“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
This is a very warming, simple invitation, “Come to me.” Jesus’s words are astonishing, powerful, charming and refreshing. In my own mind, I can imagine Jesus's exact soothing, softly spoken tone of voice, his love and care plain for all to see. He doesn't provide us with a long list of possible solutions that may or may not work. Instead, Jesus offers himself as the key to unlock, remove all that burdens us in life.
What does exactly coming to Jesus mean? Jesus spoke these verses after rebuking some of the towns and cities that he had been preaching, and performing many miracles in. He rebukes the religious leaders and people who heard him, and saw the miracles taking place. For these things clearly demonstrated exactly who he was (the Christ), and yet they did not believe in him, or the one who sent him. The people of that time were not used to being spoken to in such an open, forthright way. For them, it was a difficult thing to come to God in this fashion. Instead, the religious authorities put up religious barriers of law and tradition. These men were aloof, reserved, judgemental, critical. The people felt crushed beneath them. Yet despite their unbelief, and rejection, Jesus holds out an olive branch and tells them to come to him just as they are, that they should believe and trust him. Jesus is so different! One of the accusations laid against him was that he openly mixed with tax collectors, sinners! (Matthew 9:10-13, 11:19, Luke 7:39); the lower classes of society! He says the same warming words today, just come to me. Coming to Jesus is believing in who he is, and what he is able to do for you.
All may come
Jesus invites everyone to come to him. There is no-one who will be turned aside, or feel unwanted. No group of people are excluded. He is all-embracing! We have full confidence that we can approach him, for he is gentle and lowly in heart. We may fear to draw near to a Holy God, but there is one who is just like us, apart from sin, whom we can draw near without any fear of rejection. Instead, we feel loved and cared for. Welcomed with open arms!
The invite is to all who labour and are heavy laden. In many ways all of us find ourselves to be in such a condition. The cares and responsibilities we face in this world can feel a crushing weight which we cannot at times carry. We hear and read of suicides being committed by the young and old, and not just by people suffering from mental health problems. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults. Apart from the pressures of normal teenage life, their environment and specific circumstances can lead to undue pressures that they feel and cannot cope. Such pressures that we face may arise from work, divorce, moving home, peer pressure, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, alcoholism, drugs etc, and these are just a few examples. Such things and more may be affecting you today. Do you feel like you are carrying heavy burdens that are weighing you down? Do you feel like you want to give up?
Jesus himself knows exactly what it's like to bear heavy loads. He was born into a poor family, raised with many brothers and sisters. He had to help support his mother and family when his father died. He felt what we feel. He felt weary, tired. He wept, he suffered betrayal, and agonising pains we can scarcely imagine on the cross. He experienced all we experience for he was a man like us, and yet remained fully God. That is why he cannot help but sympathise with us. He is our sympathetic High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) who represents us before his Father.
What depresses you most? What is your biggest concern? Do you feel a failure? The bible says our biggest burden is the burden of guilt and sin. Ultimately, all our other issues arise from this. If Jesus can sort out and alleviate this major issue, then we can truly place our trust in him to relieve us of all our worries and concerns. Born as a saviour, he bore our sin upon himself upon the cross, so that all who come to him may find forgiveness, peace with God. Rest.
This word is rich, full of significance in the bible. After a hard day at school, college, or working for a living, we long to put our feet up, to have a nice relaxing rest! God knows this because he made us! In the very beginning, God created everything around us, and himself rested on the seventh day. Not because he had to, but he was setting a principle in place that we should work six days a week and rest on the seventh, a day on which we stop all other things, and enjoy him. The bible also speaks of a heavenly rest that is still to come for all his people. Whereby we shall be at his side and enjoy him for evermore.
Here, however, Jesus is primarily referring to the rest, the peace we will find and enjoy in our lives when we believe and trust in his word. Rest is having your burden lifted and removed. We rest on his word, we rest on his promises. His promise is that all who come to him in faith, will receive rest as a gift, and obtain peace and comfort in their hearts. It doesn't mean all our problems will automatically go away. But it does mean we will be able to face them because we have found inner peace and fellowship with God. A rest the world cannot offer or give, to face the many challenges that come your way. It is the assurance that God is with us no matter what we face. We no longer have to face the dangers in this world alone, in our own strength. Our God not only has the power, but he helps us during our time of need. He is our loving heavenly Father. We can confidently cry out to him.
