Story 77: Rejection or Rest

Matt. 11:20-30

Pair of Oxen with Yoke

The yoke of an ox isn’t just heavy because of the weight of the wood in the yoke, it is heavy because it links the ox to a heavy load. As Jesus grieved the rejection of the religious leaders and many of the people of Israel, He turned to those who had put their faith in Him and told them to be assured that His yoke was easy.

As Jesus preached to the people throughout the region of Galilee, the powerful religious leaders began rejecting His message.  But it wasn’t just the religious leaders that refused to hear the message of God through John and Jesus. Many people in the nation of Israel had rejected them, too. Jesus said to the crowd:

 “‘To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“We played a flute for you,

and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge,

and you did not cry”

“‘For John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her children.’”

 The Spirit of God had empowered the ministries of both John and Jesus, but in very different ways. John came with mourning and fasting, and those who spoke against him said he was demonic. Then Jesus came with joy, embracing repentant sinners freely….so He was accused of being a sinner himself! If someone’s heart is determined to reject what comes from God, they will find fault with anything His servant does! But those who were given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit would understand how both John’s ministry and the ministry of Jesus came in the power and the perfect will of God.  The evidence that someone was a true child of God was not whether they were born into the powerful religious families of Israel.  The real evidence was if they heard the preaching of the Word through God’s true servants and believed.

Jesus had traveled to cities throughout Galilee and performed all kinds of miracles, yet many people did not repent. The Son of God had come to them with the Word and with power, and they did not allow it to do a work in their hearts. So Jesus began to rebuke those cities for their lack of repentance. He said:

 “‘Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! IF the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. IF the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.’”

For you see, the Day of the Lord was coming.  In fact, it still is coming. When the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed…whether back in the times when the Lord walked the earth or all the way until today, the hearers have no choice but to make a decision. They must either choose to repent of their sin and turn to the Lord Jesus, or reject Him.

Even if the people think they are just too busy to listen.  Even if they are ignoring Him because they want to believe and worship their own way.   When they don’t give Jesus the authority that is rightfully His, they are missing out on what the God of all Creation is offering to them. And it has really horrible consequences. The Day of the Lord is on the way, and the only way to be safe is through the protection of Christ’s rescue plan.

As Jesus moved around the Galilean countryside, He was offering His magnificent salvation to the people.  They were witnesses to God’s glorious inbreaking into time, but their hearts did not rejoice! They did not fall on their knees in humility and awe. Their hearts were totally hard.

But not everyone was hard hearted, and when Jesus thought of His disciples and all those who humbly followed Him, He praised God:

 “‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.’”

Wow.  In these verses we get to listen in on God the Son talking to God the Father.  It is pretty interesting what He had to say.  And kind of charming.  Jesus was delighting that His Father had given Him followers who were among the simple, childlike members of society.  Rather than contending with the big, powerful, and knowledgeable people of His time, the great beauty of eternity was revealed to the common people, the peasants.

“‘All these things have been committed to Me by My Father, No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.’”

 Jesus started talking to the crowd again.  The people on earth who were truly chosen by God were the people who heard the words of Jesus and believed.  Jesus went on:

“‘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.’”

What a beautiful promise!  The religious leaders and Pharisees of Jesus’ day put terrible burdens on the people. They made up harsh rules and regulations and enforced them with intense vigilance. The Jewish people lived in the grip of fear that they might sin because of all the extra rules that had been added to God’s Holy Word. But Jesus wasn’t that way. He said He is gentle. Is that how you imagine the Lord’s love towards you?  Can you rest in His gentleness?  Jesus was bringing a new covenant of grace, where the forgiveness and mercy of the Lord was the free gift of God to His chosen ones. That is reason for great rejoicing!

From this point on in His ministry, Jesus began to speak out more boldly against those who did not hear the Word of God and repent. His harsh rebuke was actually an act of love. There would come a time when it would be too late to repent for these people, and then all would be lost. If the wondrous miracles and the richness of the Lord’s teaching didn’t change them, then perhaps stern warnings of judgment would! Christ was giving the Jewish people of His time chance after chance to embrace their Messiah. Would they every turn to their Savior as a nation?

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