by Rev. Charles Jenkin Mendoza
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”
These are well loved words – perhaps the best known of the promises of Christ. They serve as the call to worship at many churches and can be found on the lips of new and more experienced Christians alike. Let us look at them today in two parts.
The first part is the words “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”
Who among you don’t have burdens, don’t’ have problems? “Come to me, Jesus said, and I will give you rest.”
In the early days of automobiles, it was common for eating and drinking places to be built on the hill tops because these locations were for the convenience of people who needed to stop and let their overheated radiators cool down.
That is one of the functions of Worship for many of us – a time for rest and refreshment – when we let our overheated minds and hearts cool down.
That too is one of the functions of prayer and of Christian fellowship – whether alone in our quiet spot where we come before God each day, or in our homes and in the homes of our friends and neighbors – to bring to us the rest and refreshment that we all need so much.
There is nothing quite like coming to the Lord and setting aside our burdens for a while – nothing quite like having our batteries recharged, our radiators cooled down and our spirits lifted.
All of us here, from the youngest to the oldest, know about burdens. I pray, you all know, that when we come to the Lord and focus anew on what is important – the rest comes when we take a break, when we take time, to connect with our Savior.
When Jesus spoke of burdens and of our coming unto him he was certainly talking about the burdens of care and of anxiety and of labor that we are all familiar with.
But, as the gospel point out, Jesus was also speaking of the burdens of religion that some of us carry – the burdens that are tied to our backs by the Pharisees and scribes of our age – the burdens of endless rules and regulations concerning what we can and cannot do – at work, at play, at home, and at church.
Jesus broke radically with the religious pattern that had been established by the god fearing persons of his day. He ate and drank while others fasted. He plucked grain and fed his disciples on the Sabbath – while others looked in disapproval. He rejoiced in God while others prayed solemnly with long faces. He called God ‘Father’ while others dared not even speak the name of the Lord.
Jesus came to us to lift the heavy burdens of life and of religion from our backs. He reminds us that the Sabbath is made for us – not we for the Sabbath – he advised us to know that faith is meant to set us free – free to truly worship – and to truly serve our God – with joy and love in our hearts – on the Sabbath and everyday.
Jesus promises rest from the burdens that we carry – rest from the burdens of legalism and judgment and from the weight of anxiety and worry and from the yoke of unrewarding labor and endless labor for that which cannot satisfy.
I was speaking with my friend pastor last week who told me the story of his son. His son was brought up in a godly home – a home where he was taught to work hard and save money – to avoid debt if at all possible – and to pay whatever debt he had as quickly as possible.
It seems that these qualities really stuck with him – and when he got married he worked very hard and labored intensely to purchase a very nice home. Recently, at a young age, he finished paying off the credit on this home – and found himself depressed. He had accomplished what few people accomplish at his age, he was free from the worry that so many people have, yet he found himself feeling empty and aimless. He told his father that he thought that he would feel wonderful on the day that he pay his credit – but he didn’t. He then added these words: “Dad, you know, when I was young and gave my heart to Jesus – you know something – there is no feeling like the feeling I had then – the feeling of being washed totally clean – the feeling of having Christ come into my life. I’ve never felt as good as I felt on that day.”
Come unto me – all you who are tired – all you who are feeling drained – all you who are feeling empty – all you who are burdened by a sense of disappointment and let down – all you who are tired by the struggles of life and weighed down by your sense of duty and of what is right and wrong – and I will give you rest, said Jesus. I will cleanse you – I will fill you with new joy – and establish you in a relationship with God that will give you new life – here and in the world to come.
That is only the first part of what Jesus had to say – of what Jesus promised. The second part is this – “take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me.” Have you seen a yoke?
This seems a contradiction or disagreement – only Jesus could promise rest from our burdens in one breath and turn around and speak of taking up another burden and another yoke in the next…. What we need is vacation – a rest – not more labor. Or so our worldly logic would dictate. After all the burdens is still a burden – a yoke is still a yoke.
What Jesus was trying to say is that there is no such thing as a burden free life – life always has burdens, but WHAT KIND of BURDEN it is that we carry.
The issue in life is not if we shall be burdened – but with what shall we be burdened, it is not if we shall be yoked – but to what and with whom we shall be yoked.
Jesus has no interest in unburdening us so that we can be free or confident or those other entire modern craze which are themselves weakening burdens.
Jesus is interested in lifting the burdens off our backs that drain us, that suck the life out of us, so that he can place another on them that is better suited to us.
Jesus is interested in removing the harness that we create for ourselves, or the world forms for us with its constant demands and pressures, so that he can place around our necks his own yoke – his own harness – the yoke, the harness, the burden – that brings to us new life, new energy, new joy.
The promise and the reality is that the Burden that Christ has for us, the Yoke he offers to us when we come to him and learn from him, is an easy burden, and that in wearing his yoke and learning from him, we will find rest.
The yoke that Jesus puts upon us is an easy one – it is designed for us – individually and personally it does not drag us down, it does not irritate or bind or cause us to collapse in tiredness. It is well fitted for us.
Jesus’ promise is not that we shall find a good vacation with him – that we will be able to get away from all of our burdens or problems, but rather that he will refresh our souls when we come into his presence – he will replace the burdens that destroy us and exhaust us, and a yoke, that will be life affirming and easier to carry.
His promise is that when we come to him, when we learn from him, and when we offer ourselves to him – he will minister to us, he will give strength and hope and joy and peace, and patience and love, he will give us new life – here and now and in the world to come.
“Come to Jesus, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and he will give you rest. Take his yoke and put it on you, and learn from him, because he is gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke he will give you is easy, and the load he will put on you is light.” Amen.