Come Into Christ's Rest (Matthew Sermon 49 of 151)
March 23, 2003 | Andrew Davis
Alive in Christ, Life in the Spirit
In Matthew, chapter 11, we look at an invitation in which Christ is commanding, inviting us to come into his rest. The world has a desperate need for the truth that Christ gives us here today, we have a desperate need for the peace of Jesus Christ. Is that not true?
We watch in the streets of New York, in Barcelona and Sydney and all over the world, peace protesters with their angry faces and their burning flags and their fits of rage. We see, again, the need for the truth of this text, the peace that only Christ can give. This world is in the throes and the power of the evil one, the devil, and he is not a peaceful being. We're going to talk about that this morning, but because of our casting in our lot with him, because we as a race have joined in Satan's rebellion, we do not know the peace of God, we do not know the peace that only God can give. As we look out over the nations, we see turbulence, we see churning, we see a casting up of mire and muck. We see a great deal of unrest all over the world.
One of the most fascinating little phrases that I've noticed in the Book of Revelation happens at the end. In Revelation 21:1, it says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea". It's kind of strange. What does God have against the sea? I think the sea is a majestic and a beautiful thing. The ocean's a powerful but it's not a very peaceful thing. There's a great deal of churning all the time, and in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13:1, it says, "The Dragon stood on the shore of the sea and I saw a beast coming out of the sea, he had 10 horns and seven heads with 10 crowns on his horns and on each head a blasphemous name." So, up out of the sea comes this beast. Earlier in the book of Daniel, it'd been the same thing,. It'd been the winds blowing over the sea and out of it, come a succession of beasts, representing human government, wicked human government.
The sea represents the churning turbulence of world history of the nations, and out of it come all these filthy beasts, this government which is so anti-God. Revelation 21:1 says, there'll be no more sea because there will be a king and he will rule greatly over his kingdom, the kingdom of God at that time, and there'll be no more churning up of mire and muck and sin for the old order of things will have passed away. It says in Isaiah 17:12, "Oh, the raging of many nations, they rage like the raging sea. Oh, the uproar of the peoples, they roar like the roaring of great waters." So it is as we look over world history today, we see the raging of the nations and the lack of peace, and all of that comes from the fact that we are not at peace with God. It all starts with individual rebellion against our Creator.
We need the truth of this text more than ever before. Jesus stands before a rebellious people. Realize the context of this invitation. Jesus had denounced the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent, they were not accepting Christ, they were rejecting him. Capernaum and Chorazin and Bethsaida were representative of the cities of Israel that were listening to the gospel and rejecting it. Jesus stood before that rejection and said, "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." He's inviting weary burdened sinners. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened," he says, "And I will give you rest." He's inviting people that are sick of sin, sick of the struggle with sin, because sin is a crushing tyrant everyday. Sin is the most vicious ruler there has ever been, and you get weary of it. You get weary of the effects of sin in your life. "Come to me," said Jesus, "All you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." Even greater is the crushing burden of a guilty conscience of knowing that you have sinned and knowing that God is holy and that the law of God stands against you, and that you're accused and that someday, you will have to give an account to God, a meticulous and perfect account for every careless word you've ever spoken. If you don't know Christ, you have no savior, and you know that you're condemned and there's nothing for you except the fearful expectation of judgement and raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. What a terrifying way to live.
The Authority of the Yoke
Jesus said, "If that's oppressive to you, a sense of the condemnation that hangs over you because of your sin then come to me and I will give you rest." I want to show you what the king commands. He invites weary burdened sinners and what does he invite them to do? Simply to come to him. That's all, "Come to me," he says, "And receive a gift." Nothing you could ever earn. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It's a gift of grace. That's who he invites and invites them to come simply to Him through repentance, and faith, that's all. But then he commands something of them, and we're going to zero in on that. "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." Then he says, “…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Now what does this mean, "Take my yoke upon you?" What is a yoke? It's a simple wooden structure that connects a beast of burden to a plow or some other piece of farm equipment. It enables them to stay, perhaps, two oxen to stay together and pull in the same direction. There's a physical meaning of this yoke and that's the way the Bible uses it in some cases. But ordinarily, when the Bible speaks of a yoke, it uses it metaphorically. It refers to the authority of a king or a master, good or bad, over a subject or a slave. The yoke represents authority. It's used for example, of the Egyptian's domination over the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt. In Exodus 6:6, "Therefore, say to the Israelites. I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with mighty acts of judgment." So the yoke represents the authority badly used by the Egyptians but the authority of the Egyptians over the Israelites.
