Matthew 11:28-30 28 “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.”
In this, Matthew addresses the weariness of life that we all feel. We know what the rat race is like. We know the struggle is real. We feel the heaviness of our responsibilities. We know the stress of pressure to keep up, to get it right, to get ahead. We also know the self-condemnation and condemnation that can come from other people when we fall short, when we know we have messed up, when we know we have gotten it wrong with God and others. The truth is, we don’t and can’t measure up to God’s standards. That is defeating. It’s like, “Why try?” It’s a burden we carry until we lay it at Jesus’ feet.
As I have said before, “We aren’t good enough for God, but thankfully, He is God enough for us.” Isaiah 64 tells us we have no righteousness on our own. Our righteousness or attempt to be righteous is like presenting God with filthy rags. Picture that. We show up at the judgment of God with a bag of filthy rags and hand them over to Him and say, “God, this is my very best” and we hope and pray that it will somehow be good enough. That’s ludicrous, right? We can’t impress God with our good deeds. We can strive for righteousness, but we will never meet the standard of God’s holiness, and we will just live burdened and wearied if we try. We will constantly be evaluating ourselves, picking ourselves apart, analyzing where we have failed, how we could have done it better and live with a constant focus on our failures. Living in a state where we will always wonder if we will be accepted by God would produce the worst kind of anxiety and fear I could imagine, and yet I’ve met several people who live in that reality. Their fingers are crossed. They are hoping for the best, but they have no real assurance that their eternity is settled and as a result, they live with daily uneasiness and apprehension. Oh, it might not be something they are constantly conscious of, but there is an undercurrent of concern and fear that influences every move they make.
Listen, Jesus has come and died in our place, so that we can have a different kind of experience. He has come to enable us to enter into a rest from living in fear, from being anxious about how God sees us. He invites us to team up with Him, to be “yoked” with Him, which means we are connected to Him in a way that alleviates us of the pressure and burden of self-effort. Jesus has done and will continue to do the heavy lifting for us. When we become Christians, we become the beneficiaries of Jesus’ effort, of Jesus’ sacrifice, of Jesus’ blood that was shed for us. When He died, and His blood was spread out on the mercy seat of the throne of God in Heaven, (read Hebrews 9:23-26) His sacrifice was more than enough to cover our brokenness, to cover our sinfulness before God. We can quit trying to earn salvation and rest in what Jesus has done. His blood is sufficient. His grace is sufficient. His work was comprehensive and complete. His cry from the cross, “It is finished” means we can enter into a rest that covers our soul’s need for forgiveness and rest.
All of that is included in Matthew’s comments here, but there is more to resting in Christ that I want us to explore. In verse 29, we are invited to learn from Christ. Look at it again: Take my yoke upon you (salvation) and LEARN FROM ME, (discipleship) for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
I submit to you today that rest comes to us as we receive what Jesus has done, which is salvation, something that puts us in right-standing with God and secures us a place in Heaven for eternity, but additional rest also comes to us as we are diligent to learn from Jesus.
Many people are eager to find the rest Jesus offers, but fewer are willing to do their part to receive the part of the rest that comes from learning from Him. It is what we learn about Him, it is what we receive from Jesus as our Teacher, that enables us to rely on Him in ways that produce rest in our daily lives.
It is this discipleship piece that is crucial for us if we are going to fully live the life we have received as Christians. We have received the opportunity for an abundant life, life to the full, but if we fail to learn from Jesus, we have been given a gift that largely goes unopened.
I believe many believers are missing the full rest God has for them because they neglect the invitation to learn from Jesus, to sit at His feet, to receive the instruction that will enable them to handle life’s challenges from a position of rest that comes from truly resting in Christ.
If you had an opportunity to learn from someone who had mastered something you aspire to, wouldn’t you take advantage of any offer to spend time with them, any offer to learn from them, any opportunity to gain wisdom from their prowess and expertise? Who is it that you look up to, that you would love to be like? How would you benefit from a chance to sit at their feet and have them speak into your life? Imagine getting pointers from the best of the best about singing or running or pole vaulting or weightlifting or crocheting or cooking or whatever it is that you love and would like to learn more about. When you are invited to learn from a master craftsman or a scholar in some area, that isn’t an opportunity to be squandered, but one that you should be eager to take advantage of.
