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Lesson Plan for Matthew 11-12 & Luke 11



We continue to read about the miracles of Jesus, one listed right after another. As a result, more Jewish leaders and Pharisees are becoming antsy about what this means. We might appreciate only partially what all these miracles mean and what they looked like to those looking on.


"15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;"

The language here is used in several other places in scripture about the Savior's personal ministry: See Matthew 8:16, 14:14, 19:2, 21:14, Mark 3:13, 6:56, Luke 4:40, 6:19, 9:11, & 3 Nephi 17:9. 

The context of each scene is multitudes of people. We are talking hundreds, at least, if not thousands of people following Jesus to experience healing for themselves. The language of many of these verses paints a scene of many thronging to just touch Jesus. Virtue is exponentially flowing out from Him and it results in scenes of cosmic power. It results in scenes that, frankly, fulfilled millennial and messianic prophecy. This might be what the apostle John had in mind when he writes as the very last scripture in his gospel:

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (see John 21:25)

This sets the stage well for the beginning of Matthew 11 where Jesus is approached by disciples of John the Baptist, the Baptist is in King Herod's prison at this time.


"2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:

5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."

Here, Jesus quotes a handful of lines from Isaiah instead of directly answering John's question (see Isaiah 29:18, 35:4-6, & Isaiah 60:1-3).


What does Jesus' answer mean for us? The Pharisees looking on and hearing Jesus quote messianic and millennial prophecy took great offense. How do we make sense of Jesus quoting Isaianic Messianic Millennial prophecy?

What we might take for granted here is that Jesus is, again, saying "my Kingdom is at hand". We think too chronologically as members of the Church, especially when we have the priesthood of God in our midst. Joseph Smith once taught:

"Some say the kingdom of God was not set up on the earth until the day of Pentecost, and that John did not preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, but I say in the name of the Lord, that the kingdom of God was set up on the earth from the days of Adam to the present time, whenever there has been a righteous man on earth unto whom God revealed his word and gave power and authority to administer in his name: and where there is a priest of God, a minister who has power and authority from God to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel, and officiate in the Priesthood of God, there is the kingdom of God, and in consequence of rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Prophets whom God hath sent, the judgments of God have rested upon people, cities and nations in various ages of the world, which was the case with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed for rejecting the Prophets." (1)

Jesus had come as the great high priest, but the Jewish crowd long understood that signs followed the Kingdom. These signs were healing, forgiveness, and deliverance.

Whenever there is a priest of God on earth, THERE IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The implication for all of us, especially those of us who have been ordained to the priesthood and taken upon ourselves temple covenants, is to expect great manifestations of power because the Kingdom is at hand, again, in our day.

President Nelson sums this up succinctly:

"... my dear brothers and sisters, so many wonderful things are ahead. In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns “with power and great glory,” He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful." (2)



Reflect back on the beginning of Matthew 11 again. Why did the Baptist send the disciples to ask such a question of Jesus?

Some might think that this was John trying to get his disciples their own witness of the master, but various Church scholars believe otherwise. (3) The Greek seems to slightly hint that this was John the Baptist beginning to doubt ever so slightly who the Savior was. John, just a year or so earlier, had the strongest witness of the Savior there was. He was the one who witnessed of Christ from the womb!


What can this teach us about doubt and the questions we ask?

One Christian Scholar, N.T. Wright has well pointed out the following:

"Doubt is to faith what grief is to love... not to grieve is to deny love. To not doubt is to deny faith... We must turn doubt into Faith... We ought to [follow the example of the Savior in Gethsamene] and turn our questioning into a prayer. [When used properly, doubt] is to struggle to bring who we currently are into the presence of God - that is doubt becoming a part of faith... The reward, then, to getting answers to our questions is three more questions." (3)

The Savior follows this pattern by answering the Baptist's question with more questions. But, doubt is a tool and it can rear its head during suffering like it did for John the Baptist. It can destroy Faith if used incorrectly, but John the Baptist counters his doubt by asking a question with real intent. It is something like when the Prophet Joseph lamented, "Oh God! Where art thou!" in liberty jail. He turned his doubt into faithful lament and it spurred revelation. Note how the Savior goes on in Matthew 11 and does not scold John the Baptist for his doubts, but he continues to speak glowingly about him. The same can be said of those who approach their doubts with Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE YOKE OF CHRIST: Fence Laws, Covenants, and the Temple

Jesus goes on to upbraid the cities of Galilee where He displayed his cosmic power of the Kingdom. He rebukes Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum which has been his base of ministry for the last little while. He claims that the ancient wicked cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have repented if they had witnessed such a display of divine power. Abraham and Ezekiel prophesied against those cities, and Jesus is putting the covenant people on notice here. 

This lament sets the stage for Jesus' words next.


"25 ¶ At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

28 ¶ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."


We are familiar with verses 28-30, but how might verses 25-27 set the stage for Jesus' invitation? How is personal revelation about Christ a prerequisite for taking upon ourselves His yoke?

Anciently, this yoke of Christ would have been understood to stand as a contrast to the "yoke of Torah" (see Acts 15:10). Jacob in the Book of Mormon explains it this way; they despised plainness in favor of things they could not understand. They despised revelation and favored an overabundance of "fence laws" that made the law burdensome instead of a guiding light to the Messiah. These "fence laws" would have been helpful to some, but they got in the way of personal revelation and building a relationship with the Savior.

