March 6, 2018
By now, most of you are familiar with our Vision Statement: We exist to be People Who Are Helping People become Friends, Family and Followers of Jesus. Another way of saying this is that we exist to make disciples of Jesus who will make disciples of Jesus, who then will make disciples of Jesus. That’s why the church exists, and it all starts with US being disciples of Jesus.
Now, I find that the term “disciple” confuses people a bit, because its an ancient word that is rarely used today. So we use the word “follower.” When we say we follow Jesus, we are immediately communicate something: We are saying that He is worth following. We are saying we trust Him to lead us; to teach us and model for us a new way of living. In other words, when we say we are following Jesus, we are saying that we have signed on as “apprentices of Jesus” – learning from Jesus how to live and love like him.
But for some reason, many people are reluctant to become apprentices of Jesus. There are many reasons for this: Some fear that such a relationship will be too demanding. They’re afraid of going all in with Jesus because they don’t think they can cut it. Others are reluctant to follow Jesus because they think they’ll loose their freedoms, that following Jesus will mess with the life they’ve made for themselves. And still others think that following Jesus is for some superior breed of Christian who is somehow more spiritual than they are. But the biggest reason that keeps people from going all in with Jesus is that they don’t want to surrender control. Now, these are not all the reasons why people keep Jesus at arms length.
You can probably come up with plenty of others. But here’s the thing: Most people who are reluctant to become an apprentice of Jesus, are that way because they’ve never heard what Jesus had in mind when He calls us to this relationship. So today, we get to hear from Jesus as He reveals what you get from Him when you sign on to be His apprentice. What you get from Him when you accept His invitation to follow Him.
So, if you brought your Bible today, let me encourage you to find Matthew 11:28-30. For here Jesus spells out what you can expect in an apprentice relationship with him. But before we dig into Jesus’ call to be His apprentice, let’s just read this together. Jesus says, “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.” Matthew 11:28-30
So what do we get when we answer His call? Well, the first thing we hear from Jesus is this: 1. We Get to Be With Him Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” This is an invitation from Jesus to come and be with Jesus. It’s Jesus calling you to Himself. Jesus doesn’t call you to a cause, to a Church or to a religion – He calls you to a relationship with Him. And His call is loaded with grace.
Because when Jesus says, “Come to me” he uses a directional term that anticipates something is to be FOUND in your coming. That’s how the word is used in the New Testament: The Samaritan woman used this word to get people to come with her to meet Jesus: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” John 4:29 The angel at the tomb used this term to show Jesus’ disciples that he had risen from the grave: ”He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6 And Jesus used this word to invite the disciples to breakfast: “Come and have some breakfast.” John 21:12 So this is an invitation that expects a response: “Come, come to breakfast, come and see, come here to me.”
What we find when we come to Jesus is what He wants to give us: rest! Jesus speaks emphatically here. Come to ME and I will give you rest. Now, that’s not what we normally think of when we sign on to be an apprentice. We think we are signing on for all we are going to be doing FOR him, not about what He wants to do for us. So, right off the bat, Jesus’ call to apprenticeship is all about GRACE. He calls us to himself first of all to renew us, refresh us, and revitalize us. This is the gospel – the good news.
The good news is that when we surrender to His call, when we come to Him, Jesus gives all He has to us. As a result we receive rest from Him. What kind of rest?
Rest from weariness – that state where you are at the brink of physical or emotional exhaustion. For Jesus “weary” meant soul fatigue. And in this context, almost everyone within earshot knew exactly what he meant. For in Jesus day, the Scribes, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees made it their business to pile law upon law on the Jewish people. They piled on so many rules for living that no one could possibly learn them all, let alone keep them all. So no matter how hard you tried, there was always someone around to remind you that you were not good enough for God. So there was no relief. The weight of their sin became heavier and heavier, and they became weary to the point of exhaustion.
Ever been there? Ever been so burdened by the weight of your sin or your guilt? Ever felt like you’re never good enough or that you can never do enough? Ever felt like the harder you try, the worse you get? This is why Jesus’ call to come to him is so gracious. Jesus invites you to come to Him, so you get Him, His life, not another burden. Jesus invites you to come to Him for Jesus alone is the only one who was able to bear the weight of God’s commands, and now He is the only One able to give a full pardon for sin.
So the good news in Jesus’s call is this: When you come to Him, you give Him the full weight of your sin, and He gives you full pardon and you enter His rest. No more demands of the law. No more striving to be good enough. No more weight of your guilt. No condemnation, no judgment. Rather, relief and relationship with Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
That’s what makes Jesus the greatest leader you can ever follow,
for He is the most gracious leader you will ever know, if you come to Him.
That’s what you get when you come to Jesus. You get Jesus and you get rest. And that’ Good news, but there’s more. The next thing you get when you come to Jesus is this:
We Get to Join Him In His Work Once you’ve received His rest, he offers His yoke: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” I don’t know how much you know about yokes, so let me get you up to speed. A yokewas made of wood, hand-hewn to fit the neck and shoulders of the animal that wore it to prevent chafing. The yoke was part of the harness used to pull a cart, plow, or mill beam and was the means by which the animal’s master kept it under control and guided it in useful work.
For obvious reasons, the term was widely used in the ancient world as a metaphor for “submission.” It is used the same here. Embedded in Jesus’ call to be His apprentice is the command to bow our necks and come under His yoke with Him. To willingly come alongside Jesus and learn from Him.
