By Mike Willis
The greatest invitation ever extended to man was not extended by a civil government ruler, benefactor of mankind, movie star, or rich man. It was extended by a poor, wandering preacher named Jesus of Nazareth. His invitation touches our hearts, draws us to Him, and offers us eternal salvation. Here is His blessed invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Join with me in examining this invitation more closely.
It Invites Us To Jesus
The first thing that I notice about this invitation is that it invites men to Jesus. Seven times in three short verses, Jesus used the personal pronouns I-my-me) to invite men to come to Him. And why not? He is the Savior of the world (Jn. 4:42); He is the only way to the Father in heaven On. 14:6); He alone can save’ men from their sins (Matt. 1:21). His entire mission in life was to seek and to save that which is lost (Lk. 19:10). Hence, above all others, men need to come to Jesus!
The nature of Jesus is such that men are naturally drawn to Him. Many men who want to impose a yoke on their fellow man are arrogant, overbearing and harsh. Not so with Jesus. He is meek and lowly in heart. He is the one who “when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory” (Matt. 12:20). Who can read of Jesus’ life on this earth without saying to himself, “I surely would have liked to have known Jesus.”
We are drawn to His personality like a moth to a flame. Jesus said, “And 1, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (Jn. 12:32). He was lifted up and His love for man still draws men to Him. The love of Christ still constrains us (2 Cor: 5:14). Hence, it is only natural that in the great invitation Jesus invites all men to come to Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; He is the bright morning star; He is the Alpha and the Omega; He is the Word of God incarnate; He is the great Physician. And, He invites men to come to Him.
Who Is To Come?
The call of the gospel is, of course, universal. “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). God’s grace through Jesus Christ has appeared to all men (Tit. 2:11); God wishes that no one perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Hence, whosoever wishes to come to the Christ may come. Yet, not all men will wish to come to Christ.
Let us consider the context of this invitation to notice who will be attracted to Jesus. In 11:20-24, Jesus upbraided Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for their unbelief. He said that if Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom had witnessed the miracles which these cities witnessed they would have repented and not have been destroyed by the judgment of God. These cities had the opportunity to come to Christ but refused to do so. At this point, Jesus 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. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 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 (11:25-27).
In this statement, Jesus emphasized that not all men would want to come to Him. The wise and prudent of this world would have little or no use for Jesus. The “babes,” the heavy laden, and those who labor would be the ones who would be attracted to the Lord. The wise consider the gospel foolishness (1 Cor. 1:21-29).
The wise of this world saw the same signs as the believers in Jesus. When they saw them, they plotted His death (Matt. 12:14); they charged that He was performing miracles by the power which He obtained by being in collusion with the devil (Matt. 12:24). The gospel is of such a nature that a man must empty himself of all of his own self-esteem and wisdom in order to accept the gracious offer of salvation through Christ. The gospel will never appeal to the rich, wise, and the some-whats of this world because they have too much pride in their own wisdom to come meekly before Jesus for salvation.
The men who respond to Christ’s invitation are those who labor and are heavy laden. “Those who labor” does not refer to men who earn their living through working; rather, it refers to those who are laboring for salvation. The Jews of Jesus’ day were laboring to be saved through obedience to the law of Moses. Theirs was a hopeless case; one disobedience made them guilty before the law as a transgressor (Gal. 3:10; Jas. 2:10-11). Like David, they cried, “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psa. 38:4). This was a yoke which no one could bear (Acts 15:10). The “heavy laden” were those men who had been made to bear all of the human traditions imposed on them by the Jews. “For they bind heavy burden and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4). The more conscientious a man was and the more he tried to do what was right for salvation, the more requirements were placed upon him. Soon, the poor man became heavy laden by all of the rituals imposed on him by Phariseeism. That coupled with his actual guilt which came because of his transgressions of the law, left the poor man frustrated and hopeless.
What a relief it was for such people to find Jesus. Jesus preached His gospel to the poor (Matt. 11:5) and downtrodden of this world (Matt. 12:20). The heavy laden and those who labor found hope in Jesus Christ. These were the ones particularly invited to come to Jesus.
What Shall They Receive?
What did Jesus promise to these people? if the message of Jesus is to be interpreted by modern man’s concept of Jesus, we would reach the conclusion that Jesus promised them social changes. For many, the message of Jesus is church sponsored recreation, orphan homes, homes for the aged, hospitals and schools. Yet Jesus did not promise these kinds of blessings to His audience! To others the message of Jesus is to be applied by “preachers” leading racial riots and other riots to clean up ghettos. Yet, Jesus did not so interpret His ministry. Others think that the message of Jesus is best applied when it is twisting the arm of Washington, D.C. Again, Jesus did not become involved in the clashes of politics.
The message of Jesus, His good news, was “rest.” Yet, even this was not rest from physical labor; it was “rest unto your souls.” The gospel brings rest to the man laboring to find salvation; it brings rest to the man who is heavy laden with the guilt of his own sins. The rest it brings is a rest unto the soul! To such a man, the gospel announces that Jesus has died on the cross to bear the punishment for our sins. By His stripes, we are healed. It announces that we can be saved by grace through His precious blood! It offers “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). It holds out a crown of life for all those who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8). This is the rest which the invitation of Jesus offers to give to mankind.
How Do We Receive This Rest?
Obviously, these blessings are given conditionally. Although salvation comes by the grace of God, it is given only to those who “come unto Me.” There is something expected of men in order for him to receive the blessings of Jesus Christ. In order to come to Christ, we must learn of Him. We must take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. No one can come to Christ except through the process of learning of Him (Jn. 6:44-45). As men are taught the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, they must believe it, repent of their sins, and be buried with Christ in baptism (cf. Acts 2:21, 36, 38). This is the manner in which men may come to Jesus.
Yet, men must bear the yoke of Jesus Christ. When we think of a yoke, we think of something that weighs heavily upon us. Jesus yoke, however, is altogether different from any other yoke known to men. Whereas other yokes weigh us down, the yoke of Christ gives us rest (Matt. 11:28-30). It alone lifts off of man the guilt of his sins, reconciles him to God, and gives to him the peace which passeth all understanding. Yet, this yoke also brings tribulations and persecutions-things concerning which we must count the cost (Matt. 9:18-22). Yet, even these things to the disciple of Christ are not galling and opprobrious. 1 am reminded that the apostles went away rejoicing after they had been beaten by the Jewish leaders, counting it a blessing to be considered worthy to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41). You can understand, therefore, why John wrote, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn. 5:2-3).
Though we must come to Christ, learn of Christ, and bear His yoke in order to receive “rest unto your souls,” these conditions are not a galling yoke to be borne. Rather this is an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:30).
Are you loaded down with the burden of sin in your life? Has guilt become unbearable? Do you have trouble sleeping at night because you think about the sins which you have committed. If so, listen to Jesus’ invitation to you: “Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. “
Are you a sinful man wanting to do better? Have you tried to quit sinning and reverted to your wicked ways time after time? Are you ready to give up and just accept the dominion of sin over your life? You cannot overcome Satan by yourself. Listen to Jesus’ invitation to you: “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Are you thinking that life is not worth living? Are you torn by the loss of a loved one through death or divorce? Is your life worthless in your own eyes? Do you wish that you had never been born? Are you contemplating ending it all through suicide? If so, listen to the invitation of Jesus Christ which is extended to you: “Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:2830). Will you turn to Christ and find rest unto your soul?
Truth Magazine XXII: 48, pp. 771-773
December 7, 1978