When Jesus comes on the scene he inaugurates his ministry by going to the synagogue on the Sabbath and reading the prophecy from Isaiah that we ended with yesterday. Here is what Jesus reads as a quotation of Isaiah 61:1-3.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
He claims that this Scripture is fulfilled with the implication that it is fulfilled through him. Remember, Isaiah employs Jubilee language here and moves the concept of the Jubilee from a matter of the law to a future promise. Jesus says he is inaugurating, through his ministry the fulfillment of the promised Jubilee. He is promising that he will bring about the idyllic state that the Jubilee, the Sabbath, the festivals, the Law and the promised land gave hope of but never fully delivered. This is a bold claim to say the least!
It is with this cultural undertone that Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath. He is it's ultimate interpreter whereas the Pharisees had missed the big picture. He is its fulfillment in bringing about the 7th day rest that the Sabbath looks back to from creation and forward to in the hope of cosmic restoration. Jesus is the one to bring it all about.
Also, with this cultural context of 7th day rest and the Sabbath in view Jesus says:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Remember in Exodus 33 it is God who tells Moses that he will give them rest in the promised land. Here Jesus promises that he himself will give those who come to him rest, in this full sense of 7th day Sabbath rest. Again we see, as we saw going through Mark, Jesus readily puts himself in the place of God, doing and saying things only God says and does. The key to receiving this rest is simply coming to Jesus.
This rest and yoke seem to be at odds. Remember a yoke is the object that holds two plow animals together as they pull. First, the implication with the image of a yoke is that you are coupled with someone to help you. This someone here is Jesus. When you take his yoke upon yourself, you are coming to him and he will help you carry the burden. Imagine yourself yoked to Jesus as you struggle with the ethical demands of being his follower. This is a comforting image which contrasted the Pharisees who laid heavy burdens on people and didn't lift a finger themselves (Matt. 23:4). Because of its likely symbolic use, which we will see next, don't make too much of that image but I think it's helpful.
Second, the rabbis often spoke of the yoke as a symbol of something to help you carry a heavy object. They often mentioned "taking on the yoke of the Law", which was a heavy yoke. The yoke that Jesus gives, by contrast is easy and his burden is light. That seems like an oxymoron. Remember, Jesus called his followers to a higher standard of moral purity than even the Pharisees did (Matt. 5:21-48). But Jesus calls to righteous living emphasized the heart of the law instead of the minutia. Jesus called his followers to tend to their heart, not simply their behavior. This yoke is light in comparison to the yoke of the Law and the tradition of the elders.
To take Jesus yoke upon ourselves, we must adopt the way of Jesus which is exemplified in gentleness (not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self importance) and humility. In doing this, he promises that we will find rest for our souls.
On this topic John Mark Comer, in his devotional titled "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry", writes: "But Jesus is wise beyond comprehension; he gets – better than we often do – that life is an unending series of burdens. There’s no way around the weight of responsibility that is life this side of resurrection. What we need isn’t an escape from that weight, but a way to carry it with ease and joy. That’s what Jesus offers – a way to carry the weight of life with a straight back and smile on your face."
"Will find" is in the future tense. This implies that Jesus is speaking of a future rest. This rest available when we come to Jesus can be experienced in part now but will be fully realized in his second coming. This we will discuss tomorrow.
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<aside> 🎧 Bible Project: Jesus and His Jubilee Mission
*This is the same video from Tuesday. If you haven't watched it yet, I'd highly recommend you watch.