"Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give them rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me and you will find rest for your souls. For my burden is easy and light." Matt. 11:28-30
This invitation to come is quite complex. At surface glance, one would make an interpretation of the invitation that could be quite incorrect. Have you ever received an invitation to something, and when you arrived it wasn't at all what you expected? I believe this invitation, depending on your expectations, will be either worse or better than expected.
If you receive this invitation as a way out of a bad circumstance or as a "too good to be true" offer of a pain free existence, you are deceiving yourselves and missing the point.
Think of this invitation in light of the rest of scripture. We are promised trials, yet given peace. We live in dread, but find hope. We are sorrowful, yet know joy. The Bible is full of paradox, and this passage is really no different.
The yoke and burden of Christ is not an offer of a life of ease. It is an offer of peace and rest, and of "not alone" promises. It's an offer to be relieved of our severe independence.
Come to me is an exquisite, personal beckoning of a Savior who already set the score, made His intentions known. This Savior is simply saying come, and just a little while later He will ransom and rescue us. You see, He was making a way, and He puts the next move into our hands. "Come".
I have had already came to you, now you must turn towards me.
It's our move. Will we come, truly come? We often say we do, and rest sounds enticing. We come on Sunday morning, we come when our bank accounts are empty, we come when our world is falling apart. But what is it we are looking for? If we were honest, I think we are looking for a relief from pain and when that doesn't occur-we become disengaged. I think we are looking for someone to help us accomplish some behavior modification, so our world and relationships are a little easier.
Sometimes we think that if we slow our schedule, if we say no more, and if we think about Jesus more - that we have made such efforts to come that God then in turn gives us the gift of rest. We tweaked a few things, cried a few tears, and quieted ourselves a bit - we are so proud of ourselves. Yet, a little time goes by and we find ourselves once again in a fruitless season, tired, weary, and worn.
I think it is important to note that what we find here similar to the invitation in John 15. Remain in me and I will remain in you, abide in me and I in you. The other major part of that passage, though, is a promise to prune and a promise of fruit bearing.
In much the same way, the Savior says come to me. Attach yourself to me as two oxen attached. The stronger one carries the bulk of the weight to teach the younger, weaker ox how to do the job.
We attach ourselves to Christ not because it alleviates the work and effort of living in a fallen world. We attach ourselves to Christ, so we may learn from Him, so He may teach us-and so he may take the weight.
Notice how it states you will find rest for your souls. Rest for your soul, the place where your thoughts, will, and emotions lie. The soul is a quite complex place. For rest to come to our soul, a major work of surrender in our will must be accomplished. For rest to come, a renewing of our mind must occur. And, for rest to come, our emotions-feelings must be acknowledged, valued, and surrendered. This isn't a one season process, this is an ongoing daily surrender and sanctifying process.
To accept an invitation to comes means you are committing your whole self to the work of Christ. You will accept the suffering and agonizing pain of surrendering your will. You will discipline yourself to allowing Christ all the way in, you will say yes always. He will be your joy and your strength, oh yes, but you will also find love in the discipline, in the painful process of becoming more like Christ.
Here is the most important part, you won't carry it alone. They attach the two oxen together, so that the stronger ox can carry the weight and guide the weaker ox. Jesus says take my yoke upon you. It's a yoke of grace, love, free justification, peace, freedom, and more. His yoke is gracious, yet His yoke will cause us to be more like Him. We become like the ox that carries the weight. He nurtures righteousness against our very sinful nature. Our desire to grow, to run this race will be an overflow of what we are attached to-is it really Christ? Or is it this world?
Jesus is gentle, humble, and servant hearted. He is a friend to all. He loves mercy and justice. He forgives the most vile. Who or what have we attached ourselves to and can we confidently say it is Christ?
His yoke is easy. How is that you say? This yoke sounds to be so burdensome. Is it though? When it is Christ in me, and no longer I carrying the weight. When it is He who bore my sin, my disgraceful self-He covered in unabounding grace.
The word yoke can be defined in the Greek as well-fitted. So, it is not so much easy as much as it fits you perfectly. God formed, created, and made you. And the yoke that He invites us to take is one of perfect fit for you. His yoke is your saving grace.
His burden is light reminds us that there is such a burden to bear. This invitation to come is not for a way out, it is not to make life easier for you. There are burdens to bear, a cross to carry-but Jesus says-you are not alone. I will be with you, I am for you. He says remain in me and I will remain in you. I will prune the broken places and I will cause you to bear fruit. It is me in you.
A weary soul can find rest in him when the soul is surrendered. Rest and peace in the midst of pain is much more authentic than a rest and peace as a result of a pain free existence. An invitation to come given to my true self, the self that is broken and dire need of repair and repentance is powerful and leaves me speechless. And, not only does it leave me grateful, it leaves me humbled and it leads me to repentance and trust. It leads me to surrender. And it is in that surrender that I find the true shared yoke of peace and rest.
May we remember that this sweet invitation to come is less about relief and more about dependency. It is less about freedom from pain and more about surrender in the pain. It is less about easy, and more about sharing the hard. We accept an invitation to come, yet we accept to not only receive but to learn .