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Intro: What does the word invitation mean to you? We offer invitations, sing invitation songs. The gospel is an invitation itself. But what is the nature of that invitation?
Read Matthew 11:28-30 – This morning we discussed Jesus self-description found in the middle of this invitation – I am meek and lowly in heart”. Tonight I want to look at the rest of Jesus’ statement.
I.“Come unto Me“ -These 3 words have enormous implications in view of Jesus’ invitation. This is the heart of the offer.
A. We are called to come to Christ Himself; not just to a religion about Christ. Jesus is the center of allegiance and faith. It is possible to respond to a call for specific obedience and not come to Jesus. (the Pharisees got the acts of obedience right – but they did not know the Father who gave the commands. This made it possible for them to make plans to kill Jesus, while being careful not to violate the Sabbath as they did it). Jesus told them they were not Abraham’s seed, but children of their Father the devil – John 8)
B. Jesus calls us to Him personally because He is the meek one who can help us. His meekness provided the sacrifice and atonement for sins.
II. “All you who labor and are heavy laden”- Who are these addressed?
A. Albert Barnes comments that Jesus was addressing “the poor, lost, ruined sinner: the man “burdened” with a consciousness of his transgressions, trembling at his danger, and seeking deliverance.” The term labor refers to working to the point of exhaustion. Those who have wearied themselves in at attempt to please God or come to know wisdom through human resources.
1. Others suggest that Jesus had specifically in mind those who were burdened by the rites of the Law of Moses, particularly the burden of the Pharisaical traditions. Jesus said that the Pharisees “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt 23:4) Strong’s says that the phrase “heavy laden” is used to denote those who are overburdened with ceremony or spiritual anxiety.
2. the burden of sin can be viewed in more than one context:
a. Burden of moral guilt A burden is also understood in the sense of a debt that one cannot pay back.: The impact of sin is often pictured as a debt that we cannot pay, and as such is a burden. Debt and debtor are used in a moral sense also as indicating the obligation of a righteous life which we owe to God. To fall short in righteous living is to become a debtor. For this reason we pray, “Forgive us our debts” (Matt 6:12). Jesus’ parable of the two debtors contrasted the debt we owe God with the minimal debt that we may owe each other. Sin is an insurmountable burden that we cannot bear.
b. Burden of the practice of sin: Paul relates the impact of sin as a bondage. Romans 6:12-14 – Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. “The way of the transgressor is hard.” – (the story of the prodigal – wished he could eat the pig’s food)
c. Jesus promised peace in the place of tribulation. Paul called the fruit of forgiveness, peace that passes understanding.
3. Jesus – more than anyone – cares about those who labor and are heavy laden under the awful burden of sin. He offers pardon to the guilty. He provides peace to the troubled. He wants to lift this burden from us; the burden of sin.
a. Jesus did not spend much time with the proud, the religiously satisfied or the hypocrites who willed not to believe. He addresses “all who labor and are heavy laden” because these are those who will come to Him. These are people who feel a load on their life – whoever they may be. These are people who know their anxiety and acknowledge their remorse and know they need rest.
III. “I Will Give you Rest”- The phrase “to give rest” means to refresh or revive, as from labor or a long journey. Jesus promises spiritual rest to everyone who comes to Him.
A. God’s rest is a common Old Testament theme. Canaan was viewed as a reward of rest from the wanderings of the wilderness. A time of peace when they were not oppressed by their enemies.
1. The Lord warned Israel, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness; when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work …. Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest” (Ps 95:7-9,11). After quoting that passage, the writer of Hebrews warns early Christians to not return to the burdens of the Law of Moses and miss their promised rest.
a. “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Later the writer specifically warns against missing the rest – “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest'” (4:1-3).
b. Rest is defined as a cessation of labor or disturbance. It is a period of peace and assurance. Notice Paul’s description of this rest that we find in the blood of Jesus: Eph 2:13-17 – 3 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
c. Notice that Jesus expresses this promise in two ways – both equally true.
- Jesus will give us rest – we cannot have it apart from him
- We will find rest if we come to Him – We must seek it to receive it.
IV. “Take My Yoke Upon You and Learn from Me” – These are the words that Jesus uses to describe our responsibility in coming to Him. Paradoxically, Jesus says he will give those who are burdened down rest by taking up His yoke.
A. Salvation involves submission. Jesus’ invitation therefore includes the call to submission, symbolized by a yoke.
1. A yoke was a wooden device fitted on the neck of an animal to assist it in pulling a load. For obvious reasons, the term was widely used in the ancient world as a metaphor for submission. The yoke joined two animals in a common work and it was the means whereby the master controlled the animal.
a. A student was often spoken of as being under the yoke of his teacher, and an ancient Jewish writing contains the advice: “Put your neck under the yoke and let your soul receive instruction.”
2. Jesus seems to have this in mind because He adds, and learn from Me.
a. To learn is from the same word as the word disciple. A disciple is a learner. This reinforces the truth that Christ’s disciples are His submissive learners.
b. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, and no one cam come to Christ without being taught correctly.
c. As one is taught he responds in obedience – this is the effect of the yoke he has placed himself under. Are you submissive to the yoke of Christ? There is no rest for those who “kick against the goads”.
B. “My yoke is easy; my burden is light” – Jesus is not saying that obedience has not price or sacrifice. But rather contrasting the burden of sin with the burden of obedience to Christ.
a. Jesus’ meek character defines the character of His yoke. He is not harsh and his rule is not oppressive. His law is not burdensome. He does not threaten or coerce. John says in 1 John 5:1 – For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
b. The burden of obedience is light when considered in the context of the final reward. Rom 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Conclusion: Come unto Me.. This is the great invitation. If we decide not to come to Jesus. there is no other way to find rest. There are no other alternatives.
a. Because there are no other solutions, we must totally commit to Him… (“Try Jesus” – the Try Jesus Church – when everything else fails, what does it hurt – It might work for you. – This is not the invitation of Christ. The common call for men to “accept Jesus as their Savior” may also be a misrepresentation of His invitation. It seems to imply that God is awaiting our approval of His work and plan. If we will accept Him, He will bless us. When the true invitation is if we will accept His Yoke through obedience, He will bless us.