By Jeff Lindsay Matthew 11:28
1. Series: Living a Life that is Whole
When we think about how to live as a Christian, we can quickly boil it down to the two things Jesus stressed: Loving God and Loving Others. It sounds pretty simple on paper, yet we tend to overcomplicate this concept with our overly stressed, overly busy, overly committed lives. For the next four weeks we are going to talk about living lives that are connected and whole.
Often quoted and very familiar to even people who aren’t followers of Jesus is this declaration, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Its an amazing passage with a whole bunch of possible applications. But do we really understand what Jesus means by it? This passage is full of cultural specific references that could easily be lost if we don’t understand the setting that Jesus was referring to, sooo here we are.
I am not sure where June went but we just celebrated Independence Day, the 4th of July. It’s a day off for many people. It is a day of rest? This is one of the applications that I have heard for this passage. But do we really know what Jesus meant by “rest” in this story? Let’s look at the rest of the story in Matthew 11:25-30.
Reverend Ole was the pastor of the local Norwegian Lutheran Church, and Pastor Sven was the minister of the Swedish Covenant Church across the road. They got together and decided to work on a joint ministry project – an outreach project. Together they put a sign into the ground that read: “Da End iss Near! Turn Yourself Aroundt Now! Before It’s Too Late!”
As a car sped past them, the driver leaned out his window and yelled, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!”
From the curve there came screeching tires and a big splash…
Rev. Ole turns to Pastor Sven and asks, “Do ya tink maybe da sign should yust say ‘Bridge Out’?”
Apparently they didn’t get the intended message.
Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. 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.
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.”
First of all, a couple of questions. Jesus says, “I praise you Father because you have hidden these things.” ? ? ?
What things are hidden? The ways of God!
Specifically, it was the things that Jesus was teaching the people. These things that he taught were the ways of God. They were all based on his charge to love God and love others.
How are they known? Revealed!
Specifically they are being taught but not in the usual sense.
This is where it gets interesting culturally.
What is the usual way that religious things were taught? In Jesus time they were taught through a Rabbi and disciple model. A young man that thinks he may have an aptitude for a particular Rabbi’s teaching, goes to the Rabbi and asks to be considered to be a disciple. It was a great honor for a son to be accepted.
The Rabbi asks questions of the potential disciples not to see how much they know but to see if they really get it… to see if the young person really might be able to, not just learn the fact, but to live out the life of the Rabbi. The Rabbi is seeking to reproduce his life in the disciple. After many years of living and serving, maybe one day the disciple might be able to have some authority to do some of their own teaching. Maybe when they were about thirty (how old was Jesus when he started his ministry? Thirty.) the disciple might actually be able to consider their own disciples.
Now the things that the Rabbi instilled in his disciples were the things that were instilled in them when they were a disciple. Nothing new was usually added unless there came along an exceptional candidate that might actually have something to add to the teaching or even create something new. But this happened once in a lifetime, maybe…
Jesus has already repeated this idea in chapter 10:24-25 when he said, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” The whole goal of the student was to be like the teacher.
Yet, Jesus had no Rabbi. He was a carpenter’s son. We don’t know exactly why Jesus was not given to a Rabbi. Probably for economic reasons. Tradition has it that Joseph died when Jesus was young. Perhaps Joseph was sick and Jesus just needed to help provide for the family. Regardless, Jesus had no Rabbi. What he taught was given to him from a different source then.
From where? From the Father, God, to the Son, Jesus. These things he taught were unique. People recognized that; they recognized Jesus had an incredible authority. He taught a new way. He taught the ways of God’s Kingdom. People would have been familiar with several options for living in Jesus day. Who would they align themselves with to model their life after?
They could choose to collaborate with the Romans like the Sadducees and even the tax collectors.
They could choose to live according to a high standard of rules and regulations designed to gain God’s favor by being good, righteous people who would then help Israel return to its former glory like the Pharisees.
They could also choose to be rebels like the Zealots and help God usher in the kingdom by guerilla warfare and rebellion.
They could also leave it all behind and live in secluded little communities like the Essenes.
In Jesus they are offered another, different, way of life.
It is not one of compromise and collaboration. It is about doing what is right in God’s eyes in such a way that people see a real person who loves God and loves others.
It doesn’t burden people with impossible standards that end up creating different classes of people so that they can continue to make up the rules.
Jesus calls his people to serve others. It is not about bloodshed but about loving your enemy. It is not about withdrawal but about loving engagement.
Jesus got this all from God, his heavenly Father.
And so, who receives this new information? Disciples!
Jesus’ disciples didn’t scour the rules and regulations. They didn’t train at the schools run by the religious authorities. Jesus’ disciples were taught firsthand by the Son of God himself. In Matthew’s community, they are reminded that even though they have been disowned by their own people and sometimes their families, they are the truly faithful ones who have gotten what God is doing.
Who doesn’t get it? Religious authorities!
