Sunday Sermon: ‘Take My Yoke Upon You’

Matthew 11:28  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I often think about the Lord and how weary He must have become as He constantly minister to people. Scripture speaks of a time when He and His disciples got into a boat to sail to a secluded place in order to rest for a few days, but before they arrived, the people had run along the shores of the sea and were waiting for them. Day and night He healed the sick, drove out demons, fed multitudes and taught them things about the kingdom of God. Added to all of this was the several confrontations He had with the Scribes and Pharisees. Yet no matter how much the people demanded, or how tired the Master became, He ministered to people. Scripture says that He was often ‘moved with compassion.’ That phrase literally means that He was stirred in His inner most being.

Today we read of a time when, rather than taking a rest, Jesus offered rest. “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” To whom was Jesus making this offer?

It seems to me that most of the people Jesus ministered to were poor and needy people. Many were plagued with various diseases and sought healing. Some were demon possessed. Others had deep lines etched by a hard life written across their face. They were not the social elite of that day. They were the down and outs. Jesus could see the weariness on their faces and so He offered them rest.

Jesus could see the weariness on their faces and He could also see the weariness in their souls. To understand what Jesus was saying and why He was saying it, we have to take into consideration the spiritual need of these people. Many of them were the worst of the worst and living during a time when the standard of what it took to get into heaven was set so high that none of them could attain it. I honestly think that the rest Jesus was offering these folks was a rest from their attempt to work their way into heaven. The rest that Jesus was offering them was a rest of grace.

There are three important words in this passage that will help us to understand what Jesus was saying.

Come!

Matthew 11:28  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The word ‘come’ used here is an interesting word. It’s the kind of word that someone might use if they were inviting people to a banquet. It’s an earnest plea to come at once. “Come now!” Jesus was saying.

If you have read much in the gospels, you have noticed the kind of people who often gathered around Jesus. They were those who were struggling because they were poor and needy. When Jesus taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”, that was a very real concern for many. Among those who gathered around Him were also those who were suffering. It seems that people were constantly bringing their sick to Jesus for healing. There was also another group there that day. They were those who were weighed down with their sin. We find in scripture that often publicans, prostitutes and sinful people were drawn to Jesus. Have you ever wondered why? It had to be because their sinful lifestyles were weighing them down. Sin can sometimes produce a bit of fun for a season, but eventually it begins to take its toll. The guilt of sin can become a terrible burden and those of Jesus’ day came to Him for some kind of relief. To them Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Take!

The second important word is ‘take.’ “Take my yoke upon you.”  What is a yoke? A yoke is a piece of wood that has been carved out so that it will fit over the neck of an animal, therefore causing the animal to carry a heavy load. In Bible times, the concept of a yoke was often associated with some form of slavery or bondage.

There are a lot of people in some form of bondage. There are some who are in bondage to the past. There are others who are in bondage to some form of pleasure. Some are in bondage to prestige or power and others in bondage to possessions. Do you know why we have a credit crisis today in America? People are in the bondage of thinking that if they buy just little bit more, somehow they will suddenly be happy. Yet the Bible teaches us that in reality, when we do these kind of things, we are serving sin. We are a slave to sin.

There was another kind of bondage present that day. What it was might surprise you. There were those who were slaves to a religious system. In Matthew 23:4, Jesus condemned the religious leaders of that day for putting a heavy yoke of spiritual bondage upon people. They had made knowing God so complicated that no one could achieve it. No wonder the Lord cried out, Matthew 11:28  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The question that first crossed my mind when I read this was, “How can trading one yoke for another help someone?” The yoke of the Pharisees was a yoke that said, “Bear it yourself. Carry all the weight yourself.” Everyday we hear of someone collapsing under the crushing weight of life. Why did the man kill four his family members, including a child, Thanksgiving night? We still don’t know all the reasons but I can tell you this, something in this man’s life was so heavy upon him that he couldn’t bear it. I’m not excusing the man’s sin but telling you that life is too heavy to bear alone.

The yoke of the Pharisees said, “Carry that weight yourself.” The yoke of Christ says, “Come and rest  for I have carried the weight for you.” In the book of Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, we learn that resting in Jesus is the same thing as trusting in Him as your Savior. ‘Come and trust in Me and I will give you rest.’

How can Christ’s yoke give us rest? 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us what that yoke is – it’s the cross of Jesus. “For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Christ carried all the weight of our sins upon His shoulders and He offers to us in exchange, a position of sinlessness. No wonder the Lord cried out to those listening that day, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That is not to say that a Christian will have no struggles, yet in every struggle, he will have someone there beside him to help him. “Don’t bear your burdens alone”, Jesus is saying. “Come to Me and I will help you.”

Learn!

Matthew 11:28  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

There’s a very important little word here. It’s the word ‘of.’ Jesus did not say – ‘Learn about Me’; He said – ‘Learn of Me.’ Is there a difference? Knowing facts about Jesus will not change our lives. Knowing Christ in a real and personal way will. Jesus was saying to the crowds – ‘Learn what My nature is like. I am meek and lowly in heart.’ In other words, ‘I am gentle and humble.’ I am often amazed that the God of this universe stresses so much the gentleness and humility of His nature. What a wonderful invitation Jesus is giving us. ‘Come to Me and I will give you rest from your struggles, your sorrows and most of all your sin.’ ‘Come, I won’t abuse you. I won’t condemn you. I will help you and give you rest if you will but take My yoke upon you. If you will but accept My cross and My way of salvation, you will find relief from what is weighing you down and a refreshment for your souls.’ My friend, have you found such relief in Jesus?

Jesus was also saying, ‘Come and learn My nature so that you might not only be blessed, you too might become a blessing.’ The church must always keep in mind that if our Savior is meek and lowly, we need to be also as well. We live in a world of hurting people who need help. We have the answer. Therefore, rather than focusing on ourselves, we need to be focusing on bringing people to Jesus.

If you attended Twin Oaks Sunday, you know that just before the message, our young adults did a drama centered around the Casting Crowns song, “Love Them Like Jesus.” In closing, consider some of the words to that song.

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus

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