Jesus Gives Us Soul-Rest

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : 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.

Matthew 11:28-30 rsv

Listen to these words about the difference Jesus Christ can make in your life and mine. I’m reading from Matthew 13:44 and then chapter 11, verses 28-30:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

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.

For me, these are two of the most moving, evocative passages in all the Bible. They describe something wonderful that I am finding to be true in my own experience.

FINDING THE TREASURE

Think first about this mini-parable Jesus told. There he trudges, the man behind the plow, on a day that seems like any other day, in a field no different from many others. Suddenly, the man’s midday musing is interrupted. That ox of his has fallen into a hole, its foreleg almost out of sight! It takes quite a bit of struggling to get the beast back on an even keel. The laborer sweats and struggles until he’s almost ready to begin work again. But then he trips over something hard, unyielding. What’s that, a boulder in the midst of a plowed field? No, it’s something rectangular. It’s a kind of chest. Curious, the farmer brushes the dirt off the top of his find and pries it open. His astonished eyes light upon a treasure in gold and silver.

He looks around to see if anyone else has noticed. No one. Quickly he moves the clods of dirt back into place, leaves little markers so that he can find the spot again, and leaves hurriedly.

We see him next, talking to the owner of the field. Is it possible to purchase this little tract of land? He’d like to go into farming on his own. He and the owner haggle about the price. Finally it’s agreed upon. The plowman can hardly contain himself until he’s out of the door and around to the other side of the building where his gladness can erupt. “A treasure! And it’s mine! It cost me all I had to buy that field, but it was more than worth it.”

Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like that. To have God as the king of your life is like that. To know Jesus as Lord and Savior is like that. To have Him reigning in your heart is like that.

My question today is: Do you really think of the Christian faith in that way? Maybe you’re still on the outside looking in. You’re still an observer of Christians. You haven’t yet made a commitment yourself. Does it strike you that the believers you know resemble those who have found a great treasure? Many, in the church and out of it, seem to think of Christianity as something rather tedious. They see it as a necessary but troublesome burden to carry. Jesus calls it great joy, like learning that you’ve come into a vast inheritance.

Now why, we wonder, is being a Christian, following Jesus, all that great? First, there’s forgiveness. I talked with a person recently who works in a hospital for the mentally ill. “We could send two-thirds of our patients home tomorrow,” he said, “if we could help them to believe in the forgiveness of sins.” David, in one of his psalms, speaks about how withered, barren and burdensome life becomes when we’re under a load of guilt and how we are released and made new when assured of forgiveness. That’s a given in Jesus Christ for all who trust Him.

Think about being released from self-centeredness. What an immense problem that is for us! We sit like spiders in the midst of our webs trying to attract every good thing to ourselves. We’re tied up in self-will, self-seeking, just plain selfishness. Jesus through the gospel gives us a new center for life, a new heart, a new power to reach out in love. How much is that worth?

What about a sense of purpose? Life becomes empty and trivial when we have nothing bigger to live for than ourselves, our own success and prosperity. Jesus gives us something to live for infinitely larger and better than our puny self-interest. He claims us by His love and sends us on a mission. How valuable is it, friends, to have something significant to which to devote your life?

Think about the fellowship we share with other Christians, bound together in the family of God, bearing each other’s burdens, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. In Christ we discover real community.

And what about hope? Those who are truly miserable in this world, who find themselves ready to end it all, are usually people without hope. In Jesus Christ we know that our ultimate future is secure and that nothing in this world can possibly separate us from God’s love. So in the midst of the most trying and painful circumstances, we hold on, knowing that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. We hope in the Lord.

If you’re a believer today, I’m sure there are other things that you could add to my list. You know the joy, the soul-rest, that touches people when God’s kingdom comes, when His royal reign in Christ reaches their lives.

RELINQUISHING – WITH JOY

“But wait!” someone says. “That little parable talks about having to sell all that you have if you’re going to buy the kingdom. Look at all we’ll have to give up.” Yes. Sometimes the Lord said to people, would-be followers: “Sell all that you have and give to the poor, and come and follow me.” At other times, it was different. Simply, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” Sometimes the word was: “Go back home and tell your friends what the Lord has done for you.”

Jesus never made a list, as some may do, of what we have to give up in order to follow Him. His reign, His kingly rule in our lives means there is just one thing we need to surrender: our right to ourselves. We’re to give over the reins, the controls of our lives. We’re to be under new management. Everything else, He’ll work out with us along the way.