Elder Uchtdorf has pointed out how we might fall for the same trap in our day:

"The Savior Himself [said]: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him. But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.” (4)

We believe in keeping the commandments, but what Jesus critiques often in His conversations with Pharisees is they didn't have Spirit-driven "fence laws". Fence laws is a term some scholars use to explain a self-implemented law to prevent one from breaking higher laws. The Pharisees literally had hundred of these and, as Elder Uchtdorf points out, might have been good ideas at one point in time but they led the Pharisees to miss the revelation that would reveal the Messiah to them.


How does one keep the commandments while keeping their focus on the Savior? When are "fence laws" a good idea and when are they not?

The Savior gives us the prescription in verses 28-30. Let's sink our teeth into these verses which, after John 3:16, might be the most popular scriptures in the New Testament.

The very first word in verse 28, 'Come', is deute which isn't the usual word for 'Come' in Greek. According to one scholar, "it is a very inviting imperative of the word that says keep coming, continue heading toward me and approaching me" (5). In addition, the phrase 'I will give you rest' in Greek is anapauso and it doesn't mean permanent rest. It means "I will refresh you" or "give you pause on your journey". It appears to be the Lord saying, "rest now and then tomorrow we ride for Zion."

It is here where the Lord then transitions to His yoke. If the Greek about rest implies future work and labor, then we can see the yoke as the Lord helping us or preparing us to labor in His work (see Moses 1:39). Too often these scriptures might be read with a vain hope of not having any future hardship or labor to perform. They, in fact, imply the exact opposite.

Verse 29 goes into taking upon us, voluntarily, the yoke of Christ. We must learn of Him, which implies the revelation verses 25-27 were talking about. "Christ stands revealed or He remains forever unknown" (6). We must learn to be meek and lowly in heart like the Savior. The prophet Moroni gives a great sermon on what that means in Moroni chapter 7 of the Book of Mormon. The Greek in this verse about rest varies just slightly from the previous verse. Note how in verse 28 the Lord will give us refreshment and rest, but in verse 29 the rest spoken of must be found by us. Learning of the Savior and being meek enough to receive revelation will lead us to find this eternal rest verse 29 speaks of.

Eternal rest is defined in D&C 84:24 as the fullness of Christ's glory. Therefore, yoke bearing implies undergoing a process to be assimilated into the likeness of Christ. Revelation does this as we seek to keep the pure commandments of the gospel and more.

Interestingly, in verse 30 there is some Greek wordplay when the Savior describes His yoke as easy. 'Easy' in Greek here is chrestos which more plainly means 'gracious' or 'good' (7). In addition, chrestos is virtually a homonym of christos. Christos is the Greek for Christ and it means "Anointed one". The root of the word is chrio which literally means to anoint with oil. In other words, Christ is invoking wordplay to show that not only is his yoke more gracious than Pharisaic Torah, but his yoke is an anointing. This implies ordinances, covenants, and even the temple (8)

In the Kirtland temple, the sacrament tables are in the shape of a yoke for oxen. In our temples, the font on top of the oxen could be interpreted as a yoke that unites the 12 oxen. In short, it shouldn't be a leap to see that this invitation to take upon us Christ's yoke and learn of Him is synonymous with taking upon us His name. The yoke metaphor does a much better job, possibly, in showing us the kind of work that is involved with fully taking upon ourselves the name of Christ.

Dallin H. Oaks puts a nice bow around this idea:

"Willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ can therefore be understood as willingness to take upon us the authority of Jesus Christ. According to this meaning, by partaking of the sacrament we witness our willingness to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Savior when he chooses to confer them upon us." (9)


What does it mean to you to take upon the Yoke of Christ? What things might we do differently when we see the work that is implied with taking upon the name of Christ?

Lastly, the Lord doesn't say He will remove burdens but that His burdens are light. Even further, the Greek when really broken down is interesting. When Christ says His burden is 'light' the greek is elaphron. When you break that word down and see how its derivatives are used in verb form in the New Testament it refers to the strain of rowing a boat through a storm (see Mark 6:38), or a demon-possessed man being driven into the desert (see Luke 8:29) or being carried by the winds of a storm (see 2 Peter 2:17) (10). In other words, "my burden is light" more fully means that once yoked to Christ we will have burdens placed upon us that have a strain-driven divine purpose.

David A. Bednar once explained the principle well after detailing a story of a friend of his who got his truck out of the snow after loading it up with firewood:

"Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness. Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most." (11)


How do we determine if the burdens we carry are unnecessary or give us spiritual traction for the Savior's purposes?

I am no authority in Greek but I would render/explain Matthew 11:28-30 this way based on piecing together what we have just discussed:

"Come and keep coming unto me all that are heavy laden with fickle commandments of men or the cares of the world, and I will give you refreshment. Once refreshed, take my name or my yoke upon you and learn of me through the spirit of revelation. To do this you must be meek and submissive like Me. If you do you will find yourself brought back into Mine and the Father's presence. For my yoke is gracious and I will anoint your head with keys, gifts, and powers from heaven. My burden has a divine purpose."

This lesson is very Matthew 11-centric. But the principles easily glide into the stories found in Matthew 12 & Luke 11.


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