Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 30, 2015
“Come to Me”
Text: Matthew 11:28-30
I have heard it said, after vacations end, that a body needs a vacation after the vacation. This often is true—and may well be true in my case this week—but our family vacation last week landed at a very good time for me. First, it has been quite a while for me since extended rest. True, I have been away for study leave (once) and for attendance at the higher courts of our church (thrice), but those activities actually are work done in another place. Second, my workload since July 1 has been heavier: with concert preparations, with work on a new web site and podcast, and with Presbytery responsibilities—to name but three. I could feel the burn in my limbs and the brittleness of mind and soul increasing with the days. Ah, but vacation was good—and I thank you for affording it to me.
I certainly am not the only guy who endures these seasons. We each, in our unique way, have these seasons. Nor is this phenomenon exclusive to the ordained ministry; folk in every vocation and calling testify to feeling this way sometimes. Even retired folks testify to this condition. Often I hear from people retired from day-to-day public employ say, “Where did I ever find time to work?” Also, these seasons come to all of us—pastors or otherwise—as we discharge together the work of the Lord. We have a great word from God’s Word to this state. Let’s hear it, and in hearing it, let’s hear Him.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus says to His hearers, both at the end of Matthew 11 and through the intervening centuries, “Come to Me….” Two groups of folks have a special invitation to come to Him. First, Jesus invites those who are laboring, that is, those working hard, being tired, and all too often losing heart. Second, Jesus invites those who are heavy laden—the ones being caused to carry burdens heavy, bulky, and numerous. To such hard-working, heavy-laden people Jesus issues His welcome invitation.
Jesus also attaches a precious promise to His invitation: “I shall give you rest.” The underlying Greek text here is emphatic; it is as if Jesus says, “I surely shall give y’all rest.” This is salutary news to the hard-working, heavy-laden soul. Rest, as used here, carries a host of connotations, such as abiding, remaining, stopping, resting, places of resting, and relief. Jesus surely shall give these to the ones coming unto Him—and, in view of this, many cannot get to Him quickly enough.
Jesus, instead of the yokes we bear currently, offers His in exchange. “Take My yoke upon you,” He says, “and learn of Me.” We do well to learn of Him. After all, we are His disciples, His student-followers. As we bear the yoke that Jesus offers, we learn many things. We learn that He is gentle. He is neither brash nor abrasive. We’ve known too many such folk in life, and perhaps we need no more such folk. Who we need is He Who neither crushes a bruised reed nor quenches a smoking flax (Isaiah 42:3). We also learn that Jesus is lowly in heart. Though He has every right and prerogative to self-aggrandizement, He presents Himself to us as One not haughty, One not puffed up, One not proud. He identifies with us in our lowest place. In fact, He took the lowest place of all, and humbled Himself unto death, even death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).
There is more to learn of Jesus. We learn that His yoke is easy. Walking with Him does not chafe. It does not constrain us in any harmful way, but only in ways beneficial to us. Moreover, His burden is light. Again, He Who will not crush the bruised reed will not crush us. Not only this, but He also bears our burdens as well. Despite the fact that the burden Jesus ordains for us each is relatively light, He avails Himself to assist us in carrying even that light burden.
In all of these things He surely gives rests for our souls. That’s right, rests; the Greek beneath this English text is plural. This applies on two lines. First, all of the overtones of Jesus’ rest mentioned earlier apply to us. Therefore, we gain relief, rest, stops, abiding, and the like when Jesus gives rest for our souls. Second, we get these not at one instance only in a lifetime, but we get them again and again at any time we require them as we walk with Christ. How good this news is today for the weary, and what good news it is as we recall other seasons of weariness and prepare for such seasons in the future.
Let us focus now, though, on our current condition. There are any number of loads from which any number of us need relief. Here are a few examples. We may need relief from a load of sin—and this either in unconverted state, not yet embracing Christ as Savior and Lord, or in converted state, having earlier embraced Him as Savior and Lord. There is such a thing as sin-sickness and sin-weariness, and many have known what it is to bear that noxious load. We may need relief from a load of anxious care. We are simply beset by worry that threatens to drain us of any energy or happiness. We may need relief from a load of providential trial—especially if that trial has stretch to protracted length. We may need relief from a load of heavy responsibilities—some of which God ordained for us to carry, but perhaps mostly loads we elected to carry apart from God’s pleasure. Finally, there is the load of expectations. Sometimes those expectations come from others (or self) and are legitimate, but all too often we submit to unrealistic expectations—sometimes of others but usually of self. Any one of these is too heavy for us unaided—and as we find ourselves trying to carry them all, it is no wonder that we wonder how we avoid being crushed instantly.
To any of all of you thus situated, I, ministering in the Name of Jesus Christ, say to you: Come all of you—and any of you—to Jesus for relief. He will relieve you—and this surely and intensely. What we get in exchange is Himself, and in getting Him we get His relief from load-bearing, His restoration in weariness, and His good cheer when losing heart. Come, one and all, to Him—and that without delay. AMEN.