The season of summer is upon us and for many people that means vacation. How we look forward to a time of vacation! We long for the hours when we don’t have to go to work. We get excited about the time we will have to pursue the things that we enjoy doing.
However, before we leave on vacation, we have to make sure that everything is ready. We have to cover our duties at work. We have to make sure that the lawn is mowed and the pets are cared for and find someone to water the flowers. In fact, sometimes we have to work so hard to prepare for vacation that we are exhausted by the time we get going. Then we make the most of every moment and do things we are not used to and I have heard more than one person say that you need a vacation after a vacation in order to rest from your vacation. It makes you realize that we are not very good at rest.
Are there areas in your life that make you tired? Are there areas in your life in which you feel distressed? burdened? burned out? When you are in that situation, where do you go to find relief?
Listen to Matthew 11:28-30.
I. You Who Are Burdened
Carla and I lived in The Pas for a number of years. When we were there, we sometimes attended the Trapper’s Festival. There were a lot of interesting events that took place. We enjoyed the dog sled racing, the chain saw contests and other interesting events related to the King Trapper competition. One of the events that we sometimes watched was the flour packing contest. If you have seen it, you know that they have a special back pack which fits over your shoulders with a tump line that goes on your forehead. They adjust the pack to fit your body and then they begin to pile on the flour. They begin with lighter loads and the contestants have to walk a certain distance and then they help them take off the pack and another person tries. Each round, they add more flour and it gets heavier and pretty soon they are not walking from one point to the other, they are staggering, barely able to keep standing. At last years festival, the winner was able to carry 900 pounds of flour on his back. I can hardly imagine that. Such a burden is hard to carry. You can’t carry it very far and each step must be painful. Your whole self is weighed down and focussed on the burden.
Although few of us have probably carried heavy sacks of flour, many of us do carry heavy burdens around. The burdens we carry can have just as much of an impact on our lives as the burden of 900 pounds of flour. These burdens we carry impact our whole person. We stagger around in life, hardly able to make it because of them.
Most of us carry the burden of sins that we can’t stop doing. We know that certain things are wrong, but we keep doing them. We become angry with others, we hate people, we lash out at people, we think impure thoughts, there are so many sins which have a great power over our life. Sometimes I get angry and all of a sudden I look at myself and wonder, “why am I angry?” “where is this anger coming from?” We know that these things are wrong, we know that they hurt us and others and we know that they displease God. They are a heavy burden in our life.
Many of us also have a sense of the things which are good and right and which God wants us to do, but we can’t seem to do them. We try desperately to please God and we set up all kinds of rules in our life and believe that if we can only keep all these rules, we will be OK. Yet, we fail to be perfect in our rule keeping and soon we are burdened down with the awful feeling of failure. This is the burden of legalism and failure to keep the law.
If we have any of these burdens, we will also carry another burden and that is the burden of guilt. We know what God thinks of us and it isn’t good, but because we keep on falling into these sins, we keep ourselves under the feeling that God is angry with us. No matter what our sin is and all of us have some sin, if we continue in it, we will have a sense of guilt and that guilt is a terrible burden.
Some of us may have the burden of unforgiveness. At some time, someone has hurt us deeply. The thing this other person has done to us was so bad and so wrong that we know it deserves punishment, so we punish the other person by holding a grudge against them and hating them. But the anger in our hearts against the other person soon begins to take over our hearts and we are consumed with unforgiveness and bitterness and this too becomes a terrible burden.
What about the other burdens of life? There are many - meaningless work, illness, relationships that aren’t what we wish they were, lost love and so on. Our life may be weighed down with these trials.
Ultimately, there is the burden of the fear of death. Sometimes we forget about this one, but a death close to us, driving by an accident on the highway or pictures of atrocities of war force us to face it.
How many burdens can people carry? Some people carry several of these burdens and their life is weighed down. They feel like the person who is carrying 900 pounds of flour. They stagger about in life with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
What kind of burdens do you carry?
II. Come And Find Rest
All of us have probably received invitations at some time. Perhaps it was an invitation to a birthday party when we were children, or an invitation to the wedding of a friend or relative. An invitation presents us with a possibility. We look forward to what the invitation promises. To those who are tired and burdened, Jesus makes an invitation.
