CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Since sin entered humanity, life has been difficult. To be labouring and heavy laden seems descriptive of the common experience of men and women especially those who are strangers to grace and to God. Generally, they desire an improvement in their situation but want to have their own way and follow their own devices. But sin is a hard master.
People may go to great lengths to please God and in the end only be worse off. The prophet, Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Christ's advent, wrote of God's condemnation of the his contemporaries. They were very religious after a fashion, but their lives and their devotions were unacceptable (see Isiah chapter one).
After showing his displeasure with them, the Lord says: Wash you, make you clean put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; . . . Come now and let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson They shall be as wool.” This is the same invitation extended now that the Son of God has come in the flesh. “If we walk in the light as he in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1John 1:7)
Coming to Christ requires trust in him, commitment to him and trusting him alone for salvation. It can be very simple and yet it is profound. A child may come. In fact, Jesus taught that it is necessary for anyone who would come to him to become as a little child. Many who hear Christ's offer never humble themselves before him.
Christ spoke of a man who had two sons. He said to one, “Go work today in my vineyard. The man replied, “I will not.” But afterward he repented and went. He spoke to the second who answered, “I go sir.” and went not (see Matthew 21:28-32). This reflects what often happens in relation to those who hear Christ's offer. The one who refuses the invitation may repent and another who seems to accept ends up turning his back on the Saviour whom he promised he would serve.
Followers of the Lord often reflect on their failures. The writer of Psalm 119, the longest and the most sustained expression of devotion in the Biblical psalms, confesses in the last verse that he has gone astray like a lost sheep and prays for the Lord to restore him. The most steadfast of believers may, and should, feel in need of more grace. And the one who has never yet begun in the Way is urged to forsake the path of self-love and hasten to the loving Saviour.
Christ's yoke is easy and His burden light. This does not mean that His servants have no temptations. The Bible says that the troubles that afflict the just are many in number. Sometimes, however, those who suffer most enjoy most peace. They discover that Christ's grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in their weakness.
Jesus tells us of rest for his servants. There is rest even now as He is the good Shepherd whose yoke is easy and His burden light. And at last there is the everlasting rest for them in heaven with Him.
Rev W. R. Underhay is with the Free Church of Scotland (retired). A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.