In another instance, Jeremiah had a wooden yoke that he went around with and a false prophet came and broke the yoke and said, "God will not give us over to Nebuchadnezzar." God said, "Make an iron one, he can't break." "There's no way that you're going to escape the authority of Nebuchadnezzar." That's how the Bible uses the term “yoke.” It's a matter of authority of a king or a master over a subject or slave. Good or bad, that's how the word is used. What then is Christ's yoke? Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you." Some commentators think that it's Christ's way of religion. Learn to do religion the way I'm telling you to do religion. There's some backing for this because it speaks of the yoke that our forefathers put on the necks of the descendants of Israel. It mentions that in the circumcision struggle, but I don't think that's what's going on here. The overall context of Matthew's gospel is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is presenting himself as the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, so when He says, "Take My yoke upon you," is he not declaring himself to be a king? Is he not in effect saying, "Stop rebelling against me, throw down your weapons of revolt and come back under my authority"? Isn't that what he's saying? "Allow me to be your ruler, allow me to be your king." I think what he's saying is, "Let me be your Lord, your master, your ruler." He's going to describe his yoke as easy and his burden as light and we'll talk about that in a moment, but I think that's what he's commanding. "Let me rule your life, obey me, submit to my authority." Now bowing the neck under Christ's yoke is an extreme burden, actually impossible for the unregenerate. For somebody who has never been born again, they would never do this, they would not bow their neck to Christ, they would not yield to Him, no matter how much He assures them the yoke is easy and the burden is light. This is the one thing they will not do.
Charles Spurgeon put it this way, "Observe dear friends that our Lord Jesus Christ does lay a yoke and a burden upon his followers. He uses these words that none may presume to enter his service without due consideration. Religion is not a matter for the trifling. The service of the meek and lowly Christ is no child's play. There is a yoke that is to be borne by all his disciples, and the neck of self will must be bent low to receive it. There is a burden to be carried for Christ and all the strength that God gives us must be used for his glory and honor." So there is a yoke, but then Spurgeon goes on and says this, "If you are going to come into Christ's kingdom, you must repent, and believe the good news." What does “repent” mean? It means to turn away from self-rebellion. It's impossible to do this if you're unconverted. Spurgeon said, "Some of you would not find Christ's yoke easy or his burden light. That is the very last thing you would find them to be in your present condition, but you would find his yoke to be heavy and his burden impossible for you to bear. Some of you are mere worldlings, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. It may be that some of you are self-righteous and proud of what should be your shame. In any case you are un-regenerate and our text would not be true of you, in your unconverted state." Basically you cannot obey this command if you don't come to Christ first. Simply come to Christ, simply trust in Him, believe in Him as your savior and then you will be able by the power of the Spirit to bow your neck to his yoke.
Now Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." Literally, I think it means “be my disciple”. "Let me disciple you, let me teach you, let me instruct you." We must have a word of instruction, because we die from lack of the word of God, don't we? We perish from a famine of hearing the word of God. Jesus says, "I will be your instructor, I will be your teacher, I will give you everything you need. Learn from me." And he describes his yoke, as easy and his burden as light. Now stop with me for a moment and consider how shocking this really is. Christ's yoke easy and his burden is light? Realize that already he has demanded of His disciples complete and total perfect obedience. You don't get any days off from this yoke. Do we ever get a break from the yoke of Christ? Are not his standards perfection and nothing less? Does he not claim a loyalty higher than any other relationship we have on Earth? It is higher than even your love for your life itself and you must demonstrate every day a willingness to take up your cross and follow, a willingness even to die. How can Jesus call that yoke easy and that burden light?
Seven Reasons Christ’s Yoke is Easy & the Burden Light
I think there are seven reasons why Christ's yoke is easy and why his burden is light. Let's look at them. First, because of Christ's perfect nature. How does He describe Himself in this text? He says, "I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls." If Christ were a raging tyrant who delighted to make us suffer, who took pleasure in our pain, would his yoke be easy and his burden light? No that's describing sin, and the devil, actually, but not Christ. The Kingdom of God is good news, because God is such a good king, because Christ is such a good king, and therefore because of his personal nature, his perfect nature, his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Christ is perfectly humble. He submitted to the yoke of his father. He did everything that God commanded him to do. His will, his food, was to do the will of Him who sent Him and to finish His work, and so he was perfectly humble. We have a king who's willing to take off his garments of glory and get down on his hands and knees and wash our dirty yucky feet. He doesn't do it just once, he does it all the time. He's very humble in dealing with us, he's very lowly. He condescends and lowers Himself to take care of us. That's the nature of our king. Therefore, we can take His yoke upon us because He is gentle and humble in heart, because of His perfect nature.
