The Easy Burden and Light Yoke of Jesus

Note: This is a sermon I preached a while back. Upon hearing this sermon, several people believed and were baptized. —Brother Mark

Matthew 11:21-30:
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (22) But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. (23) And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (24) But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee. (25) At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (26) Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (27) All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (28) Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

When Jesus spoke this portion of scripture, he had just finished condemning the cities of Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Jesus began his ministry in his own territory, Galilee. He was rejected in his own home town of Nazareth for claiming to be the Christ. He left there and preached in the towns listed, performing many miracles, yet they did not repent. Jesus said that, since they had seen Jesus and his miracles, yet did not believe and repent, that it would go better for Sodom and Gomorra that it will for the Galilean cities.

This gloomy prediction led to Jesus into the words we will discuss today. The fact that Jesus had condemned Galilean cities demanded that he answer his statement with a clarification. The KJV says that Jesus answered the statement with further words. The previous address expected a response.

Look at what Jesus did. He prayed and thanked God that those things were hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to little children. What are these things? They are the great things of the Gospel which are hidden from many.

Why did the cities of Galilee reject him? Because of the religious leaders of the day. They were very wise and learned in the things of the world and of the scriptures, yet they were not wise and learned in the things of the gospel. What did Jesus tell them to do? Simply repent and believe that he was the son of God.

That is the problem even today. We are some of the best educated people in history. Our scientists have explored the moon, outer space, the deep, the brain, the mysteries of our bodies. We have instant access to knowledge through our TV sets, radio, and the Internet. We can learn the secrets of the deep. We can see first hand as a satellite of ours zooms past the monster planets in our solar system. We can see cells split. We have knowledge of things happening thousands of miles away instantly. We have knowledge beyond belief. The average citizen knows more than most of the learned men of the past knew.

Yet, with all our knowledge of worldly things, most Americans have never read the bible through. Most people are so devoid of spiritual knowledge that they are ready to believe a lie, like reincarnation, or that we are all gods, or that we can worship God any way we see fit. Most are spiritually ignorant.

Americans are not ready to accept something so simple as the Bible. People expect quid pro quo (something for something) for anything useful. The saying “you get what you pay for” is an American adage. Because of that maxim, it is hard to accept that something good is so simple.

Now imagine a little child you know. She is very smart, as are all children. But she is not a wise learned person. Her experience is that the things she needs are provided for her at no cost. She believes unquestioningly that Jesus lives, and that he lives in heaven and that he loves her. She loves him unconditionally. She does not question that it is too easy. She just accepts it.

Jesus is saying that all the wisdom in the world will not save you, in fact it might cause you reject him. Many refer to Christianity as mythology. They are so educated that they reject Christ. A certain entrepeneur, who is a multimillionaire and a wise and prudent businessman said that Christianity is for losers. He just does not understand. Many of today’s wise and learned scoff at Christianity as beneath them. They are in the dark about spiritual matters. As long as they continue to believe that their intelligence is their ticket, they will stay in the dark.

To further illustrate this point, Jesus chose those who were the commoners to be his disciples. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews was a believer in Christ, yet Christ chose some fishermen and other commoners to be his closest disciples. He even chose a hated tax collector for one of His disciples. Such a person was a total outcast from the religious society of his day. Yet Christ chose him because of his willingness to believe.

The things of the Gospel are revealed to children. Jesus is not talking about literal children, but about babes in Christ who were willing to believe and their intelligence did not get in their way.

God has chosen the humble to bring glory on himself. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit are the humble. God did this because the proud put themselves before God.

Jesus did all of this because he was leading up to an invitation. First he gives his credentials. He has been anointed by God the father and been given all things. Literally the entire creation. He owns it ands he is in charge of it. He knows the father and the father knows him. This is an intimacy beyond our understanding. Those who have been given to Jesus, Christians, share in that intimacy. Here on earth we only have a little understanding of our relationship with the father, but when we are glorified, we will know all things.

Here is the invitation: Jesus calls out to those who are weary and burdened. He will give them rest. Notice one thing. Jesus calls to the weary and burdened. He is not calling to those who have gotten rid of their burden and are all rested up. He is calling to those who presently have burdens and who are currently weary of those burdens.

Jesus says HE will give you rest. He does not say “Go on and carry your burdens until you can finally get rid of the burdens yourself, and then you will get rest and no longer be weary.” No he says to come to him while you still have your burdens.

When Christian (in Pilgrim’s Progress.pdf) began his journey, he had a terrible burden on his back from which he wanted to rid himself. He knew no way to get rid of it until Evangelist pointed him toward the narrow gate beyond which was the Light. Now Christian could not see the gate, but he followed the light to the gate. It was not until Christian entered the gate, came to the Cross, and found his salvation through Christ that his burden dropped from his back.

burden_jpg (Public Domain)

Christian’s burden falls from his back at the foot of the Cross.(Public Domain)

How many times have you asked someone to come to church just to be told: “I can’t go, I’m so bad that the building will fall in on me.” They say it in a joking way, but usually they are truly serious in their hearts. They feel like they are too bad, that their lifestyles are too corrupt to go to church. They think they must clean up their lives before they can come to God for salvation.

I don’t know how to be just plain gut level direct about this. I seem to talk in platitudes. I’ve told you that the vilest sinner can be saved. Charles Manson can be saved if he trusts Jesus. It is true, but it is not gut level honest. People hear it but cannot apply it to themselves.

Listen to me. There is no way you can ever get good enough for God. You may have several bad habits in your life that you think you must change before you can come to Christ. You may have a drinking problem. You may be doing drugs. You may have a severe temper problem. Your mouth might be dirtier than the gutter. You may abuse your spouse or your children. You may just hang around with the wrong crowd. You may have hard to break habits like smoking and gluttony. You might run the streets at night looking for love while your spouse and children sit home. You might have a gambling habit. There could be many other things, some I can’t mention here, which are keeping you from God.

