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All you weary people out there! Come . . . Take my yoke . . .Learn gentleness and humility . . . And you will find the rest you need.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV
God's Bottom Line: Come
Bet you never thought these gentle words would show up at the end of such a troubling chapter! After all the doubt and unbelief, game-playing and lack of repentance, Jesus zeroed in on that most important theme, God's mercy and grace. And he gave the invitation once more, Come to me . . . .
At a glance, these familiar words seem completely unrelated to what he had previously said. But on the contrary, they are always appropriate, relevant and well-suited to any hour of the day and any situation we are in. These verses are without a doubt some of the most beloved words in the whole Bible. Whether you are reading about Jesus for the first time or if you have been a Christian your entire life, these words are your invitation to come and find rest for your soul.
The loving image of God beckoning us to draw near summarizes much of the whole Bible. Over and over again the central ideas of Scripture can be compressed into just one short, simple word: Come! When Jesus used the word, it was an invitation like none other we are ever likely to hear.--"Everyone! Come to me; live and work close to me and you will find rest for your soul. Learn from me to be humble and gentle. My yoke fits you perfectly and will make your burdens light."
I am feeling weary as I write this page; by all means, I need rest. But doesn't it sound just a little too easy? Too good to be true! This offer of "rest" takes me by surprise? I'm more accustomed to the concept of taking up my cross with its sacrificial lifestyle, duties and obligations. With Jesus' invitation on my mind, I turned it off for the night, set my alarm for an early start and went to bed. Tomorrow will be the first day back to work after a 3-day holiday weekend.
Next morning, my commute to work started out badly; had to wait forever just to get out of my neighborhood and onto the main road which was already backed up further than I had ever seen it. I would have to detour through the side streets, but that got me nowhere. Crossing guards, school buses, and long-distance haulers blocked my progress. I momentarily thought of the rest Jesus promised and the idea seemed absurd. How could I be yoked to Christ with 8 hours of work ahead of me, that is, if I could only get there! If people don't know where they are going, I wish they would get off the road! I dialed my boss, got his answering machine and impatiently hung up.
Could Jesus have had people like me in mind when he spoke these words? People with schedules and commitments to keep! How could I wear the yoke and learn from him when I needed to be in a certain place at a certain time? Jesus doesn't chase after me so I can follow my schedule, does he? I'm not free to go where Jesus wants to take me, am I?
I was right behind a city bus that had parked itself in the middle of my lane of traffic, and my irritation was spiraling into a frenzied pitch when I received my first insight. My yokemate was trying to teach me "gentleness and lowly humility." I must stop demanding my place/space. I was not #1 in the big scheme of things. There could be no pushing and grabbing today. Mentally focusing on Jesus and wanting to learn from him while in the morning race to work, is an attitude changer. Arrogance and aggressiveness must go; I'm no better than the people around me, nor more important than anyone else. My lack of lowliness had been breeding discontent.
Why do I tell you all this? Because if rest for the soul is only for people who are on a monastic retreat, then this passage is irrelevant. If putting on the yoke of Jesus is only for ministers and those doing church work, this passage is meaningless for most of us. If learning from Jesus takes place only during scheduled quiet times, we miss the whole point of what Jesus was saying. But whenever we take these words of Jesus into our daily lives where we live and work, laugh and cry, fail and succeed, then our lives are changed.
To Jesus, we often look tired and worn out from carrying a load that is too heavy to bear. So he offered a yoke, which will make it easier for us to stand up under the weight of the load. Whatever the burdens we carry, Jesus' wants to give relief from the strain. He will teach us how, if we come and want to learn from him. He has made us an offer, a teaser with a carrot. There's something in this for each of us and it's spelled R-E-S-T!
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Name one or two things which get you frazzled.
Are you able to identify with the concepts of weariness in body and soul? What makes you weary? And how do you find rest? Do you ever question whether mankind is meant to be unhappy? What conclusion have you reached?
Is Matthew 11:28-30 a favorite Bible passage of yours? If so, tell what these verses have meant to you. Why would these verses have such universal appeal?They are gentle words right from Jesus' lips and many people love them. But are they for real and do they mean what they say?
Read the words to the Christmas carol, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." How is weariness described in that song? According to its composer, where and when is rest to be found?
Coming to Jesus is a spiritual, rather than physical, experience. In many ways my mind is free, even though I'm committed to other tasks. So in that sense I am free to come to Jesus any time and any place. Give an example from your own life when your mind turned to God in some unlikely circumstance?
Back in the 1960's, Malcolm Boyd authored a book of prayers with the intriguing title, Are You Running With Me, Jesus? Do you think that's an appropriate title for a collection of prayers? Explain your answer. Does Jesus run with you through your busy life?
Another approach to Jesus is to set aside regular times for prayer, Bible reading and meditation. Make an appointment with God. Write it on your calendar and consider it a priority. Describe your experience with "quiet time" and its impact on your life.
"Come to me" is a very personal invitation. It expresses a desire for closeness and intimacy. One of the unique aspects of Christianity is this relationship which we can have with our deity. Are you comfortable with the idea of knowing and loving God? Do you have a personal relationship with your Maker? If so, in what ways is that relationship important to you?