“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Are Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 law or gospel? This is a question I have been asked more than once. It could certainly sound like a command (law) if these words were shouted at you. I’ve heard it preached that way. But Jesus isn’t demanding that we do something in this text, he is offering to deliver the whole world from its spiritual exhaustion. It’s not a commandment, it’s an invitation to rest.
There is something wonderful in the words “come to me.” The same God who called out “where are you?” to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden as they hid in shame, has now become flesh and bids all sinners to come to him. In the words “come to me” Jesus is inviting the whole world to stop hiding. He is telling sinners everywhere that they do not need to be afraid. He is proclaiming the good news that he has come to put an end to laboring to be loved by God. This is no law.
This God who describes himself as gentle and humble of heart is asking weary sinners to come and be joined to him. To be yoked to everything he is. To walk with him and to learn from him. He desires to give us rest and to teach us what it means to be in right relationship with God again. This is no law.
The words “come to me” are spoken by one greater than Joseph who first spoke them when he revealed his identity to his brothers. There was a great famine in the land and finding themselves at the brink of starvation and death they journeyed to Egypt to buy food, only to discover that their fate is in the hands of the brother they rejected, betrayed, and sold into slavery. And yet Joseph speaks these words to them: “Come near to me, please. Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because of everything you’ve done. God sent me to preserve your life.” (Gen 45:4-5) This is no law.
The words “come to me” are not spoken to few select people. They are not directed at the worthy or righteous. They are words sent out to ALL who labor and are heavy laden. They are for the tired, weary, and beat down. They are for the bruised reeds and the flickering wicks. They are for those who can bring nothing but the wreckage of their sin and shame. They are for the sick, the sufferer, and the sinner. They are for Joseph’s brothers. They are for you. They demand nothing and offer everything. They are spoken by the one sent to preserve your life. They are no law.