The benevolent ruler: The characterization of Jesus in Matt 11:25–30

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The saying of Jesus in Matt 11:25–30 is often understood as a presentation of him as Wisdom personified or as wisdom teacher and great Revealer, influenced by the wisdom sayings in Sirach. The yoke of Jesus refers to his teaching/law, so the conclusion is that the teaching of Jesus is easy to perform or follow. Though the teaching role of Jesus is prominent in Matthew and his wisdom is underlined, this paper argues that the present verses rather portray Jesus as a benevolent ruler/king. This interpretation makes better sense of the emphasis of humility and the characterization of the yoke as chre¯stos. The wider context of the passage is the identity and character of the Messiah, an issue raised by John the Baptist in 11:2–3 and developed in chapter 12 (12:18–21, 23). The presentation of Jesus as the Messiah, the Davidic king, is also the main purpose of the gospel (1:1). In 11:27, the divine authority of Jesus is underlined through the statement that “all things have been handed over” to him and the reference to the Son, which also is a common reference to the messianic king. It is thus reasonable to understand the passage as a characterization of the Messiah, the Son of God (16:16), the true King of Israel (2:2, 25:31–34, 27:37). It is often taken for granted that the yoke metaphor refers to the Torah or to wisdom. The usage of the yoke metaphor, however, is varied in contemporary literature. The metaphor was widely used as a reference to someone’s lordship or kingship. The use of the metaphor in the description of the Messiah in the Psalms of Solomon 17:30 and the parallel saying in the Gospel of Thomas 90 suggest that the usage of the metaphor in Matthew refers to the lordship or reign of Jesus and not specific to his teaching/law. This view is also confirmed by the use of the term chre¯stos, which is used to describe the character of the yoke of Jesus. The term is often used to describe the kindness and clemency of rulers. Though the teaching/law of Jesus is included in the yoke, it is not the same thing as the yoke. To follow the teaching of Jesus is rather a practical consequence of submitting to his yoke — his authority and rule. This understanding of the yoke metaphor makes good sense of the following exhortation to learn for the humility of Jesus. Jesus himself displays a humble and submissive attitude to the will of his Father and the follower can thus learn from him in order to submit to his authority and lordship. Consequently, the self-presentation of Jesus in Matt 11:25–30 characterizes Jesus, the Messiah and the Son of God, as a benevolent and kind ruler and leader. The people of Israel are invited to receive Jesus as Messiah and thus to accept his authority and leadership. Then they will benefit the blessings under his compassionate rule and lordship.


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Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Religionsvetenskap
StatusPublished - 2017 nov 18
Peer review utfördJa
EvenemangAnnual meeting society of biblical literature - Boston, Boston, USA
Varaktighet: 2017 nov 172017 nov 21


KonferensAnnual meeting society of biblical literature
Förkortad titelAAR/SBL