Come to me, find rest

Text Matthew 11:28-30 Time 04 11 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church (also Banbury 28 10 07)I'd like us to consider today a great and famous Bible text. These are the words of Jesus himself, words he spoke while he was here on earth. They come at the end of Matthew 11 in 28-30
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.One writer has said 'No sublimer words exist than this call of Jesus to the toiling and the burdened to come to him.'
In Chapter 11 we come to an important point in Jesus's ministry. Jesus has been preaching to the people for some time but the response is generally speaking quite poor. There has been no repentance. In 20-24 he utters these scalding words of condemnation against the places in Galilee where he had done most of his miracles and preached most of his messages. He says
Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgement than for you.
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgement than for you.
These rather sobering words are immediately followed by those found in 25, 26
At that time Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. Yes, the failure of so many to respond is a disappointment but Jesus sees this as the will of his Father. Though the wise and learned have failed to see the truth, others – the little children – have seen the truth. This was the Father's good pleasure.Jesus then says All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Jesus knows the will of the Father. He is also the one who is able to reveal it to others. There is a unique relationship between God the Father and God the Son and it is impossible to know the one without knowing the other. If you know Jesus, you know God.
This leads to the words before us. There are three things to consider.
1. Consider the command Jesus gives here1. What? Come
That is one of the simplest words I can think of. You learn to read it when you're very young. We used Janet and John books when I was learning to read. 'Come Janet. Come John.' It means to move from there to here. By using the word come Jesus is calling for movement, for a change. To belong to Jesus you cannot simply stay where you are or remain as you are. Change is necessary. Do you see that?
This coming is not a physical coming. Some confusion has been caused in some people's minds by suggesting there is something physical we can do to come to Christ – like coming to the front or raising our hands.
This coming is surely not something merely emotional either – an emotional experience. Rather the word come here is pointing to faith, to putting one's faith outside of oneself – going outside oneself. It is putting one's soul elsewhere.
2. Where? to me
That faith must be in Jesus Christ. Matthew describes him in this Gospel, which is one of four portraits we have in the New Testament showing the character and person of Christ. Clearly he is a man. He acts in a human way. And yet he is also God - God come in human flesh. No-one ever spoke like this man. No-one did the miracles he did.
Matthew and the others go on to tell us how this man died on the cross. Not, it is clear, because he deserved it but in the place of sinners. He then rose again from the dead, triumphing over sin and death and hell and opening up the way to God the Father for all who the Son chooses to reveal him to.
Come to me Jesus says. Don't stay as you are, don't stay where you are but from your heart put your trust in me. He is the one to whom you must come.
3. Who? (Come to me) all you who are weary and burdened, ...
There is an all here. Someone has said it's in the word COME.C – children. That all includes children. If you can understand what I am saying then you are not too young to come to Christ. Trust in him today. I have met some people who trusted in Christ when they were 4 or 5, many who came to him when they were 10 or 11. Many come to faith in their teenage years. I was 12 when I first trusted in Christ. Trust in him today.
O – It includes older people too. No-one is too old to come to Christ. People have come to trust in him in their sixties and seventies and eighties, even in their nineties.
There is even a famous story of a man who was a hundred years old coming to faith. Luke Short was a New England farmer who lived in the 17th Century. Apparently he was sat in a field contemplating his end one day and recalled a striking sermon he had heard some 85 years before as a 15 year old in Dartmouth, England. The preacher had been the Puritan John Flavel. His text was If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha (1 Cor 16:22). Short lived a further 16 years after this and despite his sinful past became a faithful member of the Congregationalist Church meeting in Middleborough, Massachusetts. It's never too late.
M – Well, that's all the people in the middle. They're included in this all as well. If you're not a child and not old but somewhere in the middle then – in your twenties, thirties, forties (like me) or fifties - Jesus is saying 'Come to me' to you this morning as well. Put your trust in me, he says. Believe in me and my work.
E – I don't think I've missed anyone out but if I have E is for everyone. This message is for every person here today.
You notice that Jesus says (Come to me) all you who are weary and burdened. Again this is unlikely to be a physical sense of weariness or burden. He is talking about the lethargy of soul and the burden of conscience that grips us all from time to time. You see it in some people. 'He looks as though he's got the world on his shoulders'. 'I'm sick and tired of it all'.
