The Call, Command and Challenge that leads to Rest

Matthew 11:28-30

These are wonderful words – they come from the very heart and mind of the LORD Jesus Christ Himself.  He speaks to people like you and I. This is the LORD speaking:
Come to Me, all 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.

I don’t know many people who never get tired, who never seem like they need a break and need some rest. Rest can mean various things – this is not just rest from physical tiredness, having worked hard.  Or if you’re somebody like me – I get tired from just watching other people work.  When I look at people, I see a restlessness.  Do you see it?  Do you feel it?  In the day maybe when everything gets going – a lot of confusion around you, you just need a break – some rest.  It’s not that you want the realities of life to go away, because that’s foolish – they’re not going to do that!
Work is never going to go away – if you don’t work you don’t eat.  The problems that beset us – the fact that we get sick – the fact that our loved ones die, get cancer, some get Covid, lose their jobs. All those things weigh you down and make you feel that you just cannot take it anymore.  Rest is when you need a break from that.

Henry David Roe said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  I can see that with probably most women too.  We try to hide it, not let people see it.  We try to not look flustered.  Some of us deliberately try to look flustered so that we can get other people’s sympathy.  That proves the point – it means that it’s a desperate cry for some help and some rest.  Here comes the LORD Jesus – He says: “Come to Me all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  What does being ‘weak and heavy laden’ mean?  It means that whatever it is you need to bear or need to carry is too heavy for you – you feel too weak and that you cannot handle it.  And ‘heavy laden’ means that you have too much on your back and on your hands.  Looking at the bulk of humanity we see that – ‘weak and heavy laden’!   He’s not talking about physical rest, but about spiritual rest, that in the midst of difficulty you can handle it – it doesn’t weigh you down so much.  Many people are troubled, agitated in their souls and try to find rest in all the wrong places.  Have you seen that?  People try to find rest in a mate, a bottle or a pill – in friends, in pleasure, entertainment, music, a job, money, in sport (something that I’ve become very tired of – I say tongue in cheek, jokingly: If anybody is caught with a ball and is older than 5 years, they need to be locked up).
People look everywhere for… rest – this thing that Jesus calls rest. They try to find relief, and so while people run here and there, trying to find peace, Jesus comes in the midst of that and He says very simply, very sincerely and very kindly, very calmly – hear His voice:  “Come to Me all who are weak and heavy laden. I’ll give you rest.”  It makes your heart want to say “I’m on my way, because I need that!”  My whole heart, my mind, my body, my relationships, my soul – they all need that what He just promised!  From the same mouth of Him who hung on Calvary’s cross and said “My God why have You forsaken Me?” – That was a heavy burden – that was heavy laden!  He knows what it is like to be heavy laden – all our sin on Him! Every sinful thought emotion and motive – every brokenness and failure – on Him on the cross!  HEAVY LADEN!  So He knows what it is to be heavy laden, and He’s the one who says ‘Are you like that?  Come to Me’.  There’s a place of rest for a weary soul – not really a place, but a Person – His Name is Jesus Christ. 

So in these verses, through a series of commands, Jesus invites you and me to enter that place of spiritual rest.   You need to come if you want that.  If you don’t need that rest, I’m glad you are fine.
You need to come when you hear Him this morning.  He says: “Today, if you hear My voice … don’t harden you heart”.  His voice says to you today that if you’re week and heavy-laden, you must come to Him.  I know there’s a lot of stuff that scare you.  You wonder what’s going to happen in the future – what’s happening to our country – to the world!  It’s just a mess isn’t it!?  There are good things too, but on the whole, if I see where it’s going, it doesn’t look very promising, does it!?

So we need rest in His Person.  Notice with me first of all in His series of commands here, the call to salvation. This invitation is a call to salvation.

