (which the Pharisees must have done regularly, as nobody is perfect) then you might as well fail on the whole Law. In other words, righteousness through the Law is unattainable – as we already know! (Rom 3:20). Therefore in these passages Jesus is calling attention to our inability to make ourselves righteous by fulfilling God’s impossible Law, whether we are Pharisee or ‘sinner’! So actually Jesus came not only to fulfil the Law, but to show us why He needed to fulfil the Law on our behalf. Genius!
In the article below, my friend Tim reveals the heart of the Gospel in one of his early blog articles – this one’s from 2013 – that it really is Good News, and not simply more Rules to follow, which would be simply Bad News. Jesus came to give us Rest!
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
– Mt 11:28-30 (Message)
Over to you, Tim:
I Will Give You Rest—Not More Burdens
Many say the foundational passage of the New Testament is John 3:16. Even young children can quote it:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Yet I believe the passage that reveals the heart of the New Testament is in Matthew 11:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.
Both passages touch my heart and draw me toward Jesus, yet the first (as used by many believers) seems almost doctrinal—describing what God did, while the second is invitational—inviting me to accept what Jesus offers. In introducing Jesus to those who might be interested in him, I prefer to use Jesus’ own invitation; I believe it is applicable to all people at all times. Practically everyone desires relief from inner weariness and the burdens of life. Almost all of us want rest.
In his report, Matthew does not leave out the Father and his relationship to Jesus because the statement is preceded by:
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Jesus Does not Attach Conditions to His Invitation
In the invitation, Jesus offers us rest for our ‘souls’ and begins to introduce us to the Father. We are pleased to learn that Jesus is gentle and humble in heart; he is no tyrant or overlord who has something we need but who will exact a price from us for it. His motives are pure. He is approachable. We do not need be on our guard with him. We need not grovel. He is gentle; he is accepting; he is safe.
To whom does Jesus make this invitation? It is to everyone. ‘Come to me, ALL you who are weary and burdened’—unless, I suppose, one is not weary or burdened. There are no preconditions. There is no creed or doctrinal statement mentioned. There is no screening out of certain types of people. There is not even a sinner’s prayer.
There is only Jesus and his invitation: ‘I will give you rest.’
Jesus adds that those coming to him should take his yoke upon them and learn from him to find rest for their souls, but he goes on to say that his yoke is easy and his burden light.
Once we accept Jesus’ invitation, we will begin to learn of him, and he does tell us important things that affect our lives, but they are not onerous requirements. This is no trick. We will not discover that accepting Jesus’ invitation ultimately involves lists of rules or demands. We will not have to accept beliefs that are contrary to our own reason. In fact, there are no belief requirements at all—only rest from weariness and burdens, and learning from Jesus.
Jesus Does not Load Us with Burdens as Some Suppose
Jesus promises to relieve our burdens, not to increase them. Much of the problem with traditional Christianity is the burden it puts on its members—from requirements of specific behavior to requirements of doctrinal creeds. These are all baggage; they are not the requirements of Jesus.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Consider Jesus’ invitation. We explore the wonderful ramifications of this invitation on this blog. Do you find Jesus’ invitation appealing? I do.
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