Sermon Preached by The Reverend Charles Royden 3 July 2011
Ordinary 14 Year A
‘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.' Jesus Matthew Chapter 11
Jesus looked at the religious leaders in the synagogues and the temple in Jerusalem and he was not impressed. Instead of telling people of a God who wanted love and mercy, they spent their time making people feel guilty for breaking rules.
They had hundreds of rules about things like
- What clothes you could wear and what clothes it was forbidden to wear
- What foods you could and what foods were considered unclean and you could not eat.
- There were lots of rules about special days and what could and could not be done on those days. Such as the Sabbath.
- Later in this chapter we read about how the disciples of Jesus got into trouble with the religious leaders because they picked grain and ate it as they were going through the field.
Jesus said that these rules were wrong. Instead of bringing people closer to God, they just made them feel guilty that they couldn't keep them properly. Jesus said they were like burdens.
Mat 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Luk 11:46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
Jesus believed that all of the rules and regulations could be summed up very simply and he gave a 'Golden Rule' to his disciples earlier in this Gospel
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets Matthew Chapter 7:12
Jesus belived that the obssession with rules and their interpretation missed the point. What God wanted was for people to simply behave with love towards one another and God. Instead of bringing people closer to God, the laws had just weighed everybody down.
It was in this context that Jesus said the words which we hear in our reading today, words which are some of the most famous in the whole Bible
‘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.'
So the first statement which Jesus makes is an invitation to come to him.
Who does he invite ? He invites those who are weary and burdened, those who are looking for rest. Doesn't that include everybody here today ? I won’t ask you to put your hand up but you will know if you have a burden.
- It might be a physical condition which is getting you down.
- It might be a worry for somebody else who is ill, a friend or member of the family who has cancer or a disease
- Perhaps it is a worry over debt, worry over your job, or something which you can't cope with
- It might be a guilty thing which you can’t forgive yourself for, or perhaps you find it hard to forgive somebody else
- We are spiritual beings and we may have a spiritual kind of weariness.
I have no idea what burdens there might be, but I do know that the burdens of life we just cannot carry by ourselves. All of us from time to time find living in this world a bit overwhelming. We are weighed down by worries, responsibilities, aches and pains. So why not turn to Jesus for help?
Jesus tells us today that if we have a burden, something difficult in our lives, that there is no reason to struggle with these burdens which are too heavy for you. If you will turn to Jesus, he will help you carry your burdens. And there is no burden too heavy for Jesus.
There might be many reasons why we do not ask for God’s help
- Perhaps we don’t think we’re actually deserving of it.
- Some people see themselves as too broken to be of any use or value.
God never ever sees us this way. God knows where we are broken. God knows where we are hurting and aching and wants only to take that burden from us. God loves us and can use us, and the only qualification this morning is being weary and burdened and wanting rest.
The second statement which Jesus makes is an invitation to take his yoke upon us
A yoke might seem an unlikely way of finding rest ! When Jesus spoke these words the yoke was a familiar symbol of burden. Yokes were laid on the necks and shoulders of oxen and also on prisoners of war and slaves. Clearly when Jesus promises us rest, he is not calling us to a life of idleness.
When Jesus says take my yoke upon you, he is offering to walk alongside us and share the load. This is the way which we are meant to live our lives, with God at our side, helping us, working with us, showing us the way.
Is it any wonder that so many people find life difficult when they try to get through in their own strength?
It is interesting to remember that Jesus was a carpenter, as such he would have made yokes. The yoke joined two animals together, they were partnered, and so a young animal could learn from a trained animal who shared the load.
In using these words Jesus offers himself as a partner to you and me, helping to pull the load. There is a load to be pulled, there is no getting away from that. Jesus never offers his followers an easy life, he offers a full and rewarding life. The truth is that whatever we decide about whether to accept the invitation of Jesus to walk beside, we will nevertheless be pulling a load, everyone one of us is like the animal ploughing through the field. The question if whether we seek God’s help or try to do it alone.
There is probably not a person here today who is not carrying a burden of some kind, because simply to live is to toil. So these words are spoken to us all. If we choose to walk without God, to seek strength in other places, then we will be disappointed. Searching after fulfilment elsewhere will only burden our hearts and souls further.
Jesus promises to share that burden. He offers not a life of ease, but a life of service, to live in his way. If we decide to do this then we will find it comfortable for our souls, we will find walking with him to bring peace and fulfillment. You may not have had a good experience of religion, you may not have thought of God as kind. This morning we hear these words of Jesus that he is humble and kind and we are are encouraged to know that he will walk with us day by day to help us find fulfillment and peace for our souls.