As I have said, the religious authorities don’t get it. In fact, this passage is really against them. You may be asking as this point, what does this have to do with rest and yokes?
What is a yoke?
Yokes tie two oxen together so that they can share the load of plowing (and other work) and spread the burden easily across their broad shoulders. Imagine how difficult it would be if one oxen wanted to do his own thing and go a different way.
In fact, Jesus says that the ways of God are really easy if you follow his ways. The moment we begin to stray and do our own thing and try to go a different direction, we over-burden ourselves with stresses and weights that we were never intended to carry. Not only that, the idea is that Jesus is the lead oxen, who bears most of the burden while we are there to come alongside and shoulder our portion, which is nothing compared to what Jesus carries for us, or what we might have to carry on our own.
But there is more to it than that. It is also about teaching.
In Jesus’ day, the teaching of a Rabbi was said to be his “yoke.” Jesus is saying that as our Rabbi who teaches us the ways of God’s Kingdom, his yoke is nothing like the rest of the religious rulers. His yoke is not meant to weigh us down to convince us that we are no good and could never do anything good or right and could never be as good as the religious rulers. Their rules brought people down. They were too much. No normal person could ever fulfill all the rules. Only the religious rulers (because it was their job) could actually do it all. And Jesus emphasizes that they didn’t even do it all.
Jesus didn’t come to burden us with a list of rules and regulations and things that holy people do and don’t do. Oh, he still calls us to be holy but not according to some man made list: don’t drink, don’t ever go into a bar or a pub, don’t go to movies, don’t play cards, don’t wear this clothing, read your Bible as such and such, pray in this particular way and so on.
Now some of these things might be beneficial if one is serious about pursuing God and God’s ways, because God through Jesus or through his Spirit, his Word, and his people can reveal to us what he needs for us to do when He feels we are ready, with his strength to do. And here is the tension, many times we don’t really want to hear what God desires for us. We wish we could but then we don’t really want to.
Jesus says come to me. Not a list of rules. Not a set of expectations whether they are realistic or not. It’s just simply come to me personally.
A German tourist was asked, “What impresses you most about the United States?”
He answered, “The fact that you are a tired people—you are all so tired!”
Isn’t it a paradox that Americans, even during these very difficult economic times, have more leisure time than ever before, and yet we are so weary that many of us can’t face life, get involved or care for others?
It has been said that “a more affluent society has never existed. A healthier people has never lived. And a more tired race has probably never breathed.”
We can see the fruit of this in our society.
Both mothers and fathers work so that we can give our families the best,
but we come home at the end of a work day tired and ill.
The drugs we take accuse us of being exhausted and burdened.
Did you know that it takes about 51 million sleeping pills
to put America to sleep each night?
Did you know that suicide is still the number three killer of teenagers
and it ranks high in adult deaths as well?
I believe the prophet Isaiah was speaking to people much like us when he said,
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He give power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
We are to come to Jesus with our exhaustion and our weariness for rest but clearly the rest that Jesus promises is not the rest of inactivity. It is the “rest” which is made possible through the provisions of a new yoke.
Jesus knows that we are tired, overwhelmed, restless.
We look here and we look there for meaning and, without fail, we find ourselves exhausted in every search that does not include a personal connection with Christ Jesus.
The highest need in every life is for meaning. All of us long for meaning that transcends our work, every success, and life itself, Jesus Christ invites us to find in Him the energizing, vital meaning that life offers.
And that discovery begins when we come to Him, acknowledging that we are exhausted and empty from a spiritual wandering that has taken us places rather than to a Person.
Feeling burdened by life. Are you, “Full but not filled?” Are you feeling burdened by providing all that you want to provide for your family, opportunities and experiences?
Sometimes we get burdened by religion: programs and ministries. Sometimes in a good way but sometimes we just get to the point where you feel like people are sucking you dry.
The yoke of Jesus is supposed to be light. That is what he means by easy. He doesn’t mean that you do nothing. In fact, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be challenged. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t have to step out in faith. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
The easy yoke is about being refreshed. It means that we are weak and in our weakness we rely completely, totally on his strength. I want to give you time to rest. I want to give you time to catch your breath. Relish the presence of God. Don’t just taste but savor his grace. Listen for the quiet voice of God. You don’t need to clamor for God’s attention. You have his full attention. Perhaps what we need is for God to have our full attention.
Let us spend a few minutes in quiet, restful contemplation.
In Children’s Ministry this summer we are teaching our children the truth that, “God loves them and is speaking to them all the time.” So during our worship time we give them a minute to be quiet and listen for His voice. Sooo….
The Christian journey is one in which we are life-long apprentices or disciples of the One Who loves us—all the way to death on a Cross.
There can be no greater meaning found in life than doing what God calls us to do.
Jesus is the One Who shows us the good way, where the restless, the under-challenged and the over-burdened can find rest for their souls.
And true fulfillment follows behind!!!