One Verse Wonders Series
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Oct. 21, 2018
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.“ Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
This Fall we’re digging into our faith one verse at a time. We’re looking at very special verses, what I’m calling, “One Verse Wonders.” These are verses that are packed full of spiritual truth and guidance.
Today’s verse is Matthew 11:28. Jesus is speaking.
“Come unto Me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.”
- Come unto Me
Notice it doesn’t say, “Come unto my teachings. Come receive my list of Do’s & Don’ts, Or Come unto my theology and my philosophy.” Some of those are part of it, but they’re far from the heart of it. He said, “Come unto Me. Fix your eyes on Me. Commune with Me.” It’s profoundly spiritual & mystical, relational & invitational.
Isn’t it powerful that at the center of our faith is a great and grand invitation? “Come unto Me.” Jesus invites us into fellowship and friendship with him, just like he invited those first disciples, “Come, follow Me.” In the book of Revelation he put his invitation this way: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and have fellowship” (Rev. 3:20).
It’s also one of those passages that reveals Jesus’ claims of being more than just a great teacher, more than a prophet. It’s a verse that speaks to his divinity. Imagine if I said to you, “Come unto me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest for your souls.” You say to yourself, “Man, he’s full of himself and delusional!”
You’ve probably heard of CS Lewis’ argument, entitled, “Lord, Liar or Lunatic? Essentially it’s this: Jesus claimed to be God (“I & the Father are one. When you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” He forgave sins. He promised eternal life through himself, etc.). Either Jesus was deliberately lying, or he was crazy, or he was who he said he was. Lord, Liar or Lunatic?
Back to our verse . . .
- Come unto Me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.
Isn’t that a comforting and compelling invitation? Jesus knows me. He knows you. (weary & heavy laden) He knows human frailty and struggle and weariness.
Jesus knew exhaustion. He was a carpenter. He worked hard. There were no power tools back then, and Home Depot had no delivery trucks back then. Everything was much, much harder. He probably had to provide for his family, as Joseph apparently died. In ministry Jesus knew exhausting. “Who touched me? I felt my power go out.” And one Friday he was exhausted from being beaten and couldn’t carry the crossbar across his shoulders on the way to Calvary.
We get exhausted sometimes. Jesus did, too. “Come unto me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens – I understand!”
Many of the people were carrying heavy burdens imposed upon them by their religious leaders. Their religion was wearing them out! The Old Testament had approximately 600 laws (613 by most scholars count). The Pharisees added 600 more! It was a heavy burden they placed upon people, and it was not life-giving, not freeing or liberating. It was lifeless, stifling and soul-draining.
- That’s why he says, “Take my Yoke upon you.”
Jews used the word “yoke” to apply to being under God’s commands. They were yoked to the Torah, to the commands of God found in the books of Moses. That was generally a good thing, but the Pharisees had made it a terrible burden by adding to the commands and demanding strict obedience to their interpretation of the OT laws.
In contrast, Jesus’ Joke is light and easy.
– it’s based on love, Jesus’ unconditional love
– it’s based on grace and being accepted by him
– it’s based on his invitation – “Come, follow me.”
– it’s based on a relationship with him
– it’s not based on a rule book, but rather on imitating him That’s much more freeing isn’t it? Imitating the One who loves you unconditionally?
“Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. My yoke is easy and light (life-giving), and you will find rest for your souls.”
A yoke refers to the cross piece that attached two animals to one another, and then another long piece came down the middle to attach the animals to a plow or wagon, whatever they were to pull.
William Barclay tells of a beautiful legend, a story that comes from the early centuries of Christianity but not from the Bible. The legend is that Jesus made yokes. He was a carpenter, a craftsmen. And he could have very easily made yokes for the farmers in his village. The legend is that he made the best yokes around. And people did came from miles around to buy one of Jesus’ yokes. The Greek word for “easy” (“My yoke is easy”) can also be translated as “well-fitting.” The legend says that there was a sign over Jesus’ workshop that read, “My yokes fit just right.”
Yoking ourselves to God through Christ fits just right. Jesus Christ is life-giving, not life-suppressing. God helps us become our very best selves, not less of ourselves.
Irenaeus put it this way: “And now with God’s help I will become myself.”
Jesus yokes fit just right.
“Come unto me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest for your souls.”
- I will give you rest.
The word rest can also be translated, “refreshment” and also “relief.” I like that. Jesus doesn’t promises us that he will solve all of our problems for us. He doesn’t promise us smooth, easy trails every day. In fact, of course, he knows by experience like we do, that life is a climb and sometimes the hills are quite steep. But what he does promise us is rest . . . . relief . . . refreshment.
Let me close with a brief story.
I have a friend who is one of the most spiritual people I know. He’s quite accomplished, very well-respected in his profession. He has a gentle, humble confidence that is beautiful to see. He’s so good at simply being himself. But years ago he struggled with confidence and self-loathing. He was going through a soul-searching time and he found himself at a retreat run by charismatic nuns. He confessed to one of the nuns that he didn’t like himself very much and that he had almost no confidence in himself. The nun said quite confidently, “Jesus can help you with that.” And Jesus did.
“Come unto me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Thanks be to God!