The Great Invitation

Matthew 11:28-30

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

INTRODUCTION

I love this passage. Some refer to it as the Great Invitation, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened.” Do you know anyone who has adult children that is not burdened or weary? Practically everyone you met these days is laden with troubles. When we casually ask people how they are doing, what we want to hear is ‘fine’. We don’t really want them to unburden themselves on us because we are absorbed with our own problems, right? They are a couple of points other than the one above that I want to make by way of introduction. Let me list them so that they will be clear.

  1. Everyone has problems
  2. Jesus invitation is to everyone. It is not an exclusive invitation. If you are weary and heavy laden, Jesus invites you to come to Him.
  3. The symbol Jesus uses, the YOKE is a symbol of oppression and bondage in the Old Testament but Jesus has the power to make all things new. Using the Yoke as a symbol or teaching point was revolutionary and somewhat of a paradox. Who wants a yoke? I hope that we will answer that question in the message.

We are going to use an acronym to guide us through our thoughts: RULE. There is no play on words or double meanings here, it is just a word to help us remember the content.

R is for Rest

Note what Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Does that sound appealing or what? Is there anything that you are tired of? I am tired of secular humanism. I am tired of killing innocent babies and calling it choice. I am tired of having gay rights shoved in my face every time I turn on the TV or Radio. I am sick and tired of political correctness and liberal politics. But I have to be honest, as tired as I am of those things, I am also tired of fear, guilt, shame, self, regret, sin and failure. I’m telling you, everyone has a burden if its nothing more than their shame and guilt.

I have a lot of anxiety. I think I was born hyper. It is practically impossible for me to relax. I don’t even get still when I’m asleep. I keep a lot of my mind and I don’t have that much mind. We all need a Sabbath, a day of rest but I am a preacher and so Sunday’s are anything but a day of rest. My Sunday’s begin around 4:00 am and end at around 7:00-8:00. I am weary in body and mind when I come home on Sunday night. I am so tired physically on Monday that I move like a snail. After a long and stressful weekend a few weeks ago, I came home from work on Monday, took my shower and put on my PJ’s. June said, “What are you doing?” I said, “If anyone calls for me, I am in bed.” I thought I made myself clear but had no more than got it out of my mouth than one of the kids wanted to talk to me. If it had been a church member, she would have told them I was in bed. I hang up from that call and within 20 minutes, I am getting another. I gave up and went to bed. We all get tired and we all have burdens to bear. I just happen to be my own worse enemy and I bear the burden of anxiety. Rest, real rest is a big deal to me.

My favorite time of the day is my quiet time in the morning. There I get to rest in the arms of Jesus. Listen folks, I need my rest and Jesus gives me sweet rest from my weariness.

U is for UNION

The thing about a Yoke is that it brings you really close to the one you are yoked with. Jesus said, “Take My Yoke upon you.” This is a picture of unity. I am in union with Christ. I am right by His side and He is right by myself. This has to be the most wonderful aspect of being yoked to Christ, I have His promised and perpetual presence. He has promised to stay with me until the end of the age. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. There is nothing like HIS PRESENCE. There is nothing you can compare to His presence.

There is a wonderful story in John 20 that illustrates my point. The disciples are locked in a room out of fear of the Jews. Lets just pick up with the story from John…That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” There is no substitute for HIS presence. Could a bride enjoy her wedding if the groom was absent? His absence would pretty much spoil her day. There is no good day without Jesus. I can weather any storm as long as I feel His presence. The disciples were having a bad night and they did not realize that Jesus was present until He manifested His presence; oh for faith to know that He is present in the darkness when there is no manifestation.

L is for LEARNING

Again, pay particular attention to what Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and let me teach you.” The NKJV reads, “Learn from me.” I like the ERV because the emphasis on learning is throughout the passage. Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest. Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest. Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.” The invitation is actually an invitation to be Jesus disciple. What a privilege. He is willing to teach us how to be like Him, gentle and humble. A yoke is for serving, not sitting. Jesus it talking about teaching us how to serve with his gentle spirit.

When a farmer was training a new oxen, he would yoke it with a seasoned veteran. The larger, stronger, learned oxen would do the leading and most of the pulling until the junior oxen learns the art. In our case Jesus is the lead oxen. Being His disciple is simply a matter of following. I don’t have to make any directional decisions, all I have to do is follow Him. As the song writer said, “Where he leads I will follow.” You don’t need a vision: Jesus has already cast the vision. He is the founder and architect of the church; you know He has a plan. Discipleship is not about casting a vision; it’s about following the Master. I don’t pretend to know it all but I do know that Jesus is teaching me humility. I’m not that good of a student but He is a very good teacher. One of the things I admire about Him most is His gentleness.