Secondly, we can take His yoke upon us and it is easy and his burden is light because of his perfected work. Christ has already borne the heaviest yoke. He's already carried the weight of our sins, and He did it right to the cross. Jesus was humble enough to die on the cross. "He who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross." Because of Christ perfected work on the cross, His yoke is easy and his burden is light. We don't drink his cup of wrath, we drink from his cup that's persecution, but we don't drink it to the bottom the way He did. He drank the cup of God's wrath. Isaiah 53 says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted." But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed, we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” The Lord has laid on him might we say the crushing burden of our sin, our judgment. So his yoke is easy and his burden is light, because He's already carried the heaviest load for us when He died on the cross.
Thirdly, His yoke is easy and his burden is light because of the simplicity of being a servant. What do you have to worry about when you're the servant of an all powerful and all providing master? Just do what you're told, that's all. Don't fret anymore about finances. Don't be concerned anymore about the future, about your physical health. Don't fret yourself over the unfolding events, current events. You can pray for all of these things and you should, but don't be anxious over them as though you are somehow king over them. It's a simple life. The simple life of being the servant of a good and powerful providing master.Hs yoke is easy and his burden is light, because of the simplicity of being a servant.
Fourthly, because of the perfection of Christ commands, Christ's yoke is the way that He rules your life, you bow your neck to him, you put your neck under His yoke and then he says, "This is the way, walk in it." If he wants you to go left and you go straight or right, you're going to have problems, aren't you? But might I suggest to you that straight or right is sin anyway, and God's commandments protect you from sin. 1 John 5:3, "His commands are not burdensome." No, do you know what is burdensome? Sin is burdensome, sin is the enemy. I want to fight sin with all of my heart when I see it and Christ's yoke, God’s commands, actually protects me from the very thing that would seek to destroy me. That's why his yoke is easy and his burden is light, because it's much easier than sin. Is it not easier for a man, let's say, to resist lust than to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage after committing adultery? Is it not easier to bow your neck to Christ commands so that you don't have to face the grief of a broken world? Christ's yoke is infinitely easier and his burden infinitely lighter than the alternative, which is sin.
Fifthly, Christ's yoke is easy and his burden is light because of the hopefulness of a life well invested under His yoke. Do it his way and you will store up treasure in Heaven. You will know that every moment the labor, the service, the sacrifice that you're giving matters. It adds up for something worthwhile, you're not wasting your life, you're not sowing to the wind and reaping a whirlwind. You're not sowing seeds on the rocky soil or on the hardened path and nothing comes of it, instead as a result of following Christ's yoke, you are storing up treasure in heaven. You're building a kingdom that will never end, and everything you do therefore has value, it is worthwhile. As we submit to His yoke as our king and follow his ways, then our service to him lasts for eternity. It's valuable. But if you don't, your life will be blown away as dust in a storm. Your works will be torched with fire and they will burn like wood hay in stubble, and there will be nothing to show. It says in 1 Corinthians 3, "We will suffer loss." But as we follow Him, as we keep in step with the Spirit and do the good works that He's ordained in advance that we should walk in them, then we store up treasure. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, because we have a sense of hopefulness always that our life is counting and pointing toward the future.
Sixthly, his yoke is easy and his burden is light because of the powerful assistance that he gives you in bearing it. He doesn't just put a heavy burden on you and stand back and watch you as you lift it. No, that's the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew 23:4 says, "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites, you tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but you yourself won't lift a little finger to help them." Is that our Christ? Oh, not at all. He dwells within us, by the power of the Spirit and any burden that he's put on us, He's already fully borne himself, he's given us an example and he steps up inside us and enables us to obey every command, to follow every inclination of His will. Hebrews 13:21 says, "May God equip you with everything good for doing His will and may he work in us what is pleasing to him." God puts a heavy yoke on me and then gets inside me and helps me to lift it. He gives me the strength to follow. Augustine put it this way, "Give what you command, and then command what you will." His yoke is easy and his burden is light, because He assists us from within by the power of the Spirit to bear it.
