If you are looking for peace don’t follow the crowd!
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
The above Gospel reading from Matthew 11 includes the well known verses for those who are weary and worn out.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Have you ever noticed what this encouraging, comforting passage follows? Have you read it in context?
Jesus has just finished scolding the religious crowds listening to Him. Many of them rejected the message of John the Baptizer because he was too conservative—too austere. He never took part in their eating and drinking. His style and approach to ministry was as coarse as his camelhair robe and diet. He ate honey and bugs!
The religious crowds also rejected Jesus. He was too liberal—He mixed with those whose life styles and morality were questionable.
John and Jesus confronted these would be religious folk with a picture of themselves that they didn’t like. Both Jesus and John confronted them with the reality of sin—such as, how they treated people, what their values and priorities were—and their need for repentance and turning back to God.
Jesus’ goal was not to be popular and a part of the in-crowd. Jesus was not and is not a crowd pleaser. He did not try to get people to like Him. He came to be our Savior, not to win a popularity contest. John was not a people pleaser either. Jesus and John would never make it as Time’s Person of the Year.
How different it is for most of us. We are consumed by our fear of criticism and the rejection of others. We are so concerned about what others think of us we shape and modify our message. We adjust our personality (as much as we can). We hide who we really are. We try to fit in, be part of the in group. We say and do what we hope will please the crowd.
And that wears us out. It makes us dishonest. It makes us tired.
Jesus did not do that. He was (and is) more concerned with truth than saying what we want to believe and hear. He confronted His listeners then with being fickle and not trusting God’s message of turning their lives around. He calls us to be honest with ourselves and God too.
Knowing God and knowing the peace of God does not come through our creative efforts and imaginative thinking. Knowing God is a gift that we receive by divine revelation.
“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (v. 27). That does not make Christianity an exclusive club where we can judge who is in and who is out. Salvation is a gift from God. Period.
We cannot judge who has received that gift and who has not. Faith is a personal thing. God, through His Word, calls us to examine ourselves and our relationship with God—not to judge others in their spiritual walk. We cannot judge others. Nor should we make ourselves slaves to the approval of others in our relationship with God. Following Jesus means letting go of being a people pleaser.
It makes complete sense then that after confronting the fickle public and reminding them that truth cannot be compromised that Jesus shows us where rest and relief is to be found. Where? Through coming to Him.
Do you want to know you are approved and accepted by God? Don’t submit to the craziness of trying to gain the approval and acceptance of others. Go right to the source. Jesus says, “Come to Me!” Don’t go anywhere else. Others might mislead you. Others—even religious folk—may try and fill you with all kinds of rules and “teachings” that do not fit and are not from God.
Make your relationship with God through Jesus your top priority. Do not compromise it by being a people pleaser. Don’t acquiesce to peer pressure. It is by knowing we are okay and accepted by God through Christ Jesus—it is by resting in His love and grace—that we are accepted. Find genuine rest and peace through Jesus’ forgiveness. Let His presence fill your soul.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.