A. Come To Me
Several years ago, Carla and I, our son and his wife and our daughter, five of us, went on a canoe trip. We had two canoes. One was a 90 pound fibreglass canoe - quite heavy - and the other was a lighter canoe. We paddled across a lake and spent the first night at a beautiful spot among the trees by the lake. The next morning, we paddled a little way and then had to do a portage that was about a mile long. Since it was that long, we decided that we would try to do it all in one trip. We each took our backpack, our daughter took the extra bags, my son and I took the heavy canoe and Carla and our daughter-in-law took the lighter canoe. My son and I went at the end, but the girls just could not keep a very strong pace and they were having trouble carrying the canoe because Carla is taller than our daughter-in-law. So we decided that my son and I would go ahead and get to the other side as fast as we could. Carla would take the canoe all by herself and do the best she could. That is what she did. When she got tired, the other two took the canoe off and gave her a rest. In the mean time, my son and I went as quickly as we could to the other side, dropped our canoe and our packs and then came back to help. When we got back to where they were and my son and I took the canoe, Carla was so glad to get rid of her burden. When we got to the end of the portage, we all dropped our packs and put down the canoes. What a relief to be able to shed the heavy burdens after having carried them for a mile.
Matthew 11:28 invites, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…” The first invitation is an invitation to all who are burdened to come to Jesus. What kind of an invitation is this? It is an invitation to drop our burdens at Jesus’ feet. It is an invitation to recognize that we need help to carry those things that are too heavy for us and to let Jesus carry them for us. It is an invitation to see Him, the one who is “gentle and humble in heart,” as the hope for all our tiredness and burdens and losses.
B. I Will Give You Rest
The promise is that if we come to Jesus with our burdens, He will give us rest. Two times in these verses, Jesus promises rest. In verse 28 he says, “I will give you rest,’ and in verse 29 he says, “you will find rest for your souls.” How does Jesus give rest to those who are burdened?
Our family had a saying that we would use if one of us or someone we observed seemed to be going just a little but too fast. If someone was driving erratically or if someone would tear up the stairs and push past people, we would say, “slow down your soul.” We made up this saying because we realized that it wasn’t usually our physical speed that was the problem, but a hurrying soul that was causing a physical hurry. How wonderful to hear the words of Jesus who says, “you will find rest for your souls.” We need to find rest deep within and in Jesus we find rest in the innermost parts of our being. When we find rest there, we will find rest in the balance of our lives as well. A restless soul makes for a restless life, a soul at peace, makes for a life at peace.
Jesus gives rest by first of all removing the burden of our guilt. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus came to earth in order to die on the cross. When he hung on the cross, he was not being punished for anything he did wrong. He was punished for what you and I did wrong. Since Jesus has already been punished, we do not need to be punished any more. He has taken our punishment and so if we accept Jesus into our lives He forgives our sins and we are not guilty of them any more.
Jesus removes the burden of legalism and failure because He has already been perfectly obedient to the Father and we are made acceptable to God not because of anything we do but because He died for our sin. Therefore, we can stop trying to be good enough for God and we can rest in the promise that we are accepted in Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Jesus removes the burden of sin. When we receive Him as the one who saves us, he puts a new heart into us by giving us His Spirit to live within us. Romans 8:11 tells us, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he…will also give life to your mortal bodies.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk along a road that will lead us ever more to victory in obedience and will help us shed the life of sin and its destruction.
Jesus also helps us remove the burden of unforgiveness by giving us the basis on which we can forgive others. When we realize that we have been forgiven by God, we will have the ability to forgive others because we will realize that we have been forgiven much more than anyone could ever do against us. Colossians 3:13 - “…forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Jesus also removes the burden of meaninglessness when he calls us to mission and to service. He removes the burden of hopelessness when we live with life situations that are beyond us because He promises to walk with us in those burdens. John 10:10 says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
How wonderful that we do not need to fear death as those who have no hope. We are able to know that Jesus has already defeated death and because He rose, we will also rise. I Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “Where, O death, is your sting?” … thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Listen to Psalm 62:1, "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." This is the invitation which is extended here again. So if you are burdened, come to Jesus and find rest.
III. Take My Easy Yoke
As we read the promise of rest, our hearts discover freedom and peace. We realize that we don’t have to carry the heavy load any more. There is hope for our burdened situation. As we rejoice in that rest, we are rather puzzled, however, when Jesus goes on to say, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” What does this mean and how does it help us find rest? A yoke does not sound like rest, it sounds like another burden, it sounds like more work!
