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Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV)
- Hymn CW 833 “I Run to Christ”
- Hymn 818:1-2 “My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone”
- Hymn CW 706 “Come unto Me, Ye Weary”
- Hymn CW 834 “Still, My Soul, Be Still”
- Hymn 818:3 “My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone”
July 9, 2023 Matthew 10:25-30 Pastor Wolfe
The Christian Life: Jesus invites us to lighten the load
Brothers and sisters in Christ. This morning I would like to point you to the last three verses of our gospel lesson where Jesus says, “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.”
A couple weeks ago I talked about making hay growing up on the farm. Well, it turns out there’s another farming story that applies to this week’s sermon. We were making hay one summer and we (okay, I) got a hay wagon stuck in the mud. Now, on our farm we didn’t use just the big round bales or the big square ones. We made hay the hard way. One person driving the tractor and another poor sap on a flatbed wagon stacking the little square bales. We’d pack the wagons as high as we could to make less trips, but this time the path was muddy and I didn’t hit the right tracks and we were not going anywhere.
When you’re stuck like that there are only two ways out. Increase your power or lighten the load. In this case we had to lighten the load – taking weight off the wagon one bale at a time. And wouldn’t you know it – when we had about half the bales off, that wagon pulled free from the mud and we were on our way.
Jesus’ invitation today is a call to us to get out of the mud of sin and misery. To let go of the weight of the world that burdens us. To lighten our load and place it on him instead. His farming picture of a yoke may be slightly different than moving hay bales, but it’s an easy point to see. It’s another part of what it means to be Christian. To lighten our load and find rest as Jesus does the heavy lifting for us.
So, what weariness and burdens do you think Jesus has in mind as he makes this invitation? I think he leaves it vague intentionally. Some of us face the burden of bodies that don’t do what we want because of age or illness. Others carry the burden of loneliness or depression. Still others are weary with broken relationships with children or spouses or relatives. Maybe yours is a burden of temptation or guilt or shame. Maybe you can’t even name it – an everyday burden of stress and tiredness. A feeling that life just isn’t that great a thing.
I don’t think I have to spend a lot of time exploring with you what kinds of burdens you carry because we all carry something. We’re all wearied by something. Sometimes weary enough to want to throw in the towel, give up the fighting and just wait for it to end. No, we know what Jesus is talking about when he makes an invitation to those who are weary and burdened. We know what he’s talking about because he’s talking to us.
And he’s telling us that he knows. He’s telling us that he knows we can’t carry it alone, so he’ll help carry it for us. Think back to the burdens you just had in mind a moment ago. Every single one of them is a result of sin. Whether your burden is weakness, illness, shame, or attack from others – sin is at the root. It’s sin that weakened our bodies so that illness and disease ravage us and break us down. It’s sin that pulls us away from God and divides us from each other. It’s sin that makes us lazy and sin that prevents forgiveness between believers. It’s all sin. And even though we know life would be better without it, we’re powerless to stop. Like the Apostle Paul, we cry out, “The sin I don’t want to do, this I keep on doing. Who will save me from this wretched body of death?” Paul’s answer – Jesus’ answer – is Jesus.
The yoke that Jesus talks about probably needs some explanation in our urban times. I’ve never seen one in actual use myself. The kind of yoke referred to here was essentially a wooden bar placed over two oxen to help them pull together instead of separately. Their combined power would allow them to pull wagons, plow fields, or whatever. With one yoke over them, they shared the load. But Jesus’ invitation isn’t for us to share the burden, is it? He doesn’t tell us to put our yoke on him and carry it together. He tells us to put his yoke on us. That’s significant. It’s important.
Jesus’ yoke is light and easy because it’s not burdened by sin. Jesus had no feelings of guilt or shame because he never did anything wrong. Jesus faced no justified criticism. He had no lack of peace or faith in his heavenly Father. Jesus had no doubts about his eternal future. Wouldn’t you like to be able to have all of that? No doubt. No guilt. No justified condemnation. No work. Just rest. Pure and perfect rest from every weariness and burden of life and eternity. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?
Well, brothers and sisters we can. Jesus can free us from our yokes of burden and invite us to his because he’s already paid the price to set us free. The sin that plagues you and keeps you privately unsatisfied and publicly cheerless? Jesus died for that sin. The sinful pride and selfishness that causes you to set yourself up as greater or better than someone else? Jesus died for that too. The time you’ve dedicated to your own pleasure when you know you should have been serving God or helping others? That’s gone as well. Whatever your burden is in sin, the only thing holding you to it is yourself. Recognize what Jesus has done for you, what he’s done for all of us, and lighten your load. It’s the most ordinary part of our Christian faith but it’s the most extraordinarily freeing thing. Your sin is gone and your forgiveness is assured. So, throw off the burden, wake up from the weariness, and rejoice in what our Savior has done for you. Nothing in your past matters.
One of the purposes of a cattle yoke is also to keep the animals yoked together in the same direction. I don’t know if Jesus intended that or not in his invitation to take up his yoke, but we want to go where Jesus goes too. We want to walk alongside him and be near him, not only in heaven but now too. Look at the verses again. Jesus tells us to learn from him. That he is gentle and humble in heart. And that if we learn that we have rest for our souls.
Some people have an idea that Christianity is about hearing God’s rules and following them. That it’s all law and punishment. But Jesus carried our burdens so that we can be free from the law. Free for the first time to not be burdened by life. Free to enjoy the blessings he gives, to help others and to share his great gift of love.
But Christian, that is what you have. Your sins that bring you doubt and shame and guilt. Washed away in the blood of Christ. Your concerns of health and finances and future – you’re only worrying about what God has already figured out for you. If the first part of the definition of a Christian is loving God above all things because he first loved us, the second part is this – having the peace that comes from trusting God has everything under his control. The Christian finds rest in Jesus for every care and concern.
Because all of us are tempted to put on the yoke of worry and burden again, we need to hear over and over that we are loved and not alone. We do have someone to take our burdens to. Someone who truly listens and cares. Jesus says come. Come to the Lord with your cares, with your problems, with all the burdens of life. He will carry them. He promises to do it, and the one who invites you to him always keeps his promises. I hope you will heed his invitation this morning, that before the service is even done, maybe in the quiet time of prayer or after the Supper, you will lay your cares and your concerns on him. And that you can find peace and rest from the burdens and brokenness of the world. That’s why we’re here after all.
I wish I had chosen it as one of our hymns today, but the thought came to me long after our music goes to our musicians. In the hymn I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say the hymnwriter beautifully summarizes Jesus’ invitation here. Listen to the words of the first verse: “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest; Lay down, O weary one, lay down your head upon my breast.’ I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad; I found in him a resting place, and he has made me glad.”
Brothers and sisters, defined by forgiveness and hope in Christ, may God lighten your load from sin today. May He bring your rest and peace, and may you find gladness in the Lord as well. To Him be the glory, Amen.