  1. The Call to Salvation
    a. The plea that He Delivers
    He says “Come to Me who are weak and heavy-laden”.  That is the essence of salvation – salvation is coming to Jesus.  There is no other way to come to salvation but to come to Jesus.  It’s not coming to a church, a creed, a man, a denomination, an altar, a baptistery, a new way of life and all of that – all of which are important, but coming to salvation is not that – coming to salvation is coming to Jesus.  You need to come to Him if you haven’t done so yet!  You need to drop everything and come!  It’s a call to salvation and it’s a plea He delivers. Anyone who sees their need of a saviour can come to Jesus and they will be saved.  “No-one who comes to Me will I in any way cast out” He said.  He won’t tell you to come and when you come, say “Go away”.  He is not like that – we’re like that, but He is not!

    b. The People that He Describes
    He is referring to those people He’s been dealing with in this chapter. And if you read the chapter, you’ll see that some were struggling under the burden of doubt (verses 1 to 6) – they’re all those people for whom we have a big word.  We call them agnostics.  They have doubt. They know they don’t know everything.
    The yoke of religious legalism (verses 7 to 19) – those were the kind of people that He was describing, and people in the bondage of sin (verses 20 to 24). So all of those people, those who struggled under the burden of doubt, the yoke of religious legalism and the bondage of sins – He wants all of them that they can come to Him and get rest.
    Leave those things, come to Him, and come and have rest.  You can see your doubts put to rest if you come to Jesus.  You can be free from legalism and self-righteousness.  You can let go of that burden of everyday reminding yourself of all your failures and thinking ‘someday I need to fix all of this and I just don’t know how.’ – you can just let it go and come let Him fix it.  All that legalism, self-righteousness and self-flagellation the Jewish religion and oppressions of the people by the Pharisees that are described – they can let all of that go and they can come to Jesus.  This is what you need to know:  All of your efforts can never please God and earn you salvation – stop even trying! Just come to Him.  It’s why we call it Good News.  You can be free from the bondage of your sins.  Jesus has the power to set you free and give you rest.

    c. The Promise He Declares
    What is the promise?  He says it’s rest.  It’s that place of peace.  It’s that sense of ‘now I’m okay’.  Now I can handle this. Whatever comes, I’m at peace.
    I’ve been freed from the penalty of sin, I’m being being freed from the power of sin and one day He will remove me from the presence of sin. Whatever comes in my day today, nothing can unsettle me. We’re given peace with God according to Romans 5:1 – rest from our attempts to please God, calmness concerning our salvation, quietness about the future. Leave the future in God’s hands – you’re going to mess up the present if you try to fix the future. You won’t even mess up tomorrow – you’ll mess up today if you worry about tomorrow too much.  Sufficient unto the day of the troubles thereof.  That’s the peace He gives you – He says “I’ve got this, I know you’re hurting, I know you’re bleeding inside, I know you’re afraid! But I’ve got this – this thing that we call your life – I’ve got this, got it in the palm of My hands. You can relax and be at rest.”
    So that’s the call to Salvation, which is coupled to a command to surrender.

  2. The Command to Surrender
    There’s something you need to give up. Salvation always precedes surrender. You can’t live like a married man or married woman until you’re married. Now after you’re saved you should live like a saved person, but you cannot live like a saved person until you are saved. You can’t – you need to get saved first, then you can live like a saved person. Now what is His command to surrender? He says “take My yoke upon you” – and you know what a yoke is – that wooden implement designed to allow two oxen to pull a load together. It harnesses the power of both beasts to the load they’re attempting to move. But in Jesus’ time the image of the yoke was also used to speak of submission to the instructions of a specific teacher or rabbi. You’ve taken that rabbis’ yoke on you – you’re learning what he teaches. All of those famous ones of that time. But this command to surrender – notice with me first of all about it is: we must surrender to a person – not plan of project – to a person – you need to surrender to Jesus! He wants you to give up control of your life to Him.
    Too many of us are trying to control our own lives. We are not trusting the Lord Jesus with it.  You know that – you know that by about teatime you’ve forgotten about what a glorious service we had yesterday and by about 10 o’clock on a Monday morning and you’re just doing your own thing. Jesus is far off and you’re handling life and its difficulty and you forgot that you need to take His yoke on you because it’s easy. You have to surrender to a person. Secondly you must surrender to a partnership. It’s a partnership. Jesus is saying get in the yoke with Me. He’s not calling you to walk alone. He will never let you walk alone. He’ll be right there with you and keep you with Him because if He doesn’t keep you with Him, you’ll go astray. He’s the one who keeps you. You know we cannot live this life on our own – you just cannot. Listen to me – you can’t. Stop trying on your own!

