One of my all-time favorite Christian hymns is the old song by Joseph Scriven, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. The hymn writer writes- “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!”
In the passage we began looking at last week from Matthew’s gospel, we certainly see Jesus inviting us to come to Him with our burdens and with our pain. We read, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, 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 shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my load is light”, (Matt.11:28-30 NASB). Last week we considered how Jesus lightened a load of his original hearers by removing the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament law (see Mark 7:14-20) and also by giving relief from the sabbatical legalism that was being practiced by the Sadducees and Pharisees (see Matt. 12) that would’ve been such a burden to those living in the first century. But as members of the body of Christ Jesus did not leave us without a yoke.
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me”. A “yoke” refers to a life of entire submission of the work and will of God. The reason that Jesus offers the rest that we discussed last week is for the purpose of delightful service, not simply in outward form, but joyful service as Jesus Christ flows in and through our hearts and lives. By yoking ourselves together with Jesus Christ we become true disciples and join Him in His proclamation of divine wisdom. His yoke is easy to the willing mind and loving heart that is surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. Taking the yoke of Jesus upon us is to acknowledge fully his Lordship in every area of one’s life. We are not forced to come under the yoke with Jesus, but when we come under that yoke, we will find rest for our souls and freedom from sin’s burdens. Taking His yoke refers to experiencing His kindness and goodness.
Also, in this passage, we are invited to learn from the Lord Jesus. This knowledge is not obedience to some external law at all. It is first and foremost loyalty to the person of Jesus Christ, which then enables us as disciples the serve Him gladly and therefore easily. The way of life that Jesus desires for His disciples is following His own life as He empowers us to do this through His Holy Spirit. Jesus instructs us to “learn of me”, yet Jesus never was impatient with those who followed Him. He demonstrated amazing patience in dealing with 12 difficult disciples who seldom understood the meaning of the things Jesus was saying or doing. But as our teacher, when our hearts are open to what He is teaching us, Jesus can work and move in extraordinary ways.
In considering this amazing invitation that Jesus extends those to who are burdened and weary I believe we should respond by embracing His yoke and yielding our lives allegiance to Him. If you’ve never done that, please carefully consider the invitation Jesus is making to you. But if you have received Jesus’ invitation make sure that you are in a place where you can continue to serve and learn from the Lord Jesus Christ, as He moves and works in our lives and in the world.
All for God’s glory, Pastor Rich Sivo