An American author and minister, Marshall Hayden, wrote an article several years ago with the intriguing title, “Would Every Non-Hurter Please Stand Up?”
Hayden observed that people come to church services and seem fine. They put on their best smile. Wear their best clothes. And look happy. Yet, he pointed out that we need to look beyond the facade and below the surface to realize that our pews are full of hurting people.
He wrote, “Over here is a family with an income of $550 a week & expenses of nearly $800. Over there is a family with two children who, according to their dad, are failures. ‘You’re stupid. You never do anything right,’ he is constantly telling them that. The lady over there found a lump that tested positive.
“There’s a couple who just had a nasty fight. Each is thinking of divorce. Last Monday one man learned that he was being laid off. And there is a wife who has tried her best to cover the bruises her drunken husband inflicted when he came home Friday night.
“Then there are those of us with lesser hurts, but they don’t seem so small to us: a boring job, a poor grade, a friend or parent who is unresponsive …on & on the stories go. The lonely, the dying, the discouraged, they’re all here.”
It reminds us that the problems of fear, fatigue, frustration, and failure are the common lot of all people. Christians are not exempt. Add to that the burden of guilt. Shame. Regret. And remorse. What a heavy burden to bear!
In my reading this morning from Matthew 11, I was reminded and reassured that there is help and hope. Jesus offers this encouraging and great invitation that should renew our weary souls.
“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.” (Matt 11:28-30).
Note these three empowering and reassuring action words.
Jesus calls us. The biographies of his life assure us that He is near. That he cares. That He is approachable. That he is available.
Jesus’ invitation is to those who are wearied by the burden of sin and its attendant consequences. While our own failures are hard to bear, we also suffer a load of care as a result of other’s sins. Our family. Our friends. Our brethren. And sometimes we are hit hard by the impact.
Jesus’ invitation is to “come.” We must make the effort and take the initiative. He is waiting with open arms, but we must lay aside the excuses, the misplaced priorities, and our carnal appetites and pursuits.
This is another action word. We must come to Christ. And then we must take his yoke. This metaphor is lost on our generation. Yokes were custom-made for oxen to be paired together and work in the field or pull heavy loads. Jesus was a carpenter and likely made yokes in his shop in Nazareth.
Barclay says, “There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country men came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make. In those days, as now, shops had their signs above the door; and it has been suggested that the sign above the door of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth may well have been: “My yokes fit well.”
Interestingly, the word translated “easy” means “well fitting.” Jesus’ yoke is custom-made for our lives. It fits well. It is not a burden. But a blessing that will make life’s load easier to bear.
There is no excuse not to know Jesus. The Bible is easily accessible. In various versions. In book form. On the internet. On your phone. On your computer program.
Learning requires focused attention to the Scriptures. We must read. Think. Study. Comprehend. And apply. Learning involves more than just knowing facts about Jesus. It demands that we come to know Jesus. To develop a relationship with Him. To really understand who He is. What he wants. And how He can help.
Jesus’ invitation is for you. Regardless of where you are spiritually or emotionally. Hear and heed His compassionate call, “Come unto Me.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman