Transcript of Midweek Meditations podcast episode aired on Wednesday, 8th July 2020.
Religion. It’s such a loaded word. Yet, try as we may, we can’t escape it. Even if you say to people, “Jesus isn’t about religion,” that’s not entirely true. The very definition of religion is: “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power.” If you take Jesus at his word—he calls people to believe in him and believe he has superhuman controlling power—that’s religion.
But, the religion Jesus offers is something different. In Matthew 11, Jesus criticises certain towns where he performed miracles because they don’t repent. But then, he praises God the Father for revealing the truth to little children. What’s this truth? The truth is that you can only know God the Father through Jesus the Son (Matthew 11:27). That’s religion.
What’s different about this religion though? Well, let’s take a look and meditate on Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:28–30:
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.Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV)
Who are the weary and burdened? It’s those who are sick and tired of religion. What’s the problem with religion? The problem with religion is it requires the believer or worshipper to achieve life.
Whether that’s through following a set of laws, performing a set of rituals, or living life pursuing some unattainable level of goodness. The problem of religion is people. It’s tiring to follow a set of laws perfectly. It’s a burden to perform rituals repeatedly. It’s near impossible to be so focused on doing good all the time.
So, what’s the difference with Jesus? How can Jesus offer something different? He substitutes his goodness and perfection for our failure and weakness. He doesn’t ask us to be good and perfect. No, he gives us his status as good and perfect.
That’s why the Cross is so important. Jesus goes to the Cross to crucify our sin—our brokenness, failures, and weaknesses. He crushes them on the Cross and then offers us his good and perfect status before God. That’s what we call ‘grace,’ the undeserved favour of God.
Do you get that? Do you understand that you no longer need to prove yourself to God? You no longer need to prove yourself to people? You no longer need to prove yourself to you? In God’s eyes, because of what Jesus did for you—you’re good, you’re perfect.
That’s why Jesus says that he will give you rest, because you don’t need to keep trying to gain life. Jesus already did it for you. You can rest knowing it’s all done.
Is that it though? Can we take life easy now? Do we put life on cruise control and enjoy life? Yes. And, no. Jesus ends by saying, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
A yoke is a frame used to connect two animals to increase their capacity to work. By working together, they can do more. Jesus doesn’t just give us rest and leave us to enjoy the fields of life. Jesus gives us rest, but also calls us to work.
BUT! But…this work is easy and light. To put it simply, we work with Jesus. We’re yoked to Jesus to do the work of God. What we need to remember though is that this work isn’t the goal of religion—that is, trying to prove ourselves to God. To work for and with Jesus isn’t about earning extra credit points or proving yourself. There’s no KPIs, there’s no performance reports, there’s no work audits. No, it’s simply joining in the work of Jesus in this world. (A discussion for another time.) The point is though, this work is easy and light.
This is the religion Jesus offers. Will you come to him? Find rest in the life he died to give you. Receive the grace achieved by his blood. Know that you no longer need to prove yourself to God, to people, to anyone…including yourself. Will you join Jesus in his work? It’s easy work, it’s light work. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus. We thank you for your grace, your undeserved favour in our lives. Help us to receive it daily, knowing we no longer need to prove ourselves.
Lord Jesus, help us to rest in your completed work on the Cross. Help us to see that you’ve given us your status before God, we’re good and perfect before him. Thank you for standing before the throne of God interceding on our behalf.
Holy Spirit, renew in us afresh the truth of your Word. May it dwell deep within us, refreshing our soul. Turn our eyes upon Jesus, who is gentle and humble in heart.
This we ask in his precious name, amen.