The Savior’s Tender Invitation


 

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11: 28

 

Today we receive a wonderful invitation extended to us by Jesus. In yesterday’s text we saw Jesus as the One who knows God as Father, and now Jesus invites us to a deep friendship, the friendship we experience in the quiet of our prayer. We may recall that Jesus was very conscious of the burdens imposed by religious leaders but now He invites His hearers—and us—to turn to Him with whatever may burden us and He will give us rest.

His plea is twofold. First, “follow me” by “taking my yoke upon you” or “I will teach you if you only follow me.” Second, “If I am teaching you (yoked to you) I am humble and gentle (not seeking your obedience from fear) and I will make it easy to follow”.

A yoke is a wooden frame created to fit over the shoulders of two oxen that are harnessed in such a way that they can pull a plow together. In biblical times, a farmer would use the practice of yoking a mature ox with a young ox side-by-side. This tactic would allow the younger ox a firsthand lesson from the older ox on how to pull the plow. And as the work commenced, it was the strength of the older ox that literally pulled the entire load. The rookie ox simply kept with the pace of its seasoned partner. In time, the young ox would eventually pull his own weight. But for the moment, his job was to ‘learn the ropes’ and follow the older ox’s lead. The young ox may think that he is sharing the load, but it is the older ox that is actually doing all the work.

Jesus wants to be our teacher. If we are willing He will walk side-by-side with us and take much of the weight upon Himself, meaning that He takes all of our sin. He will give us the peace and rest that we need to be able to actually move forward and accomplish a great work with His strength there to guide us. His power is available to us to “pull the plow” we need to simply “put the yoke on”. And we would not be putting on the yoke of a condemning overmaster, but a loving humble and gentle master who wants us to become the best of us, the best Christian in the good work that we can become.

Turning to the Lord will not make all our troubles and struggles suddenly disappear, but it does make life’s difficulties much more manageable and easier to deal with. When we turn to God, He always comforts us and gives us the strength to face what life throws at us, and we are able to “rest” in His comfort. For ourselves, we know that our sense of Jesus being with us and strengthening us and loving us gives special meaning to that word ‘rest’. When our hearts are thus engaged they are active rather than resting, and, at the same time, at peace rather than stressed.

Sometimes we find ourselves feeling like we have control over everything in our life and we don’t need God to aid us. We lose sight of how totally and utterly dependent we are on God. This idea that we don’t need to always turn to God and depend on Him is an illusion, and we are always awakened from this illusion when something outside of our control throws a wrench into our life. It is in these situations that we become acutely aware of how much we really need God’s love and guidance. We should always lean on the Lord and depend on Him because He sustains us in a way that we cannot ourselves. Let’s not wait for some unforeseen obstacle to come along and force us to realize our dependence on God. Let’s turn to Him now!

From heaven Jesus still offers this tender invitation; but do we really understand and appreciate…

a. To whom Jesus extends this invitation?

b. What He offers to those who will accept it?

c. What He expects from those who desire to respond?

d. The true ease of accepting this invitation?

 

Jesus says:

  1. Come. We cannot remain in the same place. We must continually move toward Jesus. We must come to Jesus, and to no one else, to nothing else.
  2. Abide. Once we have come to Jesus, we must stay with Him. Jesus asks us to remain with Him, and not gradually wander away from Him. We must make our abode in Jesus and in His Word.
  3. Rest. Just because we have come to Jesus and are abiding in Him doesn’t mean we will continue to do so. As St. Augustine said: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee”. Jesus says that in Him we will find rest. However, we must strive diligently to enter into His rest, lest we allow the cares of this world to rob us of Jesus’ rest.
  4. Trust. Here is the “catch.” Once you come, abide, and rest, you realize you have a cross to carry and a battle to fight. Jesus’ heart is focused on the salvation and conversion of all. He wants all to come to know the Lord . So we must take action and obey. We’ll be called to take risks and carry our crosses as His soldiers. We need to trust.

 

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