A. Take My Yoke
A yoke is not a recliner rocker, it is an instrument of work. It is an instrument made to carry a burden. The yoke that Jesus was talking about was likely a yoke which would have been fitted onto an ox to pull various instruments for agriculture. When I built my canoe, I put a yoke on it so that I could carry it on my shoulders. (bring it?)
What kind of a yoke is Jesus asking us to take up?
Jesus invites us to take up the yoke of submission. When we come to Him, we lay down our burden and we take up the burden of submitting to Him in all things. We allow Jesus to be the most important person in our life and we agree that wherever He leads, we will follow. Matthew 10:39 says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus invites us to take up the yoke of obedience. Jesus shows us a certain way of living that is a way that leads to life. He talks about the narrow way that leads to life. It is not the broad road that the rest of the world walks, it is His narrow road. However, that path is one that gives us a life that is full and abundant and ultimately eternal. John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.
Jesus also invites us to take up the yoke of learning from Him. In the text we are looking at He invites, “learn from me.” I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. When Martha opened her home to Jesus, we are told that she was bothered because instead of helping her prepare the meal, her sister Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Jesus affirmed this choice and taking His yoke upon us means enjoying the blessed privilege of sitting at His feet and learning all we can.
These are the yokes Jesus invites us to take up.
B. My Burden Is Light
But our puzzlement continues. How can we find rest when we are to put on a yoke? That may sound like another burden, and yet Jesus says “you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” How can that be?
At the graduation on Thursday, the theme that was chosen by the graduating class was, “Freedom lies in being bold.” For some reason, the theme caught my attention and I began to think about it. There is something very good in the statement. It encourages us not to fear to take steps that will lead us to a better future and Larry explained that concept very well. But my mind didn’t stop there. I thought some more about it. Taken by itself without further comment, boldness can also lead to trouble rather than freedom. As one person pointed out, if you are bold enough to break the law, you will not find freedom, but rather a restriction of freedom. As I thought about this statement and thought about freedom, and was also reflecting on Jesus words “take my yoke upon you” I realized that it is also true that “freedom lies in discipline.”
Just think about that statement in terms of sports. I have watched Amos’ sons on their skateboards. I have stood on a skateboard and I know that what they are able to do with freedom and being quite carefree comes from hours of trying. In their case, freedom comes from discipline.
Think about it in terms of playing a musical instrument. When we watch someone play a musical instrument effortlessly and with joy, we think that it would be easy to pick it up and play just as well, but if we tried it, we would very quickly realize that the person who plays like that can only do so because they have spent hours in the discipline of practice.
In this passage, Jesus is inviting us to find rest in Him and the first part of that rest is to come to Him and to lay our burdens down at His feet. The other part of finding a rest that will last, however, is to live a life under His yoke. In disciplining ourselves to take His yoke, we will find a much greater freedom to live life with peace and in righteousness and with the hope of eternity fixed on our minds.
If we take up the yoke of learning from Jesus, we will discover the freedom and peace of knowing the will of God and growing in a wisdom that is far above the wisdom of this world.
If we take up the yoke of obedience to Jesus, when we face temptation, we will face the freedom of being able to resist it by the power of the Spirit because we are practiced in saying yes to Jesus.
If we take up the yoke of submission to Jesus, when we are called to submit to illness, to trial, to hardship and ultimately to death, we will have a greater peace in all of these situations because we know that He is gentle and His yoke is always easy.
We went canoeing with the baptism class several weeks ago. Amos and Daniel were in one canoe and they were very good at grabbing the rope at the back of someone else’s canoe and quietly getting a free ride. They did this to us and as I was paddling, I was wondering why it was so hard to paddle. I looked down to see if the current was against us. I looked into the water to see if we were paddling through weeds. All the while I had no idea that I was carrying an extra burden. OF course when we did discover it, I believe there was a little exchange of water and a good deal of laughter. How often are we carrying burdens that are too much for us, burdens that are not ours to carry?
You may be carrying burdens today. What are they? I invite you to come to Jesus and find rest in Him. He will give it.
Some of you may not be carrying burdens today, but some day, those burdens will come. May you discover the peace that comes from taking the yoke of Jesus upon yourself today so that when burdens come, you will have rest because you will be carrying Jesus’ yoke and not all the burdens that don’t belong to you.
As you go into the summer months, perhaps for rest or for ministry or for different kind of work, I just want to point you to Jesus. May He be the one we go to no matter what our situation.