  3. The Challenge to Serve
    a. Our Pattern of Service
    Jesus tells us to look at His example, He says “I am gentle and I’m humble. I’m completely yielded to the Father’s will. I was sent into this world to serve.” And even though we’re not saved by works, we are clearly saved towards works. We are saved towards works – not by works. You can’t do any holy work until you saved. And so the pattern in service is our lord Jesus Himself. And that word ‘learn’ is the same word that is translated disciples. He says come and learn from Me. He’s looking for people who will lay everything on the line as He did and will serve Him with no reservations – holding nothing back. If He says something it’s ‘ye and amen Lord!’ If He tells you to do something today you do it yesterday. No hesitation. Amen?
    b. Our Peace in Service
    It’s when we trust Jesus by faith that we’re given rest (verse 28). Peace is the fruit of the service. When you and I serve Him faithfully we find rest. That’s what you find your rest in. There is a rest that gives us peace with God and peace of soul. There’s a rest that comes from serving Him. There’s a joy, a fulfilment, a happiness that can be found nowhere else in life. It really cannot. I’ve practice three careers in my life. First as a musician, then as a detective and then a Pastor, so I’ve looked at life from all three angles of the Philosopher’s: Beauty, Truth and Righteousness. It wasn’t planned that way, it just worked out that way. I’ve stood on platforms playing Mozart. I’ve been in the alleys chasing some of the worst criminals in this country and having the joy to catch them. And I’ve been a Pastor – it’s my third congregation, oh and the Lord gave me the joy to lecture at Baptist College. Let me tell you something – not any one of those things – not the pleasure of music, the power of detective work, nor the principles of the pastorate can give you peace and rest – only Christ can! Now peace comes in service to Him.
    c. Our Promise in Service.
    There’s a promise again. He says the word easy. He says it fits well – it’s made especially for you. It follows every contour of your feeble frame. And it fits you. He says it’s an easy yoke for you. He should know what He was talking about – He was a carpenter. They made those yokes. He’ll design a yoke that fits you perfectly. His burden is light, won’t weigh you down. The world will, your boss will, you’ll do that to your employees, but Jesus won’t – His burden is light. As we put our shoulder to the path He has chosen for us, there will be burdens along the way, but we’ll find that He’s yoke brings us peace, it brings us joy – it brings us satisfaction and fulfilment and that every difficulty in life is turn to our good by His grace as we walk with Him. We are aware that our trials here will work for our glory there. You know, He’ll make it work out with blessing – He’ll give you His peace that transcends all human understanding.

I don’t know how many of you know Tommy Dorsey – you probably giving away your age if you do know the name, but he wrote us a song ‘precious Lord, lead me on’ remember that? ‘Take my hand precious Lord!’
So are you weary and tired from the struggles of life?  If you’ve come here this morning hoping you can find some consolation, because it’s been a really tough week, there’s your consolation. Are you weak, are you heavy-laden? “Come to Me all who are like that – come to Me and I will give you rest”. Are you worn out from trying to serve Him in the power of your flesh? Are you weary from your burden of sin? That’s another thing He gives you peace from – there’s rest in Jesus for those who come to Him. Hear His words again. “Come to Me, all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”