But the central emphasis in this parable is not on that but on the joy, the rest of soul, with which the man sold out everything. Gladness because he had found something so much more precious than anything he had ever known.

That’s what we Christians need to communicate to people. Thomas Chalmers once preached a famous sermon on “the expulsive power of a new affection.” He was noting how when people are gripped by the love of Jesus Christ, they’re able to let go of the idols to which they have been clinging so tightly. Meet Ernie, a friend of mine from years past. When he was young, Ernie struggled with alcoholism, but then was set free by the power of Christ. Some time after that, he happened to sit by a soldier on a train. The G.I. pulled out a bottle and offered Ernie a drink. “No thanks,” he said, “I’ve found something better.” “Yeah? What’s that?” Then Ernie told him about Christ. Those who have become the followers of Jesus are like people who have feasted at the most sumptuous royal banquet. Can you tempt them any more with scraps? Hardly. They’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

OFFERED TO ALL

“But,” objects someone, “he found a treasure, stumbled over it in a field, but maybe I won’t find it.” The good news is that you can. In fact, Jesus is offering it to you right now. Listen to His words, meant as much for you as for any other person on earth: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I think that’s the most astonishing offer ever made. Jesus stretches out His hands to the wide world and says to all, “Come to Me and you’ll find rest, joy, fulfillment.” What if someone today stood up in a Rose Bowl parade or an Olympic stadium and said something like this? We’d think, wouldn’t we, that another “crazy” was on the loose. We’d have the authorities escort him elsewhere. But when Jesus makes the offer, it somehow becomes believable, doesn’t it? And those who venture on it find Him to be true.

Jesus sees people as worn out, burdened down. It’s not so much from physical or mental toil. There are many who have found religion itself to be a kind of burden. Did you know that there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament – 246 positive, 367 negative? There are also dietary laws, fasts, washings, sacrifices, sabbaths to observe. People were groaning under some of that in their traditional religious culture. They saw religion, with its accompanying morality, as a heavy load imposed on them from without.

More, Jesus was speaking to people hemmed in, weighted down, by their own hangups, fears, complexes and inhibitions, as well as by real guilt. He comes to people burdened with all that a society of unthinking and unfeeling people may have heaped upon them. They’re so heavy laden that they can hardly keep going, much less rejoice. Jesus says, “Come to Me and I’ll give you refreshment. I’ll pour joy into your life. Come with all those trappings, with whatever is weighing you down. Come and find rest.”

There will be a yoke to bear, yes. There will be service, sacrifice, obedience. Some of Jesus’ demands, though not harsh and legalistic, will be tough to carry out. But here’s the difference: There’s someone now who carries the yoke with us, someone meek and lowly in heart. And although allegiance to Jesus is total, the yoke is somehow easy and the burden light.

Friends, let me share this with you. There was a time in my life when this invitation of Jesus came first to my ears and my heart. And what I’ve been talking about today, these great words of Scripture, all this has become luminous, gladdening, wonderfully real to me. I was a high school boy who hated to go to church. I used to get jobs delivering papers or taking care of tennis courts on Sunday morning just to avoid it. When I couldn’t escape, when I had to be there, I’d sit sullenly in our pew about two-thirds of the way down the middle aisle on the left-hand side. I’d sigh audibly, much to my mother’s dismay. There didn’t seem to be anything attractive, exciting, in what I heard there. It all seemed a burden and a bore.

But one summer night, a good friend spoke to me about Jesus, about how He is the center of the Christian faith, how being a Christian means that we receive the living Jesus into our hearts and become new people. He told me about the Lord’s invitation. That night I knew it was true, and true for me. I invited the Lord to come into my life and be my Savior. I committed as much as I knew of myself to His reign. And there was rest for me, and joy. And in the fifty years since, even in my darkest hours of tragedy, heartbreak and loss, the joy keeps leaping up again. The rest of heart returns.

Do you know what I’ve found? It’s not hard to serve someone you truly love, not difficult to obey someone who’ll go to any lengths for you. Once it dawned on me that this Jesus, Son of the Most High God, had come here searching for people like me, and had poured out His life in self-giving love on a cross so that I could be forgiven and become God’s child, once that gospel had touched my heart, service to Jesus became gladness. Carrying His yoke has been refreshment. There have been lots of frustrations and failures on my part, lots of wanderings away, but always a forgiving Lord, a pursuing love, a fountain of joy and rest springing up again.

Believe me, friends. More than that, believe Jesus. To all who come to Him, all who receive Him, all who enthrone Him, He gives joy and rest. He is the real Treasure.