Seventhly, his yoke is easy and his burden is light because of the sweetness of the love we bear to Christ. We're glad to carry his yoke because we love Him. We're glad because in a way he's yoked right next to us walking with us. He is God with us, we're not alone. Every burden that we bear we do in fellowship with Christ, we're not alone. We have come to him and he is giving us rest. You remember Jacob served an additional seven years to get Rachel? It said the seven years that he served were as a few days to him because of his love for Rachel and so it is with us, seven reasons why His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
God’s Promise of Rest
What does the king promise for us? He promises rest for your souls. Satan is an inherently restless being. Remember when God spoke to Satan in the Book of Job, he said, "Where have you come from, what are you doing? He said, "I'm roaming around on the earth.” That's what he does for a living. He roams around all the time and why? Because he's a restless being, what does he have to look forward to? The lake of fire, that's it, he knows his time is short and so he roams around restlessly, not only him but his demons too. In Matthew 12:43, Jesus speaking of demons says, "When a demon comes out of a man it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it." Satan and his kingdom are in a restless place.When you're in sin, do you not feel also the restlessness? Nothing satisfies, Christ comes to give peace and freedom from that. The Bible says, "There is no rest for the wicked," but they're like mire churned up all the time, like the waves as we said at the beginning.There are counterfeits. Satan tries to counterfeit the peace that Christ alone can give. There's drugs, there's alcohol, there's sensual pleasures, there's careerism, there's all kinds of worldly things but none of them can take the place of the peace that Christ can give, Christ alone can give it.
What are we talking about when He says, "I will give you rest"? First of all, peace with God; a relationship of peace with God, a status of peace, that He's no longer at war with you. Romans 5:1, says, "Therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." God's not at war with you anymore if you're in Christ. You have a status of peace with God, that's the rest that He gives you. It's the end of your soul, it's the goal of your soul, it's what you've been searching for all this time. I think about the pioneers in our country’s early history, going across our nation to populate the west. Can you imagine being on one of those wagon trains going across the deserts of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and coming up over the last mountain ridge and seeing a fertile valley California, where you knew at last you've reached your desired haven. This is home at last. It's well watered land, free for the taking, you can settle there, you survive. You've come to the end of your journey. That's Christ after you've searched for everything. Augustine put it this way, "You have made us for yourself O God and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in you." Christ gives you peace with God and you know your sins are forgiven.
But there's another kind of peace isn't there? Philippians 4:6-7 it says, "Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." What is that? It's an experience of peace right now in the middle of your circumstances. Oh, but you don't know my circumstances you might say. Well, I can guess there's really only so many circumstances that people tend to go into. Christ does know your circumstances and it is possible to know the rest for your souls that God intends even in the middle of very terrible and difficult circumstances. Do you think God is all stirred up and turbulent about the current events this week? Is God on His throne saying, "What am I going to do? I don't know what to do, it's getting confusing, help me out, why don't an angel come give me some advice." Is this our God? Not at all. He knows what He's doing. Don't you want to experience His peace through anything you go through? The peace of God, this is the rest that Christ offers. Ultimately, he offers you a Sabbath rest in perfect face-to-face fellowship with God having crossed the spiritual Jordan. Death into His presence you will find rest for your souls in Christ But he also offers you peace with God now, forgiveness of sins, justification, He offers you the peace of God, an experience of God's peace no matter what your circumstances and then He offers you in the future peace and His presence, a Sabbath rest, an eternal Sabbath rest in the very presence of God. That is the peace that he offers here in Matthew 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."
What application can we take from this? First, come to Christ, the gentle king, come to Him for salvation. Can I urge you if you don't know for sure that your sins are forgiven through faith in Christ, that you don't know whether you've ever come to Christ and received the peace that he alone can give, that you not walk out of here without talking to me or one of the other ministers about your soul. Come to Christ through faith, through simple faith. If you have already come to Christ can I urge you, are you bowing your neck to Him, to His yoke every day? I you're not, if you can honestly say you're not, would you not say that all the trouble in your life is connected to the fact that you won't take His yoke upon you, that you want to run your life your way, you're not yielded to the king and following His instructions. Can I urge you gently and tenderly to repent and allow Christ to be your king. Bow your neck to him, take His yoke upon you and learn from Him, become like Him, gentle and humble in heart, peaceful and trusting under the hand of a master as Jesus was under the hand of His father, learn from Him. Thirdly, live your life free from anxiety, free from concern. Live in the peace of God through prayer and through obedience and through trusting, looking forward to your eternal Sabbath rest by trusting Him no matter what you're going through, whether financial difficulties, marriage difficulties, parenting difficulties, physical health difficulties, struggles that you're having. Trust Him and let Him give you the peace that only He can give.