IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 20, July 12 to July 18, 1999

Matthew 11:25-30

by Dr. Knox Chamblin



    1. His Identity. 11:25.

      1. The Father. This address witnesses to the special intimacy that the Son of God enjoys with the Father. At the same time, the words recall 6:9, "Our Father in heaven," words the disciples are to use in addressing God. While the distinction between Jesus' and his followers' respective relationship to God is safeguarded, there is nonetheless a shared intimacy; and those who come to God through Jesus are granted a depth and closeness in their relationship to God which is otherwise impossible.

      2. "The Lord of heaven and earth." God is Sovereign of his universe, not its prisoner. See Ps 113:5. When a Soviet cosmonaut returned from a space mission grandly announcing that he had not found God in outer space, C. S. Lewis replied that the really surprising thing would have been if he had found God in outer space.) What does this teach us about prayer? At the moment Jesus uttered this prayer, there were perhaps thousands of other prayers being offered to God. When the question is asked, "How can God hear all those prayers at one time?" the answer is that he, as Lord of heaven and earth, is above time and is therefore not actually listening to all those prayers at one time.

    2. His Activity.

      1. Fellowship within the Godhead. V. 27, "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son," affords a glimpse into the incomprehensible depth of fellowship within the Godhead. To complete the picture, cf. 1 Cor 2:11, "no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

      2. Revelation of the Godhead.

        1. The Father reveals the Son. Jesus says in v. 25 that God the Father has revealed certain things. God in his good pleasure (v. 26) has chosen not to confine the knowledge of himself to the members of the Godhead. Initially, "No one knows the Son except the Father" (v. 27). To complete the picture, see Jn 6. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (6:44). V. 45 clarifies to whom the person is drawn: "They will all be taught by God." God the Father draws a person to himself and teaches him about His Son. The One who knows the Son best, is offering the instruction. Then, the lesson having been completed, the Father ushers his pupil into the presence of the Son (6:37).

        2. The Son reveals the Father. Understanding the fullness of truth, requires both that the Father reveal the Son and that the Son reveal the Father (11:27b): it is the relationship between them that must be understood). NB the connection between 11:27 and 11:28-30. Jesus issues the invitation, "Come to me" (28), and "Learn from me" (29). What is he to teach? As he has told us in v. 27, his task is to reveal the Father. So when Jesus declares, "I am gentle and humble in heart" (29), he is saying something both about himself and also (in the process) something about the nature and character of the Father. It is the character of God to be "gentle and humble in heart." Cf. Phil 2:5-8.

        3. The cruciality of understanding. The Son reveals the Father precisely within the context of his ministry. One learns who the Father is, by observing and correctly interpreting "the works of the Christ" (11:2). By the same token, "these things" that the Father reveals (11:25) must, within this context, be understanding concerning the nature and meaning of Jesus' "mighty works" (vv. 20-24) - they being one of the Father's appointed means for revealing the Son. Insight into spiritual reality depends utterly upon God's granting that insight. God appoints prayer as a means toward this end (9:38); but prayer remains the means and God's sovereign will the end. Jesus and his disciples proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God; Jesus' whole ministry testifies to the identity of his person (11:2-6). Yet if anyone is to perceive and to receive the truth of Jesus' person and work, it will be the effect of the Father's revelation. The prayer of thanksgiving in 11:25-26 relates directly to the effects of the mission of Jesus and the disciples, chs. 4-10. It is supremely the Father's "good pleasure" that explains why someone comes to acknowledge Jesus' person and work, and becomes a Christian believer.


    1. The Children.

      In 11:25, "little children," Jesus is speaking figuratively, as in 18:3, where he says to adults, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

    2. The Blessing.

      Why are they blessed? Jesus is not implying that little children are innocent. The youngest child learns selfishness without the least instruction. Cf. Shel Silverstein's "Prayer of the Selfish Child": "Now I lay me down to sleep/ I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake/ I pray the Lord my toys to break, So none of the other kids can use 'em." It is not innocence but teachability that Jesus has in view. This is not the same as intellectual capacity. In the school of God, attitude is the all- important factor. "The width of our knowledge about [God] is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of him. John Owen and John Calvin knew more theology than John Bunyan or Billy Bray, but who would deny that the latter pair knew their God every bit as well as the former? (All four, of course, were beavers for the Bible, which counts for far more anyway than a formal theological training)" (J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 34).

    3. The Deprivation.

      Why are the "wise and learned" deprived of the insight granted the children? One reason is their willful unbelief. Another is that God responds to their pride by deliberately withholding understanding from them. Only when the "wise and learned" become like children - i.e. stop depending on their unaided reason - do they begin to be truly wise (1 Cor 3:18). Then, as teachable children, they are ready to receive the true riches - knowledge of God.


    1. The Risks.

      Jesus says, "Come to me" (v. 28), before he says, "Take my yoke upon you" (v. 29). By the latter he means, Submit to God's Law as I have expounded it. But coming to Jesus himself is potentially more threatening than submitting to the Law (see 19:16-22). The Law is more manageable than Jesus, if law-keeping is divorced from submission to his Lordship. Moreover, once we have received and understood the revelation, and have been exposed to the grace of God and his Messiah, it matters terribly how we respond (vv. 6, 20-24). Once Jesus has said, "Come to me," it is extremely perilous to reject the invitation (cf. 22:11-14).

    2. The Rest.

      1. Jesus grants rest. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (v. 28). Only then does Jesus say, "Take my yoke upon you" (v. 29). The order is vital. In Pauline terms, whether the Law is beneficial or destructive depends on what Power wields the Law: Sin uses it destructively (Rom 7), Christ uses it productively (Gal 6:2). Jesus makes the Law the instrument of his love (Mt 5:21-48). Trying to keep the Law without resting in him, puts one under bondage and keeps him there. Are not many whom Jesus addresses, "weary and burdened" because of their efforts to keep the Law (cf. 23:4; Acts 15:10)?

      2. Law-keeping grants rest. For those personally united to Jesus, law-keeping grants rest. "Taking up the yoke" of the Law (v. 29a) brings "rest" (v. 29b). The way to unrest is to live without the Law. The "yoke" does not make the load, it lightens the load (cf. a guitar strap). Because Jesus' yoke is easy, his burden is light. "His commands are not burdensome" (1 Jn 5:3). It is not by accident that this passage is followed immediately by a discussion of the Sabbath (= "rest").

      3. Jesus bears the burden. The disciples' yoke remains his. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees (who "tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but...themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them," 23:4), Jesus - the lowly, gentle God - willingly takes up the yoke of the Law that it might not be burdensome to his subjects.

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