October 26-28, 2019
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 11:28-30
“THE YOKE’S ON YOU!”
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Some of you will remember a few weeks ago I told an angel joke that just had you rolling in the pews. You shouldn’t have done that. You should know that would just egg me on to do another. So I have. Today the yoke’s on you. I appreciate you holding it in but while that was really punny it’s actually not meant to be funny but true. You heard Jesus moments ago talk about a yoke, his yoke. He urges us to put it on and as the Word of God reveals you want that yoke on you!
Standing before Jesus as this time were crowds from the cities of Galilee the northern part of the nation of Israel. Men, women and children, singles and families from all walks of life who had come to listen to Jesus. They had heard John the Baptist point to Jesus as the Messiah. They had heard and perhaps seen Jesus do miracles. Likely in that crowd would be a little Jewish girl like Miriam, there with her father because Mom was home very sick. She wanted Mom to get better. She could tell by the way the adults were acting something bad was happening. She had prayed to God over and over again. Nothing had happened. She knew why. The rabbis, the teachers of the law had said that God only rewards the righteous. Only obedient children got their prayers answered. She had tried so hard to obey but her little brother made her so angry, always picking and following her. He wouldn’t leave her alone. Surely God understood how hard it was to be nice. But she must not have been nice enough. Mom was still sick. Miriam’s heart was heavy and burdened.
In that crowd there was likely a man like David, a fisherman all his life. He worked hard to feed his family but lately the nets were mostly empty. He tried every trick and nothing worked. He knew why. God was mad at him and for good reason. The teachers of the law had made it clear that if you did not bring the full tithe to them as offerings God would not listen to your prayers. He’d been dumb last year when the fishing was good. Drank too much. Gambled a little. Didn’t have enough left over to give to God the full tithe. He was going to make it up this year, pay God back, but now, how could he with empty nets? It seemed his debt would never be paid and now his family would suffer. David’s heart was heavy and burdened.
Perhaps also standing by hoping to catch Jesus in some mistake of the law was Simon, a teacher of the law. This Jesus was telling people that the Messiah they needed was a Savior from sin. Didn’t he know that God expected people not to sin? Did he not see from that only by keeping the covenant of the law he would be blessed. Simon knew this first hand. He was respected. People looked up to him. His house was one of the nicest houses in town and everyone wanted to be invited to his banquets. And with reason. He observed the Sabbath religiously. He fully tithed. He even gave extra to help the poor. He prayed five times a day. He was living proof of how God is pleased by holy living and rewards it. But his smug demeanor fell off of his face when the servant came with the awful news of the white blotches that had appeared all over little Moshe’s skin. Why? Could it be true as Jesus said that God expected perfect thoughts as well as actions? Was God now mad at him? Suddenly Simon’s heart felt heavy and burdened.
And then Jesus said it. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And as the Holy Spirit did his work and rode these words of God into the souls of those there a glimmer of understanding and hope crept into the heart of Miriam and David and Simon. Rest. That’s what Sabbath means. Your relationship with God was not based on you working harder and harder to please Him but on resting, doing nothing. Who then would do the work of pleasing God? Jesus! Be yoked to Jesus.
Most of us have not spent significant time on a farm and if we did we most likely saw tractors doing the work of pulling heavy burdens not oxen. So let’s make sure we know what a yoke is. Here is a picture. A yoke helped two animals share a burden. Notice in this picture how a smaller ox is paired with a bigger ox who will lead and do the majority of the work. If we want to think about being yoked to Jesus maybe this is a better picture. Too often we can exhibit the characteristics of an donkey in our relationship with Jesus. Stubborn. Like a two year old trying to pour a glass of milk. “I can do it myself!” as the milk spills all over the table. And then the pouting with no acknowledgement that he can’t.
There is a better way. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus said. The circumstances of people listening to Jesus in the cities around Milwaukee are different from the circumstances the people from the cities of Galilee but the hearts and needs are the same. We have an extra obstacle in our way. Affluence. Good times. When modern medicine is apparently curing your ills you can forget how badly you need Jesus. When you have enough money to live comfortably each month you can forget how badly you need Jesus. When you don’t have teachers of the law pointing out your sin but rather teachers of Satan saying there is no sin, no God, no one you have to please but yourself you may not feel your need for Jesus. But it’s there. God has his voice in your heart. You hear it most loudly when death knocks at your door. It speaks again when you have an accident or a financial loss. You aren’t good enough. You’ve sinned against God. You don’t deserve His help. He’s angry at sin. Even when you are fully yoked to Jesus it’s there. You’re going to screw up your kids, your marriage, your job. You’re no good. You are selfish. You don’t deserve anything good from God. And the voice speaks truth.
So does this one. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus speaks. We listen. He offers rest for souls that lose sleep worrying over problems out of their control. He offers rest for souls who worry about kids straying away from Jesus. He offers rest for souls that can’t forget that sin of the past that set the course for your current life. He offers rest for souls that can’t fix a broken marriage and that struggle against a sin they can’t shake.
“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.” It’s that word picture. When you are connected to Jesus he does the work. Are you tired of trying to always get it right? You don’t have to. Jesus already did. He has perfectly obeyed our Father’s commands. You can count on God’s love and help because yoked to Jesus all God sees is a perfectly obedient child. When you are yoked to Jesus there are no sins to be punished for He has paid for them in full. Your sins don’t cause Mom to get sick and die and God is not refusing to answer your prayers. Her sickness and even her death comes from God’s loving hand and serves for His glory. Your job problems are not God punishing you for past sins but rather guidance from a God who loves you, knows what’s best for you and is helping you to see you need Him. Yoked to Jesus even those sins you keep falling into, that burden your soul, that you try to keep hidden, they serve to keep you clinging to Jesus so you don’t try to throw of the yoke with a two year old’s cry, “I can do it myself!”
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I remember times when my girls were little and they wanted to help me do some project, maybe carry a heavy table or lift a big log to the splitter. They would grab on. I did all the work. It was nice that they wanted to help me. Serving God is like that yoked to Jesus. Trying to live right, working hard to obey God’s laws is important for all of us but not because we have to, because we want to please our Father in heaven. He doesn’t need our help but is happy to have us. We get to obey without the burden of having God’s help dependent on our performance. Life really is easy when you live the confidence that God will work all for the good, even my sins and bad decisions, that Jesus is always in control no matter what it looks like to me, and that my past neither controls me nor defines me and my future is safely in the hands of the Lord who loves me.
Brothers and sisters, all that happens when we are yoked to Jesus. And that yoking then looks a little more like this, where, as family we are yoked together to help, love and bless, to work hard for our Lord Jesus who has already done and is really doing all the work Himself. So even though it’s not all that funny it does make one smile to know, because of the gift of faith granted you by the Holy Spirit, the yoke’s on you and you are connected to Jesus. Amen.