On the one hand our souls feel weary with all the effort we try to put into life. On the other, the sheer weight of sin and misery in this world wears them down. Certainly it is stronger in some than others and it can vary with the time. One of the paradoxes of coming near to Christ is that as we come nearer we have a greater sense of weariness and burden. Are you finding that? It is hard but it can be a good sign.
Now I don't think we need to get hung up here about how weary or how burdened we feel though. If we feel it at all then that is enough.
Are you weary in your soul,tired of it all? Are you burdened in your conscience, weighed down by your sins? Then come to Jesus. Trust in him. Here is the answer. It's not in you. It's not in me. It's in him.
4. How? Take my yoke upon you and learn from me
Jesus answers with a picture. This is not a very rural community but Jesus was speaking to people who knew about farming and about animals. They knew what a yoke was. It was the instrument used to couple two animals together so that they could be used to pull a cart or plough a field. The word was used as a metaphor to describe being under someone's power. At this very time the Jews were under the Roman yoke. Now, says Jesus, what you need to do is to come under my power. Let me guide you, where you will go and what you will do. Accept me as your teacher, your instructor, your captain, your guide.
Have you done that? Have you bowed to Christ's yoke? That's how to come to him. Accept him as your Lord and Master. Say, 'What he says I will do. Where he sends I will go.'
2. Consider the promise Jesus makes hereNow, of course, we've missed out the most important phrase. Jesus says Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest ... and you will find rest for your souls. I will refresh you he says. I will make it easy. With me you can be rejuvenated, renewed, rested, restored. Here is relief. You know what it's like perhaps to be carrying a heavy burden and then to be able to put it down. To lie down in bed at the end of a hard day worn out. It's that moment of stopping, ceasing that is in mind here. Or think of the refreshment of a cold drink from an ice cold fridge or a mountain spring.
That is what our hearts need. That is the need of your soul and mine, to find rest. How restless and unsatisfied we are by nature. How hard it is to live in this fallen world of sin. We sin and we are sinned against. Things are spoiled by sin and we grow weary of it all. But in Christ there is rest, there is refreshment. He is the Lord my Shepherd and he restores my soul.
Have you found rest in Christ? The rest of forgiveness and of walking with God? You can find it in Christ. If you simply trust in him you will be right with God, the burden will be gone and you will find rest for your soul.
3. Consider the argument Jesus adds hereWell, you say, this rest sounds all very nice but how do I know that Jesus can give it to me? Well, Jesus gives two arguments here. One comes from his character and one is from the very way he saves.
1. His character for I am gentle and humble in heart
In the ancient world gentleness and humility or meekness and lowliness were not often thought to be attractive characteristics. To most people it sounded too much like weakness or servility. Jesus is clear though. He is gentle, mild, kindly. He is humble, lowly. Perhaps Philippians 2 is the chapter that describes it most fully.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Here is one fit to teach us then. He will not be unkind or overbearing. He knows just what we need. He's willing to come down to our level. If you want to get along side kids it's best to get own on the floor with them. That's how Jesus is with us.
I'm not calling you to submit to a Saviour today who comes breathing fire and vengeance with a sword in his hand. Such a day is coming. But today I'm coming to you in the meekness of Christ and I'm saying trust in him. Indeed Christ himself is present and pleads with you, come to me.
2. The character of his demands For my yoke is easy and my burden is light
Here is the final thing. Is being a Christian hard? Well, it's not an easy question to answer. In one sense it is because there's always going to be persecution and it's a narrow road that leads to eternity. But when you compare it to not being a Christian, especially when you compare it to some of the ways people try to get saved then it is easy. I know a Jewish lady and one of her objections to Christianity is that it is too easy. She is frum, she keeps a kosher table. Even in Golders Green that's not easy. It is expensive and time consuming. When it comes to Passover things are even more difficult. But if you are a Christian it's so different. You can eat what you like (though you mustn't be greedy), drink what you like (though you mustn't get drunk), wear what you like (though with modesty). There are no festivals or feasts to keep (though the Lord's Day is clearly to be marked week by week), there's no long list of rules (although we certainly have our dos and don'ts). When you come to Christ it is true liberation. It is true freedom. Nothing can compare with it. It is not freedom from all restraint and responsibility.
I remind you who believe too, there is a yoke to wear. There is a burden to carry. Let's not be slow in taking it up.
But the yoke is kind, gracious. It doesn't chafe away as a yoke on an animal can. The burden is light not heavy.
Take the yoke, bear the burden. It is the way to God and to heaven and there is no other way.