“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.”—Matthew 11:28
[From ws 9/19 p.20 Study Article 38: November 18 – November 24, 2019]
The Watchtower article focuses on answering the five questions outlined in paragraph 3. They are:
- How can we “come to” Jesus?
- What did Jesus mean when he said: “Take my yoke upon you”?
- What can we learn from Jesus?
- Why is the work that he has given us to do refreshing?
- And how can we continue to find refreshment under Jesus’ yoke?
How Can We Come To Jesus? (Par.4-5)
The article’s first suggestion is to “”come to” Jesus by learning as much as we can about the things he said and did. (Luke 1:1-4).” This is a good suggestion as we see by Luke’s example. “…I have traced all things from the start with accuracy, to write them in logical order to you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know fully the certainty of the things that you have been taught orally”. Certainly, if we do this to the best of our ability, then we will begin to see where anything, including the Organization, is leading us away from the Christ.
Notably, the very next suggestion (in paragraph 5) sends us straight to the congregation elders. The Watchtower says, “Another way to “come to” Jesus is by going to the congregation elders if we need help. Jesus uses these “gifts in men” to care for his sheep. (Eph. 4:7, 8, 11; John 21:16; 1 Pet. 5:1-3)”. However, the idea that Jesus uses gifts in men to care for his sheep is misleading. The Kingdom Interlinear used in the Watchtower library actually shows that the correct translation of the phrase should be that “he [Jesus] gave gifts to the men”, as confirmed by the verses where Paul then enumerates those gifts in Ephesians 4:11: “And it was He [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,” (Beroean Study Bible). See also Biblehub.
The Bible record makes it clear that the various gifts of Holy Spirit were given to first century Christians by Jesus. A good shepherd, therefore, was not necessarily also a good evangelist or a prophet. The congregation needed all these gifts and needed all to use those gifts and to work together. Paul made this point in Ephesians 4:16 when he wrote: “From him all the body is harmoniously joined together and made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed. When each respective member functions properly, this contributes to the growth of the body as it builds itself up in love“.
As we see, Jesus gave gifts of Holy Spirit to men (and to women) in order to build up and benefit the congregation, but he did not give gifts of men as elders and expect each member to obey them and do their bidding. How would Jesus feel today to see men “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance”? 1 Peter 5:13.
Take My Yoke Upon You (par.6-7)
Paragraph 6 engages in speculation by stating: “When Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you,” he may have meant “Accept my authority.” He could also have meant “Get under the yoke with me, and together we will work for Jehovah.” Either way, the yoke entails work”.
We might wonder what would Jesus’ listeners have immediately thought of when asked to take his yoke upon them? They may have first thought of the yoke they were so familiar with, the one designed for two cattle used to pull a plough or similar farming implement in a balanced way. Is the idea here though that Jesus wanted us to come under his control by accepting his authority? No. Jesus did not ever try to control anyone as it would have contradicted his words in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be truly free” (freedom in the context of enslavement to sin). It would hardly be freedom, if we gave up one form of control and we were then to be controlled by Jesus.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus appears to be contrasting his yoke with the yoke of another. He says, “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is kindly, and my load is light”. Note the three key emphasized phrases. Jesus was pointing out that his listeners were already working too hard, in fact slaving. They were toiling and loaded down, bending under the heavy burdens placed on them, not only by sin, but also by the Pharisees.
Jesus was offering a refuge to those who would accept the freedom of the Christ. First, they would be freed from enslavement to the Law Covenant and second, they would be freed from the burden of enslavement to the traditions of men, enforced by the Pharisees. Instead, believers could endeavor to put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16, Romans 8:21, Galatians 5:1) and know his freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 states: “12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were closed. For to this day the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenant. It has not been lifted, because only in Christ can it be removed. 15 And even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (Beroean Study Bible).
If sharing the yoke with Christ will refresh us, then will it not also make our lives easier and more pleasant? Christ was offering to reduce our burdens by sharing them with him, instead of trying to carry the burdens on our own. Christ does not add to our burdens because that would not be refreshing. True to form, however, the Watchtower implies in paragraph 7 that the Organization nonetheless expects us to strap on a yoke to do the work of preaching. No matter that Jesus gave various gifts of Holy Spirit so some could be teachers, some shepherds, some prophets and some evangelisers. According to the Organization, we all have to work as evangelisers!
