Hovering over some well known verses in Matthew this morning. Noodling on whether they are an offer to avail oneself of or, a command to obey.
“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.” ~ Jesus
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Come. Take. Learn. Three actions to be taken. Invitations or imperatives?
Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Maybe it does.
When it comes to “coming”, if it’s the way to restoration and recovery, who wouldn’t be in? Invitation or imperative, if it means finding some respite from weariness, some lifting of the heavy load, thank You, Jesus, for the invitation. Yes Lord, I’ll obey. Just as I am, I come!
But then I start to chew on, “Take My yoke . . . learn from Me.” Honestly, this sounds like work. After all, isn’t that what a yoke was for, to harness a beast of burden to a cart or a plow they were supposed to pull? To make sure they stayed focused on the task at hand? To provide a means by which they could be steered in the right direction? Bearing a yoke and finding some rest doesn’t strike me as intuitively compatible. Not an invitation I think I’m quick to RSVP to in the affirmative.
And then learn? Listen up and be informed? Pay attention and gain knowledge? Keep practicing and become proficient? Sounds like more work to me? Besides, I’m not an academic. After all, there are so many other things that capture my attention more. If learning is just about my preference, then maybe I’ll pass on that, too.
So, come, take, learn . . . invitation or imperative?
The context of these verses is Jesus’ denunciation of those cities that had seen His mighty works but refused His call to repent. Those that had ample evidence that the kingdom had come but chose instead the world that was. Those who would rather “enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25) rather than walk in forever allegiance to the Savior. So, is come, take, learn the antithesis of reject, refuse, and remain in your own way?
Could Jesus be saying that to tether oneself to the world is to eventually be worn out and wasted? But to voluntarily, obediently, come and be yoked to the great Shepherd really is to be led “beside still waters” and eventually “lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2)? That to determine to learn the way of Jesus, and walk in the manner of the Son, is in fact to find rest and restoration of the soul as He leads us “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3)? So that, should we walk even under the heavy load of “the valley of the shadow of death”, we really can fear no evil? And that , because we are bound together, neck to neck, with the One whose rod and staff, “they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4)? I’m thinking He could be.
Invitation or imperative?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. As long we accept the invitation or, with holy determination, seek to obey the command.
Maybe it does matter. If, rather than waking every morning and taking on His yoke, we instead see it just as a “go to” when things get wearisome and heavy. Then, I wonder if we are not missing out on a supernatural rest which is available 24/7. The rest of abiding in Jesus. The respite of walking in His ways. The repose of side-by-side fellowship even as we sojourn through an upside down world.
Come. Take. Learn. An invitation. An imperative.
By His grace. For His glory.