Summary: Freedom is not found in discarding the yoke of Christ; it's found in losing our own burden. It's not found in discarding his authority; it's an amazing truth that freedom is found under the yoke of Christ.
Opening illustration: All of us enjoy receiving invitations—to a meal, a wedding, or a concert. Usually, when the invitation is printed on a little card, there are cryptic letters written at the bottom: RSVP. We know what those letters mean. They are an abbreviation of a French request to reply to the invitation. Unfortunately, not everyone knows that.
A couple found political asylum in the USA during the Second World War. They came from Central Europe, and they were not well versed in the American culture. One day they received an invitation to a wedding, and at the bottom of the invitation were those cryptic letters: RSVP. In his thick, Eastern European accent, the husband said, "Vife, vat does it mean: RSVP?” So they thought for a while, until inspiration dawned, and the husband said, "Vife, I know vat it means: Remember Send Vedding Presents."
They made a mistake by imaging that the message was a demand when, in reality, it was an invitation. Unfortunately, there are many people who make the same mistake about Jesus Christ and the gospel. They think it is a demand when in reality it is an offer—a free invitation.
Today’s passage is found in Matthew 11 and Jesus is not demanding anything … just making an offer. How we respond to it matters the most.
Introduction: No amount of philosophy or theology or speculation can give us the intellectual rest that comes through faith in Jesus. The Christian claim is that the relationship of the believer to Jesus is all important. We are saved by faith, not by our understanding or intellect. Many who have great intelligence are still lacking the wisdom that comes from believing in the Lord. Many of limited learning and understanding have the personal joy of knowing and loving the Savior and knowing that they are valued and loved by God. When we come to Jesus, we find rest for our souls––the Greek word is psyche––for our minds. We can rest from having to figure everything out, from having to understand the meaning of the universe. We can be free to give our doubts also to God. You can have peace of mind, rest in your quest, by receiving God's revelation in Jesus.
What is Christ asking us to lay down?
1. Vain Things (vs. 25-27) - Empty, fruitless, nothing of lasting value
Jesus is talking about the Father concealing things from those who are worldly wise and think they are too smart for the world and even for God. But all things have been revealed to Christ through the Father. Therefore all the vain things of the world must be put away so that God’s wisdom can be revealed to us in great measure. It is better to be a fool for Christ than be worldly wise in the sight of man. What are the vain things of the world that we must lay down at the feet of Jesus? The scriptures warn us of a number of these vain things (1 Corinthians 10:12).
• MAKING THIS WORLD & ITS ACTIVITIES THE GOAL OF YOUR LIFE – Ecclesiastes 1:2 (Neither pleasure, wealth, materialism, wisdom, death, labor, social standing, etc. give lasting satisfaction)
• VAIN WORSHIP – Matthew 15:7-9 (By following the doctrines of men; By hearts that are far from God)
• VAIN LABOR – 1 Corinthians 15:58 (Works of faith are not vain in the Lord; By holding forth the word of life)
• VAIN PREACHING – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2.
• VAIN REPETITIONS - Matthew 6:7.
• FIGHTING AGAINST THE PURPOSES OF GOD – Acts 4:24-28 (With immoral living, unauthorized church work, worship, false doctrine … Because God is wiser than us … Who has ever fought against God and won it?)
• IF YOU REVERT TO SIN, GOD’S GRACE & YOUR FAITH ARE VAIN - 2 Corinthians 6:1.
2. Worldly Burdens (v.28)
Now we move on from the two statements Jesus makes to the two invitations he issues. The first invitation is, "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Notice to whom that invitation is addressed: he's speaking to us, to human beings. He's far from being complimentary. He likens us to oxen laden with a load that threatens to crush them. Jesus assumed that humankind is burdened. I, for one, do not doubt his diagnosis.
There is, for example, the burden of our anxieties and our fears, of our temptations and responsibilities, and of our loneliness. There is the sense that life has no meaning or purpose. Above all, there is the burden of our failures that are properly called our "sins." Does our conscience never feel its guilt? Does our heart never bow down at the sense of shame? If these things are not part of our experience, I fear we shall never accept the invitation of Christ. It is the burdened he invites to come to him. Jesus said in another passage, "Those who are healthy don't need a doctor, but only those who are sick." We come to him when we sense our spiritual sickness, when we sense our burdens. The very first step to take toward Jesus Christ is a frank and humble admission that we need him. Nothing keeps people away from Jesus Christ more than our arrogance and unwillingness to acknowledge that we need him desperately.