Take my yoke upon you
You may be asking the question – if he promises us “rest” - why does he tell us to put on his yoke? A yoke is placed on a beast of burden in order to do some work. Is Jesus offering us rest or work? That is exactly the question Jesus wants us to ask: What work must we do for him that supposedly will give us rest?
Jesus said on one occasion “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29) Also “Abide in me” (John 15:4) Like a branch is attached to a vine. Believe and abide: that really is all the work God requires of us. To submit to Jesus by faith (That is believing and abiding). By resting on the hopeful promises of God. This is the yoke Jesus calls us to draw alongside and put on. And as we do so, we find he is with us, helping us along the way.
Learn from me
As we take up his yoke, he asks us to “learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart”, i.e. look at how I live my own life. Just as he, Jesus willingly submitted himself and obeyed his Father in every aspect during his life upon this earth, so must we. Also, we are to take on board what he has to say to us, not merely listen. It is to bow, honour his authority and Lordship in your life. For his commandments are holy, just, and good. It requires self-denial, and yes exposes us to difficulties, but this is abundantly repaid, even in this world by inward peace and joy. It is a yoke that is lined with love. He is gentle, considerate and kind. God is not a hard taskmaster standing over us cracking the whip! That is not the message of the gospel! Jesus comes to save, not to judge.
What do gentleness and meekness imply to you? Meekness is not weakness. It means to be patient, long-suffering, a listener. Someone who cares for the needs of others before their own. Wikipedia has this definition, which is surprising - “meekness means to restrain one's own power (or authority) so as to allow room for others.” Jesus is our supreme example to follow in this respect. Imagine such a world where everyone really loves their neighbour as they love themselves?
An easy, light yoke and burden
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus promises that it is an easy yoke to take on board, and not at all heavy or burdensome! It is a light burden in exchange for your heavy one! The word ”easy” in Greek has a much wider range of meaning—good, helpful, kind and profitable!
It is pleasant yoke to take up. Let us all come to him at every opportunity, for deliverance from wrath and guilt, from sin and Satan, and from all our pressures, cares, fears, and sorrows in life. Come to Jesus to find rest for your weary life. It is a teaching that Christian’s tend to forget. At times we can feel within ourselves that we are so evil and sinful that we begin to doubt whether we shall ever enter heaven. We compare what the bible teaches with the way we are actually living, and feel that we are failing. We can even come to him assailed with many doubts and concerns, if we really have been truly saved, and be lovingly assured by his tender words.
The bottom line is this, the Lord loves us. He wants us to go to heaven, and to enjoy loving fellowship with him. Therefore, he makes it easier for us. After all, why would the Lord create us for heaven, and then place impossible obstacles in our path?
Why don't you take Jesus at his word?
Perhaps the reason is that you love the way you live too much. We enjoy our sins. If I become a Christian, then there are too many things in my life I’m not willing to give up. But I know they are not right, for the bible, and my conscience tells me so.
Maybe the reason why we believe the way to heaven is so difficult is that we place many of our own obstacles and excuses in our way. The path which the Lord gives us is not difficult. He promises that it is easy. The difficulty is one we create ourselves. It lies in the fact that we, quite simply, want to remain where we are. The difficulty lies in taking up the yoke in the first place, trusting in Jesus, and not what follows.
In summary, believe, abide, and learn by following Jesus as our example. This is the easy and light yoke he calls us to put on in the place of our heavy one. It is the only yoke
Feed your soul daily on...
Do you think you are too bad for God? Do you think you’ve gone too far for God to ever want you back? Well, maybe we should let God decide that.
"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)
What is true salvation? What does it look like to be in a right relationship with God, our Creator so that I can call him God my Redeemer?
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:10)
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
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Amyand Park Chapel, Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 3HY
Sunday Services at 11am and 6:30pm