I’m taking a sabbatical this summer to spend time with pastors and other church leaders who are ahead of where we are as a church because I need to learn, and they know things I don’t yet know. I am thrilled that three such churches are willing to have me come and learn from them. I can’t wait to learn from them. How much more should we all be eager to sit at Jesus feet, to spend time with Him, to gain from His wisdom, to be directed by His knowledge, and to be empowered by His Spirit?
My prayer is for each of us to not only be saved, but for us to embrace what it means to be a disciple of Christ. When the 12 were called to follow Jesus, they were called into a daily relationship with Him as their Rabbi, with Him as their teacher. (Say “daily) They got up every day expecting to learn something from Him, something that would change the way they saw life and lived life, and Jesus did not disappoint them. Their goal was to become so acquainted with Jesus that they would be able to imitate Him. They wanted to copy how He prayed, how He studied, how He taught, how He served and healed people, and how He lived out His relationship with God. They wanted to be able to emulate how Jesus handled Himself in every situation. Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” That is our goal, friends, to be fully trained to be like our teacher, Jesus.
Jesus didn’t live in turmoil. Oh, the circumstances of His life were tumultuous at times, but He didn’t live in turmoil. He wasn’t panicked when a storm blew in that threatened His life or the lives of His followers. He wasn’t unhinged when the powers of darkness confronted Him or caused a scene. He wasn’t overwhelmed when the needs of the crowd kept Him at work from daylight until past dark. He was never disturbed in His spirit when people were plotting to take His life. He was always in control. He was always at peace. Jesus was at rest in the Father’s hands and plans. And He modeled a rhythm for life that included regular time away with His Heavenly Father, whereby He could be recalibrated, recharged, and refilled for the next day’s events.
Oh, that we would be fully trained to be like our teacher! That can happen as we daily seek to learn from Him. Paul said in Galatians 4:19 that his desire for that group of people was that Christ would be formed in them. That is the purpose of discipleship. When we are like Christ, fully formed, fully conformed to His image, we will experience the full rest He offers. The forming and conforming don’t happen by osmosis. They aren’t a result of just attending church, but it occurs as we are active learners who seek to experience Christ’s work in us every day.
The word the Bible uses for “disciple” is mathetes, which means “learner.” If I were to ask how many of us here this morning were Christians, I believe the majority of hands would go up, but would the same number of hands remain up if I asked if you were a “mathetes?” You see, biblical discipleship differs from the kind of learning that takes place in a formal education setting. In a formal classroom setting, teachers will explain concepts, they will convey information, they will seek to inspire learning that can be tested in hopes that the students have received or learned the information needed enough to regurgitate it on a test, and then the students and teachers will part ways until the next class is in session.
But a Christian disciple doesn’t just report to class to hear a lecture, to hear a sermon once or twice a week. A disciple shares life with the teacher in ongoing community, in ongoing fellowship and in ongoing learning outside of the classroom. As one person commented, “Disciples studied not just the text of Scripture, but also the text of the rabbi’s life.” I would say it this way: Disciples aren’t just interested in possessing or repeating information, but they seek to replicate a life.
The disciples physically followed Jesus around for three years. They walked and talked with Him every day. Frankly, we have the same opportunity. We have the Word of God, which includes Jesus’ literal words and words that have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we have the Spirit of God in us, to enable our daily fellowship with our Heavenly Father. A disciple takes advantage of all of that.
As we learn of Jesus and begin to understand how He reacted to His circumstances, and as we learn from Jesus about who He is and what He can do in our circumstances, we gain confidence in Christ that no matter what happens to us, we will have victory. Growing as a disciple of Christ helps you live a confident life and that gives you rest.
What do you mean, Pastor Melissa? I mean that I have spent enough time with Jesus to know that He has resources He willingly and generously will share with me. I can rely on Him to dispense to me what I need in every situation. I trust that. I rest in that, and when you take worry out of the equation, and lead with faith in Christ, you tackle challenges with confidence. You have an expectation that things will work out the way they are supposed to. It doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility to work and use my resources wisely, it just means I am resting in Christ as I do.
I know Jesus well enough to trust that Jesus will speak to me when I need direction and that He will speak through me when other people need to hear His voice through mine. I can count on Him for healing and helpful words for people and can count on Him to tell me what to say in difficult moments. Therefore, I am not constantly stressed about how to respond to and interact with people. As I am aligned with Him, learning from Him, I learn to respond with His words and in ways that reflect His attitude to those in my life. That brings rest in my relationships.
