Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life? It can happen due to family problems, financial strains, marriage challenges or physical difficulties. Sometimes we become burdened down with worries of what might happen or what has happened that we can’t change. It is the fact that burdens are so real in our lives that makes the great invitation of Jesus mean so much.
In Matthew 11:25-30 Jesus prays to the Father thanking him that he has hidden some things from the wise and learned but has revealed them to little children. He declared, “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.” I’ve heard lots of people say that Jesus never thought of himself as anything more than a man and that it was the church who decided he was the messiah and declared him to be part of the Godhead. When such claims are made it is either out of ignorance of the gospel accounts or the refusal to accept what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John said about Jesus and his word. He clearly says that he has a unique relationship with the Father and that only through him can one come to know the Father.
It is against that background that Jesus said, “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.”
No wonder this is called the great invitation. It certainly isn’t the only time Jesus offered powerful invitations. In many ways this one is comparable to his invitation in John 7:37 when he stood up on the last great day of the feast and loudly said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John went ahead to explain that he was talking about the Holy Spirit that would be given in Jesus name.
Think of His great invitation. “Come to me.” While Jesus came into the world to become one with us and seek and save the lost, he doesn’t do all the coming. He offers the invitation for all to come to him for life, but he doesn’t force us to come nor does he chase us down if we decide to walk away from him. Each person must decide for himself if he will accept Christ’s invitation to come.
Also it is come to me. This isn’t an invitation to a philosophy or pattern for living, but a personal invitation for one to come to Jesus himself and find life and fullness. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Salvation and forgiveness aren’t attained by following a formula or system of belief. It is found in coming to the man, Jesus Christ.
Who does Jesus invite to come to him? “All you who are weary and burdened” are invited to come. The idea of being weary is to be tired, worn out and exhausted. To be burdened is to be weighed down with problems, troubles, trials and responsibilities. When we are burdened we feel that we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. All kinds of things can burden us and make us tired or weary. It can be frustration from problems at home, problems on the job, debt that hangs over everything, or problems with our children that we don’t know what to do with. Sometimes the weights that are upon us come from sin that we haven’t turned from in repentance. Whatever has made us weary and what ever has burdened us down, Jesus invites us to come to him, bringing our burdens and worries and he will give us rest. Sometimes the burdens we carry have been packed on us by other people. But many times they also come from our own doing. Either way when they get too heavy to carry any longer, Jesus stands ready to help us whenever we call upon Him.
What is the rest that Jesus offers? He isn’t promising us a new rocking chair so that we can sit outside the Cracker-Barrel and rock our life away. It isn’t even the physical rest we often feel we need. It is the rest for our souls. It is a peace inside knowing our sins are forgiven and we aren’t alone any longer. This rest is found in a constant relationship with Jesus Christ.
Those who come to him are then invited to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” What is a yoke? The primary use of a yoke in that time was to put to oxen together to pull some load or plow a field. In Luke 14:19 Jesus told a parable of a man having a feast and inviting different guest to come share it with him. Among those invited who made excuses for not coming was one man who said, “I have bought 5 yoke of oxen and must go and try them.” Each yoke would be two oxen so he had ten in all. At other times the word yoke is used of the teaching of some particular rabbi of the time. In Acts 15:10 Peter is speaking to the group gathered to discuss whether or not gentiles who became Christians had to be circumcised and keep the law asked the people why they were testing God and putting on these new converts a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear.
It seems far more likely that it is in the sense of the teachings of Jesus that he calls his yoke. By taking on his yoke one is pledging to be his disciple to learn his teaching and follow his example. This fits the next phrase which is “learn from me”. To take on Jesus yoke would be different from most because he completely and perfectly lived the things that he taught. In a very real sense the taking of the yoke and the learning of Jesus is a never ending process. We must constantly be examining our lives by his standard shown both in his teaching and his life.
The more we learn from Jesus the more it becomes evident that he is gentle and humble in heart. Jesus is the one through whom God the Father made the whole world (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-3). He upholds all things by the word of his power (Colossians 1:16). He had power to raise the dead, to drive out demons and to stop the storms. Yet he is gentle, meek or under control. His life is a yielded life. He said, “I didn’t come to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Even before being crucified he prayed, “IF it is possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”
He said he was humble or lowly in heart. Humility isn’t thinking too much of yourself, or too little of yourself. It is not thinking of yourself. It is when we get lost in a cause bigger than we are and we stop thinking of what others might think of us. If Jesus, the Lord was humble and gentle, surely we need to be. We have none of his power or glory so we need to follow his lead.
As we learn of him and take his yoke we become more humble and gentle and we find rest to our souls. This designates the area where rest is gained. It isn’t about physical rest. It is about rest on the inside. It is stopping the struggle that goes on inside us. Our minds and conscience can relax.
His yoke is easy. His burden is light. When one took on the yoke of a rabbi it often led to huge sacrifices to follow his lead. Jesus said, his yoke is not one that wears you out. It is easy. It fits well. It is smooth and built just for you. The burdens he puts on us to carry are light. Notice from this that Jesus doesn’t invite us to a way of living that requires nothing of us. He doesn’t say there is no yoke and no burdens. He says, compared to the rabbi’s who followed their understanding of the Old Law, his way was light and easy.
It doesn’t matter what kind of load you are carrying or how heavy your burdens may be, it doesn’t matter how tired and worn out you are with problems. Jesus invites you to rest. He can take your burdens and carry them with you the rest of the way. But how do I find this rest? Come to Jesus. Come believing in him as the Son of God, turning from sin and to him in repentance, in faith submit to his will in obedience in baptism and then in living for him, in his yoke for the rest of your life.