Flashback Episode — The Warning and the Invitation: Matthew 11:20-30

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As we continue moving through Matthew’s gospel, we come to another place where Jesus has some challenging words to say to several groups of people. While we might be tempted to think that Jesus’ message is not relevant for us, under the surface of Jesus words is a powerful theme that is relevant for every point in history.

Let’s read what Jesus challenged those in the first century by saying and discover what we can learn that is applicable for our own lives. Our passage is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, and we will read it using the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 20, Matthew tells us that:

20 Jesus began to speak against the towns where he had done most of his miracles. The people there had not turned away from their sins. So he said, 21 “How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida! Suppose the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon. They would have turned away from their sins long ago. They would have put on clothes for mourning. They would have sat down in ashes. 22 But I tell you this. On judgment day it will be easier for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And what about you, Capernaum? Will you be lifted to the heavens? No! You will go down to the place of the dead. Suppose the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom. It would still be here today. 24 But I tell you this. On judgment day it will be easier for Sodom than for you.”

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto something that might be easy to ignore or miss. In this section of our passage, Matthew tells us that Jesus speaks these messages against the towns where He had done the most miracles. This means that these towns, even with Jesus healing the sick, preaching, and working powerfully for God, simply ignored what God was doing in their midst. Jesus compares their ignoring attitude as being worse than some of the worst towns in history.

The towns of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were all judged and condemned by God but Jesus tells these people that if He had been sent to those towns and done what He had done for them in the first century, those towns would have changed. Jesus tells the people living in the first century that it would be easier on judgment day for those who were evil while Jesus wasn’t present in the world than for those who ignored Him while He was here.

However, it is tempting for us to look down on those in the first century and believe we are exempt from Jesus’ warning. If we choose to do this, then we run into the trap of ignoring what God is doing in our world today. The underlying theme in Jesus’ warning is to be aware and to pay attention to what God is doing in your life, in your world, during the time you are alive living in the world, and to acknowledge and accept God into your heart and life.

We run the risk of being judged by God while we judge those in the first century and ignore everything God is doing today. While those in the first century ignored Jesus, we don’t have to make the same mistake they did.

However, Jesus isn’t finished sharing, and like our passage in our last episode, Jesus ends by giving us some encouragement. Continuing in verse 25:

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father. You are Lord of heaven and earth. You have hidden these things from wise and educated people. But you have shown them to little children. 26 Yes, Father. This is what you wanted to do.

27 “My Father has given all things to me. The Father is the only one who knows the Son. And the only ones who know the Father are the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to make him known.

28 “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. 30 Serving me is easy, and my load is light.”

In this concluding message, Jesus shares an amazing promise that is perhaps more relevant for us living today than it was during the first century when He said it. Jesus’ message for everyone living in today’s world is to come to Him if we are tired and carrying a heavy burden and He will give you rest.

If your life is so busy that you feel you are drowning under the weight of your obligations, then Jesus offers you rest. The rest Jesus offers you isn’t just physical rest, but also rest for your soul. While at times it is challenging, Jesus tells us that serving Him is easy, and His load is light.

This promise at the end of Jesus’ message is very welcoming and very inviting, but it also doesn’t take into account all the crazy challenging messages Jesus has shared before about how being a disciple requires dedication and how it costs everything.

How can following Jesus be easy and His load be light when following Jesus costs us everything?

As I have followed Jesus in my own life, I have learned that following Jesus gives us rest and the rest Jesus gives is rest that helps us balance the craziness of our lives. Much of the stress in our lives is fake stress that is self-imposed. This stress comes from worrying about things we cannot change, or even from things that don’t matter. Worrying about what will happen in the next episode of a TV drama or the next installment of a movie franchise only hurts your life. This is fake stress that has real consequences.

If we strip away all the stress and worry in our lives that relates to things we cannot change or affect, instantly our loads are lighter. We can do this without even coming to Jesus.

However, the real blessing that Jesus offers us is the truth that we don’t have to worry about appeasing an angry God who wants to punish us. Instead, Jesus came to satisfy the requirements of the law so that God can love us even more. Jesus does not stand in the way of an angry God. Instead, the Godhead decided together that Jesus would come take the punishment for our sins because every member of the Godhead loves us more than we could imagine. Jesus came representing God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and His love for us shows us how much God loves us.

The light load Jesus offers us is a load where He already took the heavy requirements on Himself, and He leaves us with a gift if we are willing to accept it. The gift Jesus offers us is His life in exchange for ours, and His life gives us eternal life while our lives bring Him death. While it is crazy to think that God would give us this choice, this is the amazing news of the gospel message, and the load Jesus promises us when we come to Him.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally and purposefully seek God first in your life. Choose to accept Jesus into your life if you haven’t already and stop trying to live up to the expectations of a God who loves you. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law because there was no way we could ever do this, and Jesus offers us His perfect life in exchange for our sin-stained lives. We accept Jesus’ gift by living our lives for God, obeying Him as a way of saying thank you for what He has done. Our lives lived as a thank you won’t be perfect, but perfection isn’t our goal. Our goal is saying thank you to God!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and Bible study, discover how much God loves you through what Jesus did for you, and discover how God wants you to live your life as a thank you to Him for everything He has done for us and for everything He has blessed us with.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 20: In another place where Jesus shares a message with His followers, He decides to speak out against the places where He did the most of His miracles, and following this message of condemnation, Jesus gives everyone present an amazing invitation.

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