Take my yoke: commentary

Yoke 3Commentary. Despite the rejection in vv.20-24, some persons accept Jesus’ mission and message – and it is for this that he gives praise to God. In context these words are not a prayer of thanksgiving for a successful mission (cf. Lk 10:21-22), but are a prayerful reflection on the failure of the Galilean mission. The prayers highlight another Matthean theme: reversal. Those who are considered wise and learned are in fact not – at least in the things of the kingdom of heaven. Yet those who are childlike have understood and accepted the revelation of the kingdom in the person of Jesus.

An Opening Prayer. These words are not a prayer of praise for the ignorant, as elsewhere Matthew regards wisdom and understanding as positive attributes of the disciples themselves (7:24-27; 13:51;23:34; 25:1-13). Rather Matthew affirms that those who recognize Jesus do not do so on the basis of superior religious status or individual intelligence, but by revelation, as the gift of the God to those who are open and unpretentious. The childlike have no real basis for claiming knowledge of God, yet they are the very ones to whom the divine revelation is given as a gift of the Father’s gracious will (v.26).

In the larger context of Matthew’s narrative, one should not fail to grasp that even in the ongoing revelation of God taking place in their midst, there are still those who fail to understand/accept. John the Baptist, who had baptized Jesus, knew his own unworthiness, and (may have) heard the heavenly voice did not understand. There were those whose predetermined criteria (cf. 11:16-19) did not accept the revelation. Towns where Jesus had given a testimony of words and actions did not accept the revelation. Nor did the scholars and the wise, who could explain much, but could not explain the revelation in their midst (11:25a). There is a reversal unfolding.

Jesus’ Declaration. It is important to note that Jesus is not depicted as a religious genius who has discovered the divine mysteries. Simply put, Jesus is the beloved Son who is on intimate terms with the Father. It is the divine initiative of the Father who has given all things (v.27) to the Son. This is not a message or a relationship that Matthew suddenly thrusts upon us as an assertion on the part of Jesus. Matthew’s narrative has prepared the reader by means of preceding declarations about Jesus.

  • Immanuel, the Son miraculously born to Mary, signifies the unique saving presence of God with his people (1:23).
  • Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ baptism mentions the pleasure the Father takes in the Son in words echoing Isaiah 42:1 (3:17; cf. 17:5).
  • Satan was unable to shake the Son from his resolve not to test the Father (4:1–11).
  • Jesus did miracles to show that the Father had given the Son of Man authority to forgive sins on the earth (9:6).
  • In times of persecution, the disciples must confess the Son if they wish the Son to confess them to the Father (10:32–33, 40).

But one would be hard pressed to speak of the Son in terms more exalted than those used in 11:27, which uncompromisingly yet elegantly says that saving knowledge of God the Father comes only through the selective revelation of Jesus, the exclusive mediator of salvation.

The exclusive communion between Father and Son is of the essence of their relationship. For anyone else to share in this knowledge, however, is a matter of revelation, and as such is not a natural right, but a matter of divine choice. Thus God’s sovereign initiative in revelation, set out in vv. 25–26, is applied specifically to our knowledge of God: it does not come naturally (see 1 Cor. 2:6–16 for a spelling out of this theme). It depends on God’s choice, or, more specifically, the Son’s choice. Thus Jesus unequivocally describes himself and his will as the key to humanity’s approach to the Father; there is no other.

Notes

Matthew 11:25 I give you praise: the verb exomologeō can also be translated as “give thanks” or “confess.” Father, lord of heaven and earth: this is a unique Matthean expression among the gospels which combines a special intimacy with the acknowledgement of God as lord of all creation. In this way the reader is prepared for the revelation of Jesus’ true identity

Matthew 11:25 revealed: “reveal” [apokalypto] – of the four instances of this verb in Mt (10:26, 11:25, 27; 16:17), the last one is most significant. It is Mt’s addition after Peter’s confession: “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.’” childlike: nēpios literally meaning “not speaking.” so it refers to infants prior to their learning to speak. The other occurrence of this word is in 21:16 where Mt quotes Psalm 8:3 LXX: “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself.” The context is in comparison to the “wise and learned” and the unrepentant towns (Mt 11:21)

Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over: If “all things” points back to “these things” in v.25 and to the earlier parts of Mt 11, then it includes Jesus’ mighty deeds and his role in the kingdom at present. If it points forward to what follows in v.27, then it has to do with Jesus’ sonship and the authority that flows from it. no one knows the Son except the Father… : this is not a parable about a father-son relationship. These terms are used absolutely to express the mutual knowledge between God the Father and God the Son.

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