I started in the ministry some 45 years ago and I don’t remember a time when I did not talk about Jesus but as I think back, I question my motives. I am fairly certain that it was more about me in those days than it was Jesus no matter what my lips said. Learning is a process, a progression of steps and incrementally and patiently, Jesus has moved me from where I was to where I am and I believe someday to where He wants me to be. I know that I’m still rough around the edges but I do sense Jesus patiently moving me closer to His spirit of gentleness and humility. Someone said we believers have a three-fold task: [1] To be disciples [2] To make disciples [3] To draw others to Christ so they can become disciples. It’s all about discipleship and you cannot make a disciple until you become a disciple. In the Kingdom of God, you cannot lead until you learn to follow. There are many gifted people who skip the discipleship training and go straight to being the lead ox but they do not have a gentle or humble spirit. I know gifted preachers who can deliver eloquent and moving sermons but they have no humility or gentleness. Jesus want to teach us to serve Him with gentleness and humility. He wants us to learn to be like Him, to serve like Him.

E is for EASY

I have heard the cliché’s, I know living for Christ is easy once we are dead to self but it is the dead to self part that I struggle. One way or the other, a yoke spells work, service, labor, toil: you don’t yoke oxen to stand under a shade tree. There are some prideful folk that are going to say, “I’m not getting in anyone’s yoke. I am my own man and I do what I please. I serve no one other than myself.” I’m sure there are those who believe they are being truthful when they make such foolish statements. What is the essence of sin? It is found in Isaiah 53:6, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. The essence of sin is that we want to do things our way. The person who says, “I do things my way, I don’t serve anyone other than myself” is deceived. They are a servant of sin because sin demands that we do things our way. Who is standing in the shadows of sin? If you said the devil, you would be correct. Everyone is wearing a YOKE. Jesus invites you to wear His YOKE because, relatively speaking, it is easy. The way of the transgressor is hard and it going to get harder and harder. Jesus is saying, “My way is best. My way is easier than your way,” and He is right.

Remember also that Jesus pulls most of the weight; in some cases all. You pulled all the weight at Calvary. Not one soul lifted a finger to help Him. Who else but Christ can take care of our sins? Who else but Christ can usher us into the presence of the Father? You would be a fool to try to work your way into God graces; get yoked up with Jesus; he will make your burden light.

The apostle Paul could remember the day when he was weary and heavy laden. Paul was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were possibly the most religious people on earth. Paul did this, Paul did that but he was a miserable and mean man. He served God or at least he thought, but he did it his way. He lived to arrest Christians and break up prayer meeting. He was a terror to the church. Christians feared this little man because he was mean and had the power of the Sanhedrin behind him. In those day, life was hard for Paul and he made life difficult for others. Then Paul met Jesus and Jesus transformed his life. Paul became a servant of the church instead of it’s satan: he became a preacher instead of a persecutor. Listen as Paul unveils his heart to the Corinthians…

But if anyone dares to boast, I will too. Are those people Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they from Abraham’s family? So am I. Are they serving Christ? I am serving him more. (I am crazy to talk like this.) I have worked much harder than they have. I have been in prison more often. I have been hurt more in beatings. I have been near death many times. Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of 39 lashes with a whip.  Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost killed with rocks. Three times I was in ships that were wrecked, and one of those times I spent the night and the next day in the sea. In my constant traveling I have been in danger from rivers, from thieves, from my own people, and from people who are not Jews. I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea. And I have been in danger from people who pretend to be believers but are not. I have done hard and tiring work, and many times I did not sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty. Many times I have been without food. I have been cold and without clothes. And there are many other problems. One of these is the care I have for all the churches. I worry about each group of believers every day.

Sound like Paul endured a lot for Christ sake but listen to what he says in chapter 4 of the same letter, Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Paul consider everything he had suffered to be light affliction. He saying, “Man, what we have suffered or think we have suffered is nothing compared to what’s waiting on us in heaven.”

When I surrendered to the ministry, I thought I was making a huge sacrifice. As I look back, I can see that I made no sacrifice at all. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Jesus is no liar. He is the ultimate Promise Keeper.

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