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FOLLOWING JESUS – LEARNING FROM HIM

To be a ‘disciple’ is to be a learner – a pupil or student who is learning from a teacher. Christians, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are people who are learning from him. In Matthew 11:28 – 30 Jesus said:

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

Quite frequently, these words of Jesus, or just a phrase from these words, are understood as a stand-alone statement, and given a meaning that is not connected with the broader conversation of which they are part.

The conversation began in Matthew 11:3 where John the Baptist had sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the long-expected Messiah. Jesus replied by pointing to the miracles that he was doing (11:4 – 6), and went on to rebuke those who saw these miracles yet refused to respond with repentance and faith (11:7 – 24). Jesus’ miracles were more than enough to demonstrate that he was the eternal God in human flesh, as John’s gospel points out:

‘Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father’ (John 10:37, 38).

‘Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves’ (John 14:11).

Immediately prior to saying ‘come to me ... learn from me’ Jesus referred to our human ignorance of God:

‘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’ (Matthew 11:27).

When Jesus said ‘Come to me ... learn from me’ he is addressing fundamental human questions: Is there such a thing as ‘god’? If there is, who is he? And what is he like? What does he require of me? It is this deep and sometimes anguished human search for meaning and significance that Jesus is referring to with his words ‘you who are weary and burdened’, and with his promise of ‘rest for your souls’.

Because here, in Jesus Christ, those deep questions are answered:

‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12).

‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ (John 8:19).

‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness’ (John 12:44 – 46).

‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well ... Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:6 – 9).

The towns rebuked by Jesus in Matthew 11:20 – 24 (Korazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum) had seen Jesus’ powerful miracles, but they had not believed in him. They had chosen to cling to their ignorance and their darkness, rather than accept the radical concept that here in their presence God stood among them in human flesh. Their stubborn refusal to change their answers to the questions ‘Who is God?’ and ‘Who is Jesus?’ locked them into their wrong belief and attracted extreme condemnation. To have actually been in the presence of God, and rejected him, to have actually seen him at work, and said ‘No, that’s not God’ is to have missed the ultimate answer to all of life’s deep questions.

But for those who have come to Jesus, for those who learn from him, there is rest. The weary and tortured search for answers is over. The heavy hopelessness and meaninglessness that our human philosophies burden us with are discarded.

And here is the challenge for those who are Jesus’ disciples:

Do you have ‘rest for your soul’?
Or is your soul still ‘weary and burdened’?

If you do not have ‘rest for your soul’, and if your soul still feels ‘weary and burdened’, then you need to seriously face the question: ‘Am I actually learning from Jesus, or am I still dominated by the isms, the worldviews, the philosophies, the paradigms and the religious ideas of this world?’

Because Jesus said ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021