I’ve hung out with Jesus enough to know that every storm that comes my way can be stilled by His hand. It can be stilled in a moment of time, and it can be quieted over time. Whether the storm instantly stops, or He allows it to go on for a minute, He is always in complete control of that which He allows me to walk through. He has taught me that what comes my way is useful even if it is painful. God is always up to something in my life, and that brings my soul rest when the storm would inject chaos.
Jesus and I have talked enough for me to rest in His plans for this church, for my marriage, for our children, and for the rest of my family and friends. I don’t know what the rest of my life looks like. I don’t know where God will have this church next year, but I have a close enough relationship with Him to have full confidence that God knows what next year holds and when the time is right, He will tell me what I need to know and when I need to know it.
I have spent time at Jesus’ feet, learning what it means to be filled with the Spirit. I’m learning how love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are for my benefit, and I am increasingly aware of the weight they carry in terms of my witness for Christ and my personal success.
Because of the fellowship I share every day with Jesus, I am reminded that I am never alone. That provides rest in every anxious moment. And I don’t just have Jesus as a Friend, but I have Him as a Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Confident, Protector, Way Maker and more.
As I have spent time learning from Jesus and learning of Jesus, as some translations put it, I have come to discover my value and worth in Christ. No one can convince me God doesn’t love me. No one can keep me from my calling. I have learned from Jesus what it means to be a Child of God.
Because we hang out, I have learned to hear His voice. I have asked Him questions and He has answered. I have learned how to discern His will. At times, I know I have accessed His power. I have begun to grasp what is available to me when something supernatural is required. I know I can rest from having to fight and finagle in my own strength.
As I have studied the Word of God, the Holy Spirit has deposited resilience into my heart, truth and wisdom into my mind, discipline into my character, both courage and submission into my will, and peace into my soul.
I have learned that Jesus is responsive to my prayers, that He knows my longings, and I have experienced Him drying my tears. What I am trying to say to you this morning is that every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Does anyone know what I am talking about?
I am resting in His favor. I am resting in His plans. I am resting on His promises. I am resting in Him because I have learned who He is. I have learned what He can do, and quite honestly, I haven’t yet scratched the tip of the iceberg of what it means to know Jesus. I do know that we don’t gain what we aren’t willing to learn, and we don’t learn if we won’t show up for class.
Some of the students here today may feel like a lot of what you are learning is information you will never use in your daily life. Can I see some hands? How many of you think that’s true? How many of you non-students use everything you learned in biology or algebra 2 on a daily basis? I get why we aren’t always motivated to put forth the effort to take in information and experiences that we believe have no pertinent value to us, but I have come this morning to tell you that you want to learn and know and experience everything Jesus wants to teach you because it will give you rest you don’t want to forfeit. Rest is yours to receive, and it comes as you join your life to Jesus and then commit to learning from Him.
As we learn of Jesus we learn to walk in His rest. An ancient Jewish blessing goes, “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” The idea is that a rabbi’s disciples—those who took on his yoke, those who learned the meaning of the Scriptures from him—would follow so closely behind him when they walked that they would become caked in the dust he kicked up with his feet. The common Christian saying “following in the footsteps of Jesus” conveys the same idea. How dusty are you this morning? Are you a “mathetes?” My heart’s desire is to be covered in the dust of my Rabbi.
Here is Matthew 11:29 again, “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”
When you determine to learn from Jesus, you are coming to someone who is gentle. He is in your corner. He understands your learning style. He knows how you need to experience God. He knows how you process information. He knows what you need. He has a lot of patience. He isn’t out to make life hard for you. He isn’t trying to fail you. He is for you. You know when you have a teacher in your corner it makes all the difference. Trust me, Jesus is truly in your corner.
He is also humble. That word isn’t really referring to His character, but His position. By that, I mean that Jesus is accessible to you. He left the glory of Heaven and set aside His Divine rights to identify with us. And even though He is seated in power at the right hand of God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, He is just as approachable now as He was when He came to earth. There are no hoops to jump through in order for you to learn from Jesus.
Here is our text, one more time, from The Message translation. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Is anyone tired of the way your life is going? Is anyone up for a getaway with Jesus? Does anyone need to recover their life? Walk with Jesus. Work with Jesus. Be a disciple. Keep company with Jesus and get dusty.