You might think that you must clean up your act before becoming a Christian. After all, you don’t want to be a hypocrite. Let me tell you here and now. If there is something in your life that is keeping you from becoming a Christian, and you think you must change it first, you will never become a Christian. Just think of how long you have been working at changing that part of you. If you wait until you do change that part, you will die first. You will never be able to change enough bad things about your life to make you feel worthy to come to Christ. So why keep on trying? You will never get rid of all your burdens. You will never really get peace and rest as long as there is something not right with your life. And believe me something will always be not right with your life.

I’m a pastor. I have been called by God to be one. I stand up in church and preach the Bible to my congregation. According to the world, there is no higher calling than the clergy. Maybe so, but I’m not perfect. Every thing is not right with my life. I still have burdens. I still sin. There will always be something about my life which does not seem quite right to me. If I had waited until I got everything worked out, I would still be drinking and cussing and carrying on with the world. But even though not everything was right with my life, Jesus accepted me. He forgave me, and he changed me. Some things he changed immediately. Some things he took a little time to work on, and some things he has not yet changed. But he still saved me. He still took my burden and gave me rest.

I can rest because I have the most important aspect of my life taken care of. Eternity. My eternity is set. It is taken care of. I can honestly say that when my life on earth is over, my life in eternity has just begun. I’m not going to die. I’m going to live forever. Forever is so long that when I am a tenth of the way through it, I will have completely forgotten the burdens of this life. When I’ve been their ten thousand years, I’ve only just begun. In ten thousand years, life on earth will be just a shadow of life in eternity.

It is like writing a will. You need to get it done. With a will, you don’t wait until the end of life to divvy up everything. No, you decide ahead of time to divvy up everything. Then you get on with your life. Stop working on this life long enough to get the next life set up.

Once you get eternity set, then Jesus will help you straighten out the mess of your life. You can learn from him because he is gentle and humble. He will gently, and without condemnation help you to get your life right. You won’t have to do it alone. You will have help.

Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He says to take this easy yoke upon ourselves. In the past, I have struggled for many hours over this verse. I know that trying to live up to God’s will in my life is not always easy (in fact, it is downright difficult) because of my tendency toward sin, so I wondered about that verse.

Let me tell you what he is talking about here. Salvation, the yoke, is easy. So easy, in fact, that many miss it. I’m not saying the Christian life is easy. It is extremely difficult at times. What I’m saying is that salvation itself is easy. Getting saved comes first and living the Christian life begins at that point. The actual act of salvation is easy because it is performed by Christ. He took the action and there is no need for action oun our part.

There is no ritual, or catechism to learn. There are no special poems to learn, no sacrifices to give, no prayers to memorize or say, no special clothes to wear, no cards to sign, no aisles to walk, nothing that religion requires in order to be saved. There are not over 600 laws to learn and obey to the smallest jot or tittle. The laws given by Jesus are to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself (all men and women in the world are your neighbors).

There is nothing heavy or difficult to it. You must believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord. You must accept and choose to believe that He really is the Son of God and that he really did die on the cross and was brought back to life by God the Father three days later just like the Bible says. It is as simple as a choice. Choose to believe and you will be saved. Your eternity will be set. That simple. After you choose to believe, you must then say so to others. That is the simplest part. To tell others you believe is as simple as walking down the aisle here and telling me, and I will announce it to the congregation. That is it.

If you are feeling a twinge in your heart that you need to make a change in your life, that is the Holy Spirit calling you. The Holy Spirit invites you to believe and gives you the ability to believe. If He is calling you, do not reject the call. Choose to accept the invitation the Spirit is offering. Stop trying to fix your life here and do this simple thing. Believe and walk down the aisle to tell those here who love you that you believe. Get it done today. Don’t wait.

This sermon was preached and several believed that day. The sermon is about first steps, that is, it is about the first step of believing uon the Lord Jesus Christ. Beyond this step is the step of baptism, and beyond that step is growing in Christ and living the Christian life for eternity. Some who heard that sermon and responded never progressed past baptism. Others are still growing spiritually and are productive members of the Body of Christ.

 If, upon reading this sermon, you have heeded the Spirit’s call to salvation and believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior, go to the nearest Bible-believing church THIS SUNDAY, and respond to the invitation there. You need to be baptized and you need the fellowship of a group of Bible believeing Christians in order to grow spiritually. Do not hesitate.

NOTE: Salvation is by faith alone and not by any work we can do (John 6:28-29; Rom 3:25, 5:1; Gal 3:11; Eph 2:8). It works like this, we believe, the Holy Spirit immediately comes upon us (Rom 8:9; 2 Cor 1:21-22), and shows us that we should repent and be baptized. Repentance is admitting to all of our sins and being truly sorry we committed them. Repentance does not save you, but if you have faith in Christ you will truly repent. Therefore repentance and salvation go together.

Baptism is a sign of salvation. When we go down under the water, that is a sign that we are buried with Christ and are dead to our old, sinful life. When we come up out of the water it shows that we are raised to new life in Christ. Baptism, being a work that we do, does not save us, but a saved person will want to be baptized just as soon as possible. In fact, if a supposed saved person does not want to be baptized, I question whether he or she is really saved.

There are a few cases when baptism may not happen. For example, the health of an individual may preclude him or her from baptism. Another example is the person that believes and is saved by his or her faith, and gets killed in an accident on the way to his or her baptism. In both cases, the person is saved and still going to Heaven but is not baptized.

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