The Yoke’s On You

A sermon preached on Matthew 11:25-30 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on July 19, 2020.

Everyone loves the weekend don’t you? The song goes – everybody’s working for the weekend. The idea of resting on the weekend is almost sacred to us. The Japanese during World War 2 didn’t have a concept of a weekend and were fascinated with America’s love of the weekend. That’s why they chose to attack Pearl Harbor on a weekend when the soldiers were resting.

Everyone loves the weekend. When you finally get off of work on Friday, it’s like you can take this weight off your shoulders and relax finally. But it’s only temporary. Monday always comes far too soon. In fact they’ve done studies that show people are actually happier on Thursday because they’re anticipating the weekend than they are Sunday night because they’re looking at Monday. Resting never lasts long enough.

Today, Jesus talks about a rest that will never end. We don’t have to have a case of the Mondays in his rest because it is an ever present reality. He described this rest to the people of his day using a surprising picture – a farm animal yoke. I bet the people thought it was all some big joke but today we see differently – it’s not a joke, rather The Yoke’s On You.

Jesus says to you and me: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” You know, church is never boring because it provides us with the message of the one thing needed in Jesus Christ. Yet, there are plenty of people who think it is boring or they just tune their ears off because here comes the same message I’ve heard 500 times before. And I understand it. I’ve heard Jesus offer rest over and over again and it can certainly be tempting to go into auto pilot.

It’s a lot easier to marvel at things as a child. The world seemed so much bigger and magical as a child. As an adult I hear Jesus say do this and I might find myself asking why instead of saying ok. Jesus says the yoke he offers is for little children. And I’m not just talking about those under 5 feet tall. Little children are people who trust that Jesus is who he says he is and that he can do what he says he can do. I have a little child in my home that’s eight and I know of little children here that are seventy. Simply trust that what Jesus did for you is true. That’s a yoke for little children.

The yoke’s on you – it comes solely from Jesus. Jesus says: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” There is only one way to know who God really is and that is through the Son. Our world is actually very religious. It is full of tons of different religions – but only one actually leads to God. Jesus isn’t saying his brand of religion is better than the others – they’re all worthless. You can only come to God through him.

Jesus is the only way to God and heaven – so don’t waste your time with things that contradict or add to what he says. What kind of yoke has Jesus placed on you? He has placed the truth on you. In the Bible he has given you the true message of our sins before God and his grace to us in Jesus Christ. Put your trust in Jesus and Jesus alone for your forgiveness.

Jesus ends by promising us a yoke wonderful to wear: “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.” Can you imagine a normal person promising people – come to me and I’ll give you rest? He better be a sleep number salesman right? We would think he’s weird…well I bet the people Jesus was talking to might have thought he was as confusing.

Come to me and I’ll give you a yoke that will let you rest. How could a yoke give rest? If you’re not familiar with a yoke – it’s a big wooden beam placed on an animal to help them pull something like a wagon or farm equipment. People have used smaller versions to help balance two buckets of water over their shoulders. A yoke and rest do not go hand in hand. How could a yoke be wonderful to wear?

Well Jesus isn’t promising a life on easy street. He’s not promising a four day weekend every week. He’s not promising rest for sore feet or even a break from the trials and hardships of this life. We’ll never be free of such things in this life.

But the rest Jesus is promising to you and me is something very different. The yoke Jesus offers, the rest he gives, is the special relationship you now have with God. You are linked to God – not in a burden, but in the blessing of the love and forgiveness of God.

That’s how Jesus’ yoke is light and restful. Whether people admit it or not, without Jesus we all carry an immense burden of our sins and our guilt. I may forget to take out the trash but my brain is amazing at keeping me awake at 2am by reminding me of stupid things I’ve done in my past. We all have a yoke we carry in life of our past sins and the guilt they bring – that’s a yoke that we cannot stand under – it drags us down to hell.

Jesus says to you – I already died for that burden. I have washed your sins away – don’t go around dragging that burden anymore. Give it to me and let me carry it. My yoke is light because I have done everything and carried it for you already. He says to you and me: “Take heart, my child; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2).

I will still have burdens in this life. But my soul has rest in Jesus’ love. I will have hardships in this life but I know that nothing separates me from the love of God in Christ – heaven is mine – and that makes the temporary burdens in this life a lighter load. Disappointments in this life become a little easier to bear when I remember that God works all things out for the good of those who love him according to his purpose.

Jesus often turns things upside down. In Jesus, I can look at something as terrible as a cross and find my joy and forgiveness. I can look at death as the door to my home in heaven. And I can even look at something like a yoke from Jesus as a joy and a rest. Amen.