Learn from Jesus
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
This verse continues our pursuit of God’s treasured rest. We come to Him, entering a relationship with Him, and finding assurance of Heaven. “Take” and “learn” are ongoing ways our companionship with Him is revealed and enhanced.
Matt. 11:29b (Holman) “. . .and learn from Me,. . .”
Jerome, finishing a biography of the wonderful Christian Hilarion, folded the book, and said, “Well, Hilarion shall be the champion whom I shall imitate.”
This we ought to say of Jesus. He is the Champion we should copy. It is our nature to imitate. We all have models we strive to resemble. A golfer swings, thinking of Tiger Woods. A basketball player dribbles, pondering Michael Jordan. Many of us held a bat, conjuring up images of Mickey Mantle’s batting stance.
Countless preachers have sought to imitate Billy Graham, saying “The Bible says,” using a North Carolina accent, though never having been there. Jim Henry, Pastor at First Baptist Church, Orlando FL, tells a humorous story. When he was a young pastor, preaching in a small country church, the invitation broke loose, and people kept coming forward. In his excitement, Jim says he told the congregation, “Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus! The buses will wait. The buses will wait.”
The people we choose as models often predict our own future behavior. It is logical to assume we will act more and more like the ones we strive to imitate.
In our text, Jesus is saying, “Make Me your model. Be like Me. I am the ideal Person.” Learning of Jesus means we intend to let ourselves be conformed into His likeness. Christianity requires a teachable spirit, a changeable attitude.
Whom Christ saves He teaches. We are to willingly learn from what He alone can impart. Jesus is the only ultimate spiritual authority (see verse 27).
His school is best, better than Harvard and Yale. He invites us to be His students. “Learn” here is the same root word as “make disciples” in the Great Commission (MT 28:19). Use of the same word to describe two vital activities of Christian living, multiplication and growth, reminds us the essence of Christianity is being for Jesus learners (disciples) who in turn recruit other learners (disciples).
Our text leads to the heart of what it means to be a believer. We’re students, learning from Jesus. He is Teacher and lesson, Professor and subject matter. His life exemplifies His teachings. Learn from Him, learn about Him, learn Him.
Study His Book. Seek His advice. Follow His pattern. What did He say and do? His words and acts can be capsulized in three words: worship, serve, go.
Jesus spoke and lived worship. In total surrender, He took up His Father’s yoke, and learned of Him. To be identified with God’s people He submitted to baptism by immersion. Have we? He attended public worship regularly. Do we? He observed the Passover, and commanded us to take the Lord’s Supper. Are we?
Jesus knew Scripture well. Do we? He slipped away often to shut out the world and be alone with the Father. Are we? By life and lip, Jesus worshiped.
Jesus talked and walked to serve. In one night He healed every sick person in His home town. Have we undertaken responsibility for the hurts in our city?
Jesus let His schedule be disrupted, allowing Himself to be inconvenienced by children, the poor, the weak. Have we allowed ourselves many interruptions lately for the sake of the disenfranchised, or are we content to throw tax money, and precious little of that, their way? In doctrine and deed, Jesus served.
Jesus commanded and demonstrated go. From a home base in Capernaum, He repeatedly went on short-term mission trips. Are we? The first thing Jesus did in His public ministry was to come preaching that the Kingdom of God had come. Do people near us even know we are in the Kingdom, or are we ashamed of it?
Christian living is not rocket science. It simply entails having Jesus as our model and focus. When did anyone last say to us, “You make me think of Jesus. You act like Him”? In this most elementary, rudimentary aspect of faith, I fear we too often fail miserably. While trying to be super-saints, to achieve great works for God, remember the most basic and most important trait of all, “Learn of Me.”
Matt. 11:29c “. . . because I am gentle . . .”
We should learn from Jesus because His wonderful words were matched by His equally wonderful deeds. Everything Christ taught, He perfectly lived out.
The word translated as “gentle,” often rendered as “meek,” described an animal that had been domesticated, trained to submit to a master’s control. The gentle and meek are those whose lives are tamed, controlled not by self, but by Jesus, whom we let rule passions of our heart, and let His power moderate them.
He requires of us only what He required of Himself. Jesus lived this way, totally yielded to Another, the Father. Victory over self was Jesus’ finest victory.
For Christian living to be successful, every instinct, every impulse, every passion, every motive has to be brought under Christ’s control. Trouble develops when we let Satan twist, skew, and pervert normal, God-given emotions and urges.
The gentle let God limit their desires at the right intensity. Any area of life out of control is a red flag saying we are not as yielded to God as we think we are.
“Gentle” includes a moderated attitude toward our lot in life. Control self-pity. At times we will be perplexed and disappointed, having to take time to sort things out, but sulking and bitterness are disallowed. The meek refuse to rebel.
“Gentle” means victory over our attitude toward others. Forgive enemies. A lady who lived long with hatred was asked on her death bed to forgive, but said, “I cannot forgive though I go to Hell.” Some would rather sacrifice Heaven than forgive. I remember when I was 12, Henry Rone’s prayer to be saved was in vain till he was willing to forgive the man who had terribly wronged him years earlier.
“Gentle” entails victory over anger. A person frequently angry knows nothing about being ruled by Christ. When Jesus reigns, inner storms don’t cause us to explode, or blow us off the straight and narrow way. Slow the lips. “I might as well say it as think it” is a lie of Satan. Leave angry thoughts unverbalized.
“Gentle” includes victory over ambition. David knew he was to be king, but refused to advance himself wrongly by killing Saul. Jesus fought this temptation. He was offered the world, based solely on His bowing to Satan. Ride herd on our aspirations. Many, driven by a frenzied lust to succeed, let their schedules run amok. They neglect the very spouse and children they claim to be working for.
In our USA culture, men especially have trouble governing this area of life. Guys, we can say all day long we work for our wife and family. We may actually believe this ourselves, and it is true to a certain degree. But let’s face it. Most of us men work for the rush and flush of success. Work is how we define ourselves.
Regulate professional ambitions. Even if we reach the pinnacle of success, most of us will look back and wonder if it was worth all the sacrifice it required.
“Gentle” enjoys victory over appetites: sex only in marriage, food only in reasonable portions, TV and movies not sinful, little credit card debt, houses, cars, and clothes we can afford. Learn to give God 10%, save 10%, and live on 80%.
The food issue haunts me. Even with my life on the line, I find it extremely hard to control my eating habits. This reveals something spiritually wrong in me.
The sweetest victories of life are not professional attainments, but times we overcome self. My most relished triumphs are victories over the body of sin in me: subdued anger, overcoming depression, ending profanity, drowning selfish ambition, weight loss, being content in life, improved husband and dad skills, etc.
The battle still rages in me. My sin nature is formidable. I know me, and the huge power needed to overcome me. My most common frustration is disgust at my own self. We must never give up learning from Jesus, the gentle One.
Jesus did not ask us to learn from Him how to be smart, to organize political systems, to construct big buildings, to succeed financially and vocationally. He would have us learn from Him how to be gentle and meek. Ultimately, the battle of life begins and ends, is won or lost, within one’s own self. To control every other aspect of life, we must first gain control over our own inner selves.