Jesus said, Come to me ...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Matt 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Today's sermon is an invitation to God's call to come to him. The call is made to those who labour and are heavy laden, the former an active, the latter a passive participle, covering both the active and passive sides of human misery. We are all called to come to him. What I find enthralling is the reason for going to God - it is for rest but in the form of taking up the yoke. Now isn't that a paradox?

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) shed some light:

Take my yoke - This is a figure taken from the use of oxen, and hence signifying to labor for one, or in the service of anyone. The "yoke" is used in the Bible as an emblem:

(1) of bondage or slavery, Lev 26:13; Deu 28:38.
(2) of afflictions or crosses, Lam 3:27.
(3) of the punishment of sin, Lam 1:14,
(4) of the commandments of God.
(5) of legal ceremonies, Act 15:10; Gal 5:1.

It refers here to the religion of the Redeemer; and the idea is, that they should embrace his system of religion and obey him. All virtue and all religion imply "restraint" - the restraint of our bad passions and inclinations - and subjection to laws; and the Saviour here means to say that the restraints and laws of his religion are mild, and gentle, and easy. Let anyone compare them with the burdensome and expensive ceremonies of the Jews (see Act 15:10), or with the religious rites of the pagan everywhere, or with the requirements of the Popish system, and he will see how true it is that Jesus’ yoke is easy. And let his laws and requirements be compared with the laws which sin imposes on its votaries - the laws of fashion, and honor, and sensuality - and he will feel that religion is "freedom," Joh 8:36. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves besides." It is "easier" to be a Christian than a sinner; and of all the yokes ever imposed on people, that of the Redeemer is the lightest.

But the more important question is how is it easier? How is the burden light? The call to discipleship is something that is very serious.

Matt 16:24
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matt 8:19-22
And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."

RT France in his commentary to Matthew (Tyndale NT Commentaries, p.200-1) refers the yoke to the yoke of Jesus and Jesus himself who gives rest in opposed to the yoke of wisdom or the law. The rest that Jesus offers is not a release from all obligations; Matt 5:20 shows that his demands are greater.

Matt 5:20
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But because of who he is, being gentle and lowly in heart, his demands are such that to respond to them is rest or relief, being an equally good translation.

Jesus' yoke is easy (chrestos usually means good, kind) not because it makes lighter demands, but because it represents entering into a disciple-relationship (learn from me) with one who is gentle and lowly in heart.

Isa 42:1-3
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isa 53:1-2
Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

Zec 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Matt 21:4-5
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden."

Being gentle and lowly in heart is also the character that Jesus expects and creates in his disciples as seen in the Beatitudes (Matt 5). This attractive side aspect of Jesus is a vital counterbalance to the sterner side of Jesus.

Matt 7:13-14
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

To emphasize either to the exclusion of the other it to miss the real Jesus.

Now, that's the paradox: an easy yoke, a light burden; still a yoke, still a burden, but easy and light.

Picture by Kalyana Sundaram

You Might Also Like

6 comment(s)

  1. Thans for this summary today, Pearlie. Our church was cancelled because of a blizzard, and we can never be reminded enough of these texts! Blessing to you, Julia

  2. I begin to feel this burden is not so light and easy sometimes. Reading this made me realize that I am often under the restraint of my own expectations and condemnation, not the loving tutelage of Christ.

    Thanks for sharing the message!

  3. Missy,
    I begin to feel this burden is not so light and easy sometimes.

    Same here. At time it is even too much to bear. When I was younger, I was always being told to depend on the strength of God. My question is very practical, "How?" I can't say that I have found the answer and I am still learning.

  4. ...I was always being told to depend on the strength of God. My question is very practical, "How?"

    Same here. For me, I am thinking it is trust and humility, but I suspect for everyone the "how" is different. Matt. 11:30 just tells me that it would be more of a burden without Christ.

    Alos, my friend Danny asked an interesting question that your study gave me some insight on (don't know if I was right - but it brought me great joy!). I linked this post in my response. I hope you don't mind.

  5. Missy,
    I don't mind at all, this is what blogging is about :)

    I will get back to you on Danny - when I have the time to get to it. Been up to my nose lately with work! :)