Learn from me (par.8-11)
“Humble people were drawn to Jesus. Why? Consider the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees. Those religious leaders were cold and arrogant. (Matthew 12:9-14)”. The passage in Matthew 12 highlights how Jesus cared for those who were ill and cured them even on the Sabbath, following the principle for which the Sabbath was created– for refreshment, both in the physical and spiritual aspects of life. However, the Pharisees could only see that Jesus was doing “work” in their eyes and hence breaking the Sabbath law in their eyes.
Likewise, today, are not the modern-day Pharisees only interested in the hours on your monthly report spent knocking on empty doors? Do they care how much time you spend helping the elderly and the infirm? Do they care how much time you spend helping those distressed because of events in their lives outside their control? Indeed, you will be considered “inactive” or “a non-reporter” if you do not go from door to door for at least 1 hour a month. Is it not obvious that circuit overseers are told to focus on how much field service a person does rather than on his true Christian qualities when making appointments?
Paragraph 11 admonishes us: “Never would we want to be like the Pharisees, who resented those who questioned them and persecuted those who expressed an opinion contrary to their own”. But is it not clear that shunning and disfellowshipping those who have doubts or scripturally question a current teaching of the Organization, are Pharisaic ways of handling sincere concerns?
If a person reading this article does not believe that the leaders of the organization are like Pharisees, why not put it to the test for yourself? See what happens when you openly tell more than one elder that you cannot believe the “overlapping generations” teaching because it does not make logical sense, (which it does not). As to what then will follow, you cannot say you were not warned.
Continue to find refreshment under Jesus Yoke (par.16-22)
The remainder of the Watchtower article is the Organization’s slant on what they consider Christ’s “yoke” and “work” to be. Regretfully and notably, this work is not discussed as working on Christian qualities in order to imitate the Christ, but rather on the prominent work of attending meetings and pioneering.
Paragraph 16 opens with “The load that Jesus asks us to carry is different from other loads that we must bear”. It then continues with “We may be exhausted at the end of a workday and have to push ourselves to attend a congregation meeting that night”. But what load does Jesus ask us to carry? Where in the scriptures did Jesus ask us to flagellate ourselves to attend a weekly evening meeting? Before you answer, remember that Hebrews 10:25 was written by Paul, not Jesus. Also, the apostle Paul was not referring to weekly meetings using an Organization’s prescripted format, where everyone gets served the same bland, non-nutritional food.
The only meeting or gathering together Jesus mentioned was in Matthew 18:20 where he said “20 For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst”, and this was not commanded. The meetings and gatherings recorded in the Christian Greek scriptures all appear to have been impromptu, triggered by a particular need or event, and were not part of a structured regular schedule of meetings (For example Acts 4:31, 12:12, 14:27, 15:6,30).
Next, we appear to have the push to give up anything resembling a reasonably comfortable life and become paupers by twisting the account in Mark 10:17-22. The paragraph (17) says: “Jesus presented the young ruler with an invitation. “Go, sell what things you have,” Jesus said, “and come be my follower.” The man was torn, but it appears that he could not let go of his “many possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22) As a result, he rejected the yoke that Jesus had offered him and continued to slave “for Riches.””.
Is there any evidence given by Jesus that the rich man slaved for riches? In reality, the riches were likely inherited, as rulers in that time period often came from rich families. Is it not true that finding it difficult to give up something is very different than working very hard to get more? Is not this point something that we should not overlook? Does it not appear that the Organization is desperate to make the scripture fit its own agenda here?
Can we see the twisted application of this scripture in order to encourage a Witness to give up full-time secular work and slave for the Organization as a pioneer, a construct of the Organization and not the Bible? A Pioneer status was, and is not, a requirement of a Christian or “work” required by Christ.
We can see in Paragraph 19 that there is the thrust to support the non scriptural idea that we can replace Jesus’ yoke by appealing to Jehovah’s “authority” to work! The Watchtower writer states: “We are doing Jehovah’s work, so it must be done Jehovah’s way. We are the workers, and Jehovah is the Master”.
The agenda of this Watchtower article is notably the Organization pointing out that it expects its adherents to slave for it and that the authority of Jehovah is its authority. While trying to explain the meaning of Jesus’ yoke, the Organization shows a Pharisaical attitude, pointing out that a true Christian should slave in preaching for it and not worry about income. The Organization, like the collective group of Pharisees, under the guise of trying to appear Christlike, are imposing a heavy yoke of slavery, of the work of unscriptural preaching. The Christ’s refreshing yoke has been twisted for an evil purpose. Should we not all realize that when we are freed from mandatory activities yoked upon us by the Organization, then we actually start to feel the freedom of the Christ?