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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Rest for the Weary

Matthew 11:20-30, Luke 7:36-50

Lesson audio

At first this appears to be a strange connection of events; but perhaps not as strange as at first glance.

Judgment – its basis

Mat 11:20-24 NIV Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (21) "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. (22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.[4] If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (24) But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

While it is a maxim of law that “ignorance is no excuse,” we are partial to the idea that those who hadn’t a clue should face a lighter sentence than those who were knowledgeable. So is our Lord. The pygmy who has never heard the word should be judged on what he knew, not what he didn’t. But what about us? Are our circumstances the same? Let us explore this by questions.

What were you taught?

Many of us have the benefit of growing up in a church family. We went to Sunday School; we sang “Jesus Loves Me.” Does this not imply a greater judgment at our Lord’s return?

Sometimes the teaching is not in the classroom, but in the example before us. It may be nice to have a grandfather who was a preacher; but did you walk in his example? If you’ve seen it done right, were you taking notes?

Perhaps most telling of all is this: what did people expect of you? Did those around you expect sterling conduct? It’s a good measure of justice, that. We know who should behave themselves; indeed, the expectations of others are often a strong support of good behavior.

What did you say?[1]

Your own words set a standard of judgment; they also can be evidence against you. For example:

  • “They’re all hypocrites.” At least, then, you admit that you know what a hypocrite is, and condemn same. But if you act the hypocrite, is this not a greater judgment on you?
  • “My evil is just another chance for God’s grace and goodness to abound.” (Yes, there are people who are like that.) God will forgive; it’s his hobby. Even you don’t believe that. You certainly wouldn’t accept this as truth from somebody else.
  • “Other people in this church have such puny faith.” It is not their faith that is in question; their lack can never bring God to be faithless. His faithfulness is sure; theirs is really not your affair; you have enough trouble with your own. (I sure do.)
What did you see?

We often think that if we could just see one solid, genuine miracle our faith would instantly become a solid rock. Remember the Israelites under Moses: a string of miracles and a people with no real faith.

Mostly, however, our problem is not in what we see – it’s in our refusal to see. For example:

  • Do we fail to see the sin in our own lives – or in the lives of those we love?
  • Do we fail to see the signs of the times? The warning lights flash; do we heed them or try to beat the train to the crossing?

Willful ignorance is not only no excuse; it is folly.

Rest for the Weary

Mat 11:25-30 NIV At that time Jesus said, "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. (26) Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. (27) "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. (28) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) 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. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Praise to God

Take a look at what Christ praises the Father for. It seems rather odd, that the “wise and learned” should be allowed to be ignorant. But there is an important thought in here:

  • The “wise and learned” are those who consider themselves self-sufficient in dealing with God. Since they are of that opinion, God humors them in this. The wisdom of men is available in great quantity; all you need do is study. It’s only when you admit you can’t know it all that God will graciously reveal these things.
  • Those who are not self-sufficient must perforce rely on God. They have no choice – but God knows that, and pours Himself into them.

Is this praiseworthy? It is for the God who makes the blind to see. He needs no learned scholar to tell Him what is truth – but rather pours out truth to all who will listen.

All things are committed

Christ now reminds his hearers of just who He claims to be. See how Paul puts it:

Col 1:15-20 NIV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (17) He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (19) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, (20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

It is worth remembering that Christ has all authority, and in particular no one comes to the Father except through the Son. If Christ doesn’t reveal the Father to you, there is no hope of your getting through. He is the way, the truth, the life. So, should we prepare ourselves for an arduous struggle to prove ourselves worthy of such access?

Yoke is easy

Now you see the apparent contradiction: Getting to the Father comes only on the narrow way – but if you will come to Christ the burden will become much lighter. How so?

  • Burdens are lighter when carried in love. Ask the average OC Republican just how burdensome is the welfare for an unmarried mother, and you will find it greatly so. But if that mother is your daughter, the child your grandchild, is it really so burdensome?
  • It’s easier to carry a burden for which Christ has made you strong. To give a simple example, the first time you do a hospital call is an emotional experience. But after a while, you become a welcome visitor – and one who fears the visit far less.
  • Sometimes we’ve had a problem that we now discover in someone else. Because of our experience, we can bring comfort to others. Often, there is someone available to comfort us, too.

The invitation issued, we see one who will take Christ’s offer with her whole being.

The Sinful Woman

Luk 7:36-50 NIV Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. (37) When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, (38) and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (39) When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner." (40) Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me, teacher," he said. (41) "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[4] and the other fifty. (42) Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" (43) Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said. (44) Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (45) You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. (46) You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. (47) Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (48) Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." (49) The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" (50) Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

We have gone from the worldly knowledgeable to the worldly woman – a woman whose sins are before her. Most ancient writers agree that the expression given here means that the woman was a prostitute.[2] The reaction of the Pharisee is much more common than you might think.

What should we see in others?

Have you ever thought of this? We can deliberately refuse to see something in someone else. Why? So that our understanding is greater, and our love too. Paul put it this way to the Corinthians:

1Co 2:2-5 NIV For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. (4) My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, (5) so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

Perhaps we might make the simple observation: we are all sinners. Just who did we expect to come through the church door? We need to see the inside, the heart, not just the exterior.

Parable of the debtors

May I point out something about the lender? It’s clear he has written these two off – they’re never going to have the money. But see; the greater debtor – whom the lender had more right to despise – will be the greater friend. That is how God does it; perhaps we should imitate Him in this.

It’s my privilege to work in a ministry (Bill Glass) which goes into the prisons of America to bring the Gospel. I’ve noticed something; the most effective speakers are those who’ve been on the other side of the bars. The man who has been there and repented means a lot more to the prisoners.

Devotional life

If there is greater forgiveness, there is greater love. Taken to its logical conclusion, we have the actions of this woman: devotion. This is that rare act of devotion. From the world’s point of view, what she is doing is wasting perfume. It’s just not a practical thing to do.

Practical, however, is not what she had in mind. It’s an extreme act, a devotional act – and not just in money. Her pride, her dignity, her life are being poured out before Christ. She could have given less.[3] But she broke the jar open and poured all out upon her Lord. The broken jar shows us the broken heart.

The devotional life, the totally committed Christian life, is extravagant living towards God.


[1] See Matthew 12:36-37, where the principle is concisely given.

[2] It should be noted that there is a similar passage in John’s Gospel. The two are often identified as the same (chronologically impossible).

[3] Like the widow’s mites – she could have given one.

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