Summary: An encouragement to find rest in Christ, and to minister through his strength
“The Yoke’s On You”
INTRODUCTION: Do you ever find it difficult to follow Christ? Why is it so hard to follow Jesus sometimes? Do you ever get tired? Do you ever find yourself in need of rest? How can I find rest while following Jesus? [READ Matt. 11:28-30]
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Come to me, for I have no burden! Come to me, for I don’t make any demands!” Wouldn’t that have been more appealing?
How can we find rest?
I. We find rest once we learn the yoke’s on us (29a)
A. A yoke involves subjection to a master.
1. The more than 50 references to "yoke" in the Bible speak of the wooden bar or frame used to join animals to enable them to pull a load. It is an image of subjection, service or bondage, just as a yoked donkey or ox is subject to its owner.
2. A yoke is usually a negative thing—something a person would do virtually anything to avoid. Sin is described as a yoke around a person’s neck.
3. But when Jesus talks of his yoke, the imagery has a positive meaning of good subjection to him.
B. ILLUSTRATION: I’m tempted to envision the kingdom of God to be something like the government of Great Britain. Oh sure, Jesus is the king with all the pomp and circumstance and worship that entails. But I am prime minister, with all the real authority to make policy and decisions. Jesus is the figurehead king who ratifies my decisions and rescues me from difficulties. But I call the shots and have charge of my staff, my time and my money.
C. APPLICATION: For those of us in the individualistic and permissive West, talk of surrender, submission, and radical obedience may grate on our tastes. We tend to want to have our cake and eat it too. But when Scripture pays honor again and again to Jesus as “Lord,” it is clear that this term refers to a master who owns and controls slaves.
1. Paul understood himself to be Christ’s slave (doulos), who is compelled and controlled by his master to do his master’s bidding and to serve his purposes.
2. English translations of the Greek NT tend to use the more socially acceptable term “servant” instead of “slave” in translating some 190 words that refer to slavery (because of our collective shame over the history of slavery in the West). But one of Paul’s most common self-designations is “slave of Christ.”
3. Paul makes it clear that using the image of slavery to understand one’s relationship with Christ has to do with obedience. For Paul, the issue is clear: everybody obeys something, and whatever or whomever you obey, you are enslaved to. The yoke’s on you.
>>But is it on you alone?
II. We find rest when we discover that the yoke’s also on him (29b)
A. Jesus’ generous invitation is to the broken and the burdened. It is grounded in his own gentleness and humility. He was not simply a powerful lord who ruthlessly crushed all opposition, but one who sought the good of others and promised rest for their souls. And one who even, according to Paul, “made himself nothing, taking on the form of a slave.”
B. ILLUSTRATION: A famous study was done on two horses. The first one could pull 10,000 lbs on a sled. The second could pull 14,000 lbs. What would you think they could pull when yoked together in the same direction? Most people would guess something like 24,000 lbs, but the answer is 49,000 lbs! The sum is greater than a combination of the parts.
C. Like many of the "crazy" things Jesus said, this truth is paradoxical. We lay down our burdens, our agendas, and take on God’s yoke, “easy” and “light.” Even though his is a burden, it is easy compared with ours because we are joining Jesus in his work. On the other side of the yoke pulling with us is the powerful and almighty resurrected One, carrying the weight of the world. It feels easier and lighter because of who is helping carry the load.
1. ILLUSTRATION: Rowing vs. sailing: a rower gets to a destination by personal strain, struggle, and effort. A sailor arrives under the wind’s power. Rowing is a good way to keep in shape but a lousy way to travel. Sailing taps the power of the wind and allows us to go much farther, much faster, with far less human effort than rowing.
2. The scary thing is, I often try minister like rowing a boat—out of my strength, in my wisdom, by my power. When I do that, my ministry lacks power. God may still use me, graciously, but sailing is a far better way to go.