Jesus goes on to teach in such a way that it is clear that he believed in both predestination (that God has already determined everything that will happen) and free will. He teaches both alongside one another. It is a paradox. The two seemingly contradictory things are both true at the same time.
It is not 50% ‘predestination’ and 50% ‘free will’. Jesus says we are 100% predestined and we have 100% free will. This may seem impossible, but God is able to transcend and yet not distort human freedom. We ultimately see this in the incarnation: Jesus is 100% God and 100% human; he is fully God and fully human.
Predestination ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. 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’ (v.27).
Why God chooses to reveal himself to some and not to others is a mystery. It is certainly not based on wisdom and learning. Sometimes the great intellectuals simply cannot see it: ‘you have hidden these things from the wise and learned’ (v.25). And yet sometimes people of little or no education, or those who are very young (‘little children’, v.25), seem to have a very profound understanding of Jesus. ‘You’ve concealed your way from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people’ (v.25, MSG).
Free will Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (v.28). The invitation to come to Jesus is for everyone. No one is excluded. We are all invited. We all have a choice whether to accept the invitation of Jesus or to refuse it.
I find it difficult to get my mind around this paradox. However, I have found the following illustration helpful. Imagine a room with an arched doorway. The outside of the arch is inscribed with the words, ‘Come to me, all you…’ (v.28). In other words everyone is invited into the room. When you get into the room, on the inside of the same arch is written, ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (v.27b).
In other words, free will is a doctrine for everyone. No one can say, ‘I am not going to become a Christian because I have not been chosen.’ The invitation is to all. On the other hand, predestination is a doctrine of assurance for those who are Christians. Once you have accepted the invitation and entered, you can know that God has chosen you and therefore he will not let you go.
I love the words of Jesus in verse 28. In a stressful world where so many are ‘weary and burdened’, Jesus promises you rest. He offers to take your burdens and replace them with his own.
The yoke (something that Jesus would have made in the carpenter's shop) was a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make burdens easier to carry. I love this image of walking in step with Jesus, sharing our burdens, making the trials to be endured and the battles to be faced ‘easy’ and ‘light’ by comparison.
Jesus is not a slave driver. When you pursue his agenda for your life you carry a burden but it is ‘not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant’ (v.30, AMP). When you do what Jesus asks you to do, he gives you the strength and wisdom to do it and you carry his burden with him. There will, of course, be many challenges and difficulties, but there will also be a lightness and ease.
Jesus says to you: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–29, MSG). Just relax and let God be God.