Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Better Thing: Jesus

“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” 
(Matt. 11:28-30).

            Who is Jesus inviting into His rest in these verses?  Perhaps we first think of non-believers, burdened by sin, needing the rest that can only come from knowing Jesus.  This is certainly true.  But Jesus is especially addressing disciples in this verse, for no one can know Him or find rest unless they first take His yoke.  It is the church, the yokefellow of Christ, that most needs to take these words to heart.
            We have accepted a great self-deception in the church: we have made salvation the finish line instead of the starting line.  Based on this faulty premise, we neatly divide humanity into two groups: those who know the Lord (us) and those who don’t (the world).  While this is partly true, it isn’t the whole picture.  As followers of Jesus, we are called disciples.  The word disciple means, “learner.”  We need to know the Lord just as much as non-believers.  Now that we have taken Jesus’s yoke, we are learning Him.  Now that we are born again, we are growing into a mature man (Eph. 4:13).  The evidence that we are knowing Him and are maturing in Him is that we are entering into His rest (Heb. 4:3, 10).
            But have we really laid down our wearisome burdens?  Or have we just exchanged them for others?  Perhaps some lay down the burden of sin only to take up the burden of religious behavior.  Perhaps the pressure to achieve is merely redirected toward ministry rather than left on the cross.  Maybe we give up the responsibility of pleasing man only to take on the responsibility of pleasing God.  And instead of “keeping up with the Jones-es” maybe we drive ourselves to keep up with whatever church has a book on the bestseller list (Eph. 4:14).  Jesus said of the Pharisees, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4).  Likewise, there are those who greet us with a handshake and a ball and chain when we gather on Sunday.  If we have merely given Christian packaging to worldly burdens then we aren’t accepting Jesus’s yoke or learning Him at all.
            Jesus has a simple message for His body, the church: “Lay down the burdens of human religion.  Lay down the burdens of Christian culture.  Know Me, and rest in Me!”  Psalm 46 says it this way: “Cease striving, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.”  To know Him requires that we trade Christianity for Christ, that we give up our harried serving to sit at His feet (Luke 10:41, 42).  Only one thing is needed, and that is Jesus Himself (Luke 10:42; Mark 10:21).  If we choose “the better thing,” it will not be taken away (Luke 10:42).