Summary: Jesus has great news for weary people
Americans are tired people. Hectic schedules have many folks going to bed late and getting up early, and surveys show that most people in our country simply don't get enough sleep. A recent newspaper article reported some companies are encouraging employees to take naps during the lunch hour, even providing couches, pillows, and alarm clocks, so their workers won't be so tired and unproductive in the afternoon. A highway patrol official says that besides drunk drivers, the most dangerous people on the highway are over-tired drivers. But it is not just our bodies which get tired. The stress and complexity of modern life takes its toll on our souls. Many folks are overwhelmed with their responsibilities at work or school. Others get burned-out by financial or family problems. Every day hundreds of people across the country are admitted to hospitals because they are suffering from physical or emotional exhaustion. Many of us, at least at times, are very weary people. Often we need some rest.
Is the church a place where we get some relief from the rapid pace of life? Well, there are a few folks who find it a very convenient place to take a nap on Sunday mornings, but a lot of people, including a few of us in this room, know that being involved in church can add many hours to a weekly schedule and make life even more hectic. A little poem captures this truth: Mary had a little lamb, 'twas given her to keep; but then she joined the Baptist Church and died for lack of sleep. Church meetings on four to five nights a week, combined with the personality conflicts which seem to abound in so many congregations, can be an exhausting experience.
But there is hope. The words that Jesus has for us in our text today are indeed great news for weary people. Our journey in the Gospel of Matthew brings us to Chapter 11:25-30. Here we read Jesus' marvelous invitation. Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Today, as we explore Jesus' words, let's pray He would help us discover how we can experience the marvelous rest that He offers.
Some of us might wonder, can followers of Jesus really find rest? Many times we have talked about how it is not easy to be a Christian. In fact, a few weeks ago we looked at the end of Chapter 10 in Matthew, and saw that followers of Jesus will frequently have more conflicts within their families. Being a Christian is not a life of lying in a hammock sipping lemonade. How can it be restful? Even Jesus' words are a bit confusing. 11:28-30 "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." We are tired. We need rest. What does Jesus offer us? Not a bed or pillow, but a yoke. The yoke, of course, was put on an ox or a donkey to pull a heavy load. Jesus uses the term to refer to being His disciple. To be a Christian means following Jesus, learning certain things and doing certain things. It hardly seems like an easy life. Yet, Jesus promises us that, if we follow Him, we "will find rest for our souls." If we seek to live by His grace and for His glory, we will find that His yoke is easy, and the burden is light. How does this work? I think the heart of what Jesus says is this: "Being a Christian is not always easy. If you follow Me it is going to sometimes be a very rough and uphill road. But, it will be a good life, a very good life and though I can't promise you that your body won't sometimes feel very tired, your soul is going to be refreshed." There are many reasons why this is true, but let me mention four reasons why being a Christian is a good life.
#1) The alternatives to following Jesus are not good. The light burden that Jesus gives us to carry is a clear contrast to the heavy burdens of other religions. That is what the Pharisees put on people in Jesus' day. They taught that to please God, one had to follow a long list of religious rituals and regulations. Because people never kept these rules perfectly, they often struggled with guilt and always wondered if they had done good enough to please God. That was a heavy burden. Jesus' yoke is much lighter because it offers forgiveness and assurance of God's favor. There are still folks today whose religion involves very heavy burdens. Anyone who chooses to follow a path of works and law to earn salvation is under a much more heavy yoke than someone who has found salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who seek to earn God's favor by performing religious rituals or following a set of rules, no matter whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Catholics or Baptists, are all bearing very heavy burdens.