I’m off to blog about chapter two of my book Right Texts, Wrong Meanings. In the light of the natural disasters in Oklahoma and many manmade problems all over the world (e.g. Mali, Sudan, Egypt, China), now is the best time to blog about one of the most misused “chicken soup for the soul” verses in the entire NT.
When bad things happen for no apparent reason, people love to quote Matthew 11.28-30 as some kind of comfort. I’ve seen it so many times on Facebook I’ve lost count. The quote itself is supposed to magically bring comfort.
The presupposition is basically this. If you come to Jesus, even in the midst of chaos (whether it is having too much overtime or a tornado taking your house), you’ll find rest because his “yoke is easy and … burden light.” It is little wonder that many feel that Christianity is an escape rather than help because of this kind of opium.
To make matters worse, this illusion has been propped up (albeit very weakly) by extraordinary testimony of cheap triumphalism following the plot that goes something lie this. “XXX happened to me. I ought to feel angry, but because I know Jesus, he gave me rest and I feel instantly better after prayer.” No doubt, for some, this might have been the experience, but this verse has nothing to do with a campfire handholding kumbaya-singing revival meeting. In order to be relevant (at least not crazy and normal) to the world, our job as Christians is not to try to look hip like Mark Driscoll or speak in the common man’s language like Joel Osteen. No! The key is to understand OUR OWN SCRIPTURE and the heavy violence our popular Christian culture has done to its meaning. IF we do so, we’ll go a long way helping people understand true Christianity.
As I always say, the texts are not at fault. The interpreter is!
If you don’t have my book, I’ll give you a hint. Take at look at the pair of “at that time” in 11.25 and 12.1. Isn’t that author trying to get his readers to relate the stories by using the repeated echo? Think about the relationships between the stories.