No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:27-30
Usually, we hear or read the first and the second parts of this passage separately – the “no one knows the Father” part, and the “come to me and I will give you rest” part. So much so, that I have missed that they are both part of one idea that Jesus is communicating here. But when I read them together this last time, I finally got the message: that knowing God and finding rest have something to do with each other.
The Lord told Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). Peter encouraged us to have peace through the knowledge of God.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:2-3
The Greek word in this passage translated “knowledge” is epignósis. The root of this word is gnṓsis which is defined as “knowledge gleaned from first-hand (personal) experience, connecting theory to application; ‘application-knowledge,’ gained in (by) a direct relationship.” The difference between these two words is that the prefix epí intensifies the gnṓsis part.
The word gnṓsis is the word Mary used, speaking of intimate sexual relations, in Luke 1:34 when she asked the angel, “How will this be [that she would conceive a son] since I am a virgin, or since I know (gnṓsis) not a man?” What could be more intense than that?
Yet, this knowledge of God, or epignósis, that Peter is talking about, the knowledge that gives grace and peace in abundance, is even more intense. The word epígnōsis means “contact-knowledge that is appropriate (apt, fitting) to first-hand, experiential knowing. This is defined by the individual context.” 1 (I love that! Our God is an Each of Them God.)
The Expositor’s Greek Testament expands the definition in a wonderful way: “ἐπίγνωσις [epignósis] implies a more intimate and personal relationship than γνῶσις [gnṓsis] … Grace and peace are multiplied in and through this more intimate heart knowledge of Jesus Christ, in contrast to a mere barren γνῶσις [gnṓsis].” The Pulpit Commentary completes the meaning with this: “[epignósis] comes to mean the knowledge, not merely of intellectual apprehension, but rather of deep contemplation; the knowledge which implies love – for only love can concentrate continually the powers of the soul in close meditation upon its object.”
Peter uses both of these words a few verses later:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge (gnṓsis); and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge (epignósis) of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9
I noticed that gnṓsis comes, in Peter’s list, after the basics – faith and goodness. That is a place where it’s easy to stop and settle down. I believe in Jesus and I am basically a good person. That’s the main thing. That’s good enough. But Peter says we are to add to this an application-knowledge of God and His Son. As we apply his Word to our lives, we will increasingly have the grace to do the hard stuff: self-control (dominion within, self-mastery), perseverance (steadfastness, cheerful or hopeful endurance, constancy, patient continuance or waiting), godliness (holiness), brotherly kindness (love of the brethren), and agape love (divine love, what God prefers). And this all leads, as we walk through it all with our Lord, to a more intense, deeper epignósis/love of Jesus Christ and the Father.
So, the knowledge that Peter is writing about here is vital. It is not just barren head-knowledge. It is not only that we should know about God, but that we should know God through a personal relationship and experience. There is so much disinformation and character assassination about God. There is fear; there is distrust. There is resistance to His yoke. We, many times, end up taking our inheritance and fleeing our home, thinking that it is better/safer, even possible, to take care of ourselves. How is that going for you? For me, not so well. A disaster, every time.
But Jesus is saying, come to me and I will show you who the Father really is, what He is like, His great heart – gentle and humble – whose burden for you is light. Whose yoke is kind – that is what the Greek word translated “easy” actually means – kind. Jesus invites to walk daily on the narrow way with Him, sharing this kind yoke, [t]ake my yoke upon you and learn from me. Jesus teaching us how to pray, experiencing God’s strengthening, sustaining presence, answering our prayers, comforting and encouraging us to keep going. In kindness, gentleness, humility. Then we will have peace in abundance. Then we will have everything we need to live a godly life. Then we will have rest.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Photo, Oxen Yoke, by BarbaraLN https://flic.kr/p/eztbDK