Now, this is right where many people draw the line. They don’t want to submit. They think If they submit to Jesus, they’ll loose control, they’ll loose freedom, they’ll loose sense of self. But look at the picture Jesus is painting for us in this relationship: When you take Jesus’ yoke upon you, Jesus shows us a whole new style of leadership. He’s not driving like some master driving his animal. No, Jesus is under the yoke with you! He will never ask you to do anything where He will not be right there beside you to help. He will always be at your side. He will never leave you. And that makes him the safest leader you could ever work for, because you are never working for Him, but with Him.
But here’s the interesting thing. If Jesus commands you to come under His yoke, under His leadership, which is what He does here, then you have the freedom to choose not to. You have the freedom to go it alone; to carry life’s burdens yourself; to serve God in your own strength, with your own wisdom and your own resources… But why would you ever want to do that? Why would anyone come to Jesus to find rest and then try to live the Christian life alone, in your own strength? But sadly, that’s what many do, and that’s what many are wrongly taught – and the ensuing result is a lot of joyless, weary and burnt out
Christians. This why so many walk away from the church, and why many seekers avoid the church, because what they are FALSELY TAUGHT A RELIGION that is too hard. That’s why Jesus’ call to take His yoke upon YOU is so gracious.
Jesus calls us to be under His Yoke with Him so we don’t have to go it alone. That’s good news. That’s the gospel. You see, following Jesus is meant to be a PARTNERSHIP with him, where we get to join Him in His work, where we get to rely on His strength, and where we will always get His help and guidance. When we take His yoke upon us, Jesus enables us to do things we could never do on our own. When we are yoked with Jesus, He helps us obey God. When we are yoked with Jesus, He gives us His patience to love those who are difficult to love.. When we are yoked with Jesus, He gives us His power to endure temptation. When we are yoked with Jesus, He gives us His faith to keep going when we can’t see where we are going. This is Jesus the servant leader, who wants to help us live and love like Him. We can’t do this on our own. But when we are yoked with Him, He can help us live in ways we never dreamed possible.
I don’t know about you, but surrendering to the yoke of Jesus, to come alongside Jesus and take his yoke upon me, doesn’t sound controlling, but freeing. Jesus wants to give you His strength, His compassion, His wisdom, His help. That’s grace.
You want a joyful Christian life? You want a productive and fruitful life with God? Then SURRENDER to Jesus: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” I don’t know about you, but doesn’t this make Jesus the kind of leader you can trust with your life? That’s what you get when you come to Jesus. You get Jesus, you get rest, and you get help every step of the way. That’s grace upon grace!!! All from Jesus.
Now, there’s one more thing you get from Jesus, when you come to Him and take His yoke upon you. What we get is this: We Get to Learn From Him Let’s look now at that verse again: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
We don’t just get Jesus’ presence, we don’t just get Jesus’ rest, and we don’t just get his help; we get to learn from Jesus. Learning is at the heart of being His apprentice. In fact, this term for learn, is the root word for “disciple.” At the core of being a disciple, at the heart of being Jesus’ apprentice, is being a learner. But to learn from Jesus is to trust Him to lead us. That’s why there must be a willingness to yoke ourselves with Jesus – to surrender our way to Jesus’s way. And once we do that, then Jesus gives us a view of apprenticeship like no other.
You see, being an apprentice of Jesus is not about learning rules, it’s not about letting Jesus change your outward behaviors – its about letting Him change your heart. Jesus wants to teach us about his heart – the hidden part of him. He doesn’t just want to get us unto heaven – He wants heaven to get into us. And in this verse He shows us His heart by saying, “I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Have you ever seen the movie, “the Passion of Christ?” If you did, that’s what saw during that movie. You saw Jesus’ heart. You saw his gentleness. You saw His meekness. With a calm inner strength, Jesus patiently submits to those who wrongly accuse Him. When they spit in His face for telling the truth, when he is spoken down to, made fun of, and then handed over to be scourged and crucified, never once does he react negatively to their offenses. He is completely free from malice or the desire for revenge. He is gentle and humble in heart. He’s not occupied with self at all. Even in his darkest moment, out of the overflow of his heart Jesus says,“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
When we are yoked with Jesus, when we are surrendered to Him, this what Jesus wants to teach us: How to live in a world of hurt, hate and injustice. To learn how to suffer an offense and still seek the best for the offender. To always be selfless and kind, never condemning, but always seeking the best of others, even to those who hurt us.
But to learn his heart we need to be near his heart. And the only way to be near his heart is to come to Jesus and take His yoke upon you. For He says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
His yoke is easy because it is a yoke of grace.
His yoke is light because it rests on His shoulders.
And that makes Jesus the safest leader you will ever follow
For Jesus is a servant leader who wants to help you
And Jesus is a gracious leader who is never harsh but always gentle.
And today Jesus’ invitation is open to you:
Jesus invites you to come and be with Him. Stop carrying the weight of your sin and guilt, and bring it to Him. Put your trust in Him and He will give you rest.
Jesus commands you to take His yoke upon you. To surrender to His leadership in your life. He wants to help you. He wants to teach you to have a heart like His. He offers you His yoke of grace. Will you receive it?
There is no clearer come to Jesus invitation than this. And so today, listen to Jesus. This is His invitation to you: “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.” Matthew 11:28-30
I want to give you the opportunity to come to Jesus right now. If that is you, would you pray this prayer with me: Jesus I hear your call. I know that I am a sinner. I have been carrying the weight of my sin and guilt on my own. I am weary and burdened and want the rest you offer me. So I come to you and place my sin at the foot of the cross. I believe you died for me there and took the weight of my sin upon you so I could be forgiven. Thank you for forgiving me. I receive your rest and I want to take your yoke upon me so I can find your help, live in your strength and learn your heart. Thank you that You promise to help me all along the way. I surrender to your gracious leadership now. Amen.