Comfortable Words

I wonder what mood you find yourself in right now. All of us have experienced a variety of moods in these last few months. At some point you will have felt tired, exhausted, anxious, fearful even. Into our context, whatever it may be, Jesus speaks the words we find in Matthew 11, verse 28.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

These words are familiar to many. They form part of the traditional communion service, where they are described as the “Comfortable Words”.

These are words of invitation; Jesus’ universal invitation to people everywhere to come to Him and to find rest in Him; … rest for our souls. These are comfortable words:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The challenging thing about the verses leading up to these words is that they contain uncomfortable words. In these uncomfortable words we find three warnings from Jesus before his gracious invitation. So, let’s look briefly at the warnings and then in some more detail at His gracious invitation.

A warning to those who want Jesus to dance to their tune

So firstly, we get a warning to those who want Jesus to dance to their tune. As Christians, we recog-nise Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We submit to his kingly rule in our lives.

But, in truth, there are people in every generation who are quick to tell Jesus what He really should do, and think, and say.

Some do not like his leniency, his apparent readiness and willingness to forgive others. They would like Jesus to take a tougher line with sinners, … but not the one facing them in the mirror!

Others think Jesus is too harsh a judge. They think he should be more understanding of how things are in our more enlightened age!

But Jesus is who He is. Jesus is as we find him in scripture. That is non-negotiable!

A warning to those who aren’t prepared to change their ways

Secondly, we get Jesus’ warning to people who are not prepared to change their ways. This warning is so uncomfortable that compilers of the lectionary decide leave it out.

Like John the Baptist before him, Jesus called people to repentance, to turn from their wicked ways and to turn back to God.

Here, Jesus denounces cities in which he exercised ministry, and performed miracles. He denounces the people in these cities because they will not repent and turn back to God.

These people might not have been overtly critical of him, but they were lost in their complacency, in their indifference to Him. “Woe to you!” he says. “Your time of judgement will come.”

A warning to those who think they know it all

Thirdly, we hear a warning to those who think they know it all.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

Knowledge can easily lead to pride, and a false sense of superiority. Here, Jesus is reminding us that spiritual truth is revealed by God. We only know certain truths about Jesus because they have been revealed to us. And we only know so much. This should keep us humble!

“But vicar,” you may ask, “Why the warnings? Why do we need these uncomfortable words? Why can’t we just have the nice bit about rest for our souls?”

We need the warnings because the critical, the complacent, and the arrogant can’t hear his kind and gracious invitation. Only when we recognise our need for Jesus will we be ready to respond.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Now, Jesus is not talking about a holiday, a good night’s sleep, or an afternoon nap! Good as these are, they are not the answer to our deepest need.

Jesus invites us to come to Him in repentance and faith, and to lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross. To exchange a weary and burdensome life of SIN … for His yoke of righteousness.

“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.”

We bring our disappointments, failures, guilt and resentment to the foot of the cross and we give it to Him.

We are then free take up His yoke, His way of righteousness, and to embrace life in all its fullness.

Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Let us pray.

Loving Father,

Thank you for offering rest for the weary:

Thank you that we can come to the foot of the cross,

lay our burdens before you, and receive rest for our souls.

Thank you for the promise of forgiveness and new life

that is freely available to all who come in faith

to Jesus Christ our Lord.


Revd Stephen Robertson

5th July 2020