Red Letter Year: 4/9

Matthew 11:20-30

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. 21 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 22 I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.

23 And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.

25 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

27 My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”


This is the first time all year Jesus has spoken such judgment. We tend to associate that with the Old Testament or with John the Baptist, but Jesus pronounces judgment too (especially in Matthew). But note that his judgment is directed at places he had visited, where people had seen his power displayed and heard him preach. They are judged specifically for squandering a great spiritual privilege. The same is true for us. We worry sometimes about the eternal fate of people who never hear about Jesus, but what Jesus is warning about here is not that. He is warning about people who do hear his message, who do see his works, and yet do not change, do not become his disciples. This is judgment on people who should be disciples, people who are going through the motions of being disciples, but aren’t really. If we go through the motions of following Jesus, if we are so clever we think ourselves out of obedience, we are squandering the great spiritual privilege we have been given.

Also note the claim Jesus makes in v.27. We will read something very similar in John 14 later this year, but this is probably the clearest we have read yet of Jesus claiming to be one with the Father. Martin Luther said, “Stop speculating about the Godhead and climbing into heaven to see who or what or how God is; hold on to this man Jesus, he is the only God we’ve got!” The Father is revealed to us in Jesus. All our understanding of God must be based on Jesus and measured against Jesus. Jesus is our theological standard. Always.

The call at the end is one of the most wonderful things Jesus ever said. He threatens judgment, asserts his right to judge and the significance of rejecting him, admits that not all receive him – then throws his arms wide open and invites all who will to come and follow him. Unlike other religions that are strict, harsh, and prideful (sounds like the Puritans!), Jesus is low key, gentle, humble, the giver of rest. Following Jesus is still work, but it is easy work, once you realize how beneficial it is to you and everyone around you. Jesus will lift your burdens, lighten your load – then set you to work setting others free of their burdens too. Which is the best work of all.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.