Feeling burdened today? Burdened by of the state of our country after the recent debt deal in Washington, or by the upcoming full-implementation of Obama-care? Or perhaps you’re burdened because you’re out of work with no promising possibilities out there. Or perhaps you’re heavy laden with guilt because of past mistakes and failures. If you are feeling burdened today, for whatever reason, let me encourage you by declaring to you there is hope, and it's found in words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth nearly two thousand years ago. In the span of two articles, we will be considering these words of Jesus, which are from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (English Standard Version). In this first article, we will be focusing on Matthew 11:28, which deals with coming to Jesus. In the next, we’ll consider the balance of the passage, which speaks of taking from Jesus.
Matthew 11:28 first tells us that in order to attain the rest from Jesus, we must respond to His invitation. Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest.” How do you and I come to Jesus, who was a man who lived in Palestine two-thousand years ago? Now if the Bible was just some ancient book that included some stories about a long-dead Jewish rabbi named Jesus, these words spoken by the aforementioned rabbi two thousand years ago might sound nice but they would be practically useless. But the truth is the Bible is not just some old religious book with some good sayings to live by; it’s a living book about a living God and a risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered death and is alive today. And because this "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) you and I can apply these words of Matthew 11 today and come to him. The question remains: how do you and I come to Him? Though Jesus is not in human form anymore, He who is the Son of God is still spiritually present and available. The Bible says “(God) is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our beings’” (Acts 17:27). When you and I look to Jesus Christ in faith, believing in Him and His words, our spirits are enabled to draw near to His, as it is written, “Draw near to God, and He will near to you” (James 4:8).
From our text, we then discover who is permitted to come to Jesus to find rest from their burdens. Is the invitation only for those who profess to be Christians? Can Muslims or Buddhists or Jews, or even pagans come? From our text, Jesus says, “Come…all who labor and are heavy laden.” No matter who you are; it doesn’t matter from what religious background you come; nor does it matter from what you are burdened, whether it’s from circumstances beyond your control or from the consequences of bad choices that have been in your control. For Jesus’ rest, you and I must merely “come.” We need only to recognize that we are burdened, burdened by worry, burdened by demands of religion, burdened by sin and guilt; whatever, and then come to Him by faith. Since the invitation is so universal and so gracious, nothing needs to hinder you or me from coming to Jesus and attaining the rest He wants to give to you and me from the burdens we unnecessarily carry alone.
For the burdened ones who indeed come to Him by faith, Jesus then promises, “I will give you rest." The One through whom grace and truth came speaks here of His promise of grace to those who trust His word. And this undeserved but provided “rest” that Jesus offers? It’s a rest based on who Jesus is and what He has done. Who is He? Jesus Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8); the Son of God who upholds the universe by the power of his Word (Hebrews 1:3). He is the Son of Man, the Messiah, God’s Anointed, and the Savior of the world, who “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25, ESV). What has He done? Being both fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ came into this world to die on a cross to not only save you and me from sin and death, but to give us the power to overcome all the burdens we face. In His dying breath, Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished” as He completed the work the Father had given Him to do on your behalf and mine in bearing all of our sins and paying the just penalty before a holy God. He has done it all for all who would believe, so you and I might have peace with God and Jesus' triumphant rest over our burdens. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5, ESV).