Christ calls us to Rest
Christ Calls Us to Rest (Matthew 11:28-30)
The Lord Jesus is the inexhaustible Person. Only He can stand before all times and places with an offer to give everyone who comes to Him rest. We can hardly sustain ourselves and those who need us. For us the weariness of sustaining one other in deep need depletes. Unlike us, Jesus offers a river of rest that runs ever afresh from its highland sources. His offer never diminishes or abates. The more He gives rest the more He seems to have to give.
Jesus offers us the initial rest of salvation. We can never rest until we know for certain that guilt and alienation from God have been removed. But beyond that, Jesus gives us the rest we find in discipleship. There is a deeper rest beyond the initial rest. That is the rest of wearing His yoke. Jesus offers initial and continual rest to all who come to Him.
Jesus Offers Rest in Salvation
Every religious movement and each spiritual leader offers rest. Even philosophical schools claim to give satisfaction from the tensions of life. Towering over them all, Jesus promises rest to everyone weary of the struggle for meaningful existence.
Jesus offers His rest in a great invitation: "Come to me. . . . "His word is both a command that pushes us and an invitation that draws us. This is an invitation from Jesus' sovereignty. Only Jesus has the royal authority to command us to approach Him. Consider how absurd these words would sound from anyone else. His words ring with an urgency. It could be translated "Hither to me, now." Life traps us in a bog of sloth. Unless Christ crisply calls us up and out, we sink. Our Lord's invitation is to a personality, not just a theology. He does not call us to an institution, organization, ceremony, or ritual. He calls us to Himself. Two verses reverberate with the personal pronouns me, I, my. Rest comes only from the person of Christ.
Jesus offers rest specifically to those invited, those who are actively toiling and those passively loaded down in life. Besides those who live on the merely animal level, most experience the toil and weight of life. In our toil we seek fulfillment in human work. But work becomes labor and labor becomes toil. Beyond our jobs, there is a lacerating toil to find meaning in human existence. On top of this, we passively bear the loads of life. The loads include the religious expectations placed on us by others. Religion can place burden on our relief (Matt. 23:4), while others command from you what they themselves cannot perform (Acts 15:10). Jesus invites those who are exhausted in the rat race of religion and bent over with the dead weight of impossible expectations.
Jesus' intention is indeed spiritual rest. The source of this rest is personal, "I [myself] will give you rest" (v. 28). Spiritual rest does not come from reflection, ritual, or religious activity. Rest comes from the Person of Jesus Christ. In that regard His rest is contrasted with the promises of others. Unlike the Pharisees, He can give the power to be and to do what He requires. Christians experience rest-in-relationship.
The significance of His rest is that of pause, recovery, refreshment. Christ gives rest from guilt, disfavor with God, and bondage to our own lusts. His cross rests us from guilt. His righteousness attributed to us rests us from disfavor with God. His life in us releases us from bondage to desire.
Jesus Offers Rest in Submission
Beyond the initial rest of salvation, there is a deeper rest in submission. At the beginning of the Christian life we experience recovery. Under the continuing lordship of Christ, we enter into deep rest. We discover the paradox—Christ places a yoke on us that lifts us up.
We should face the necessity of a yoke. Absolute freedom is absolute illusion. To be "free" in such a way is to experience the bondage of self-absorption, live life on the level of mere self-satisfaction. That is a yoke that chafes and drags down. You will wear a yoke—your own, someone else's, or the yoke of Christ.
We may experience the superiority of Jesus' yoke. By Jesus' time, the word "yoke" was already a common term for discipline, obligation, instruction. To wear Jesus' yoke means to learn from Him, to become His disciple. This learning has to do with His Person, learning about Him from the Gospels and experiencing Him in the circumstances of daily life. Self-satisfaction and self-delusion harness us with a yoke that exhausts. Jesus places on us a yoke that lifts us up. It is like harnessing yourself in a hang glider—a moment of weight and then the strange unseen uplift.
There is a simplicity in Jesus' yoke. That simplicity is one of method and manner. He is gentle and mild. Compared to the unapproachable, hard, and haughty teachers that sometimes represented God, Jesus receives us with meekness. He is not proud, impulsive, ambitious, or desiring dominion over the minds of people. This is not merely true of the external demeanor of Jesus, but pierces to His very heart. Some may assume an attitude of humility. He is the very essence of it.
The significance of the rest resides in its quality. His easy yoke and light burden gives rest to the soul. The cry of the Old Testament was, "Ask where the good way is, and, . . . you will find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16). This great invitation to rest preceded the cross. Jesus does not tell us how He will provide the rest. We see that in His death, resurrection, and presence (Rom. 5:1; 8:1). It is enough that He promises. When we know the who, we need not wonder about the how.