The Christian martyrs’ last prayer by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
How can Jesus give rest and a distressed and persecuted life at the same time?
Matthew 11: 28 Come unto me, all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you. 29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me that I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
Matthew 10: 34 Think not that I am come to send peace into the earth, but the sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that loveth son, or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that will find his life, shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.
Question (re: Matthew 11:30): Jesus’ yoke is allegedly easy, but doesn’t this seem in contrast with 10:34, taking up cross and possible problems in all important close/family relations?
This question seems to have a valid point as there is an obvious contrast between Jesus inviting weary and burdened people to find a change of circumstance with him, and the promise of most horrendous adversity and losing one’s life, which seems to carry the very opposite.
These passages are a very good example of how important it is to read and understand the Bible in context. This context is not the overall goal of “anything for a quiet life”; but anything for eternal life and a restored relationship with God.
With a theological term the latter is also called justification. Trying to work up your way to God, aiming for your good deeds to outweigh your sins of thought, deed and omission or neglect, leads to a situation where a believer is weary and grossly overburdened. As a result he is getting nowhere spiritually, either falling short or deceiving himself. This situation results out of a wrong spiritual view and aim. When, instead, through the work of the Spirit of God, one realizes and desires that God provides grace and redemption in trusting and following Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, one’s spiritual life is offered a relieved and released foundation.
This is the essence of the Matthew 11 passage. When one looks carefully, this is also present in Matthew 10. He who will make Jesus’s lordship his yoke will ultimately find life, and of a more lasting quality than temporary ease can provide.
In other words, obeying Christ comes with sacrifice and this is indeed unpleasant. For some this is in the sphere of family, for others it may be their position, job, social esteem and economic distress (cf. the 666 symbol in Revelation, the sign of compromise with evil which is required to be commercially successful). These are all situations that have the potential to provide substantial distress and anguish at all levels of human existence. But these trials are of a different order than the struggle to get right with God and the eternal destination of the soul.
In short, Matthew 11 is about the struggles in finding the road to eternal life, Matthew 10 is about the struggles while travelling on the way after one has found the road.