Rest for your Souls (2)June 18, 2013
In the previous post we began by looking at what it means when Jesus beckons us to come to him to find rest for our souls. We looked at those to whom the invitation was given and precisely what it means to “come” to Jesus. We are now prepared to finish our meditation on this incredible passage.
(3) If we come to Jesus, what does he promise to provide?
- Rest = the soul’s sigh of relief that comes from experiencing release from the anxiety of constantly wondering whether or not I’ve done enough to gain favor with God.
- Rest = the soul’s sigh of relief that comes from never again fearing death as some dark and unknown termination.
- Rest = the soul’s sigh of relief in knowing that even if everyone else abandons me, God never will.
- Rest = the soul’s sigh of relief in trusting the perfect and finished work of Christ for me rather than trusting the imperfect and never-ending effort on my part to work for Christ.
- Rest = the soul’s sigh of relief that comes when you forsake the endless and ultimately empty demands of religion and find everlasting peace and joy and hope in what God has done for you in Jesus.
And listen carefully: Jesus promises to “give” you rest, not “pay” you rest. You don’t merit rest by coming; you simply receive it as a gift. We are undeserving of rest. If justice were the only dynamic at play here, we would be forever left to our burdens and weariness and spiritual anxiety, for that is precisely what we deserve and have brought on ourselves. Rest is a gift of divine grace and mercy!
(4) Why should we come to Jesus if in doing so we are placed under yet another yoke, under another burden?
The word translated “yoke” referred to a device that harnessed two animals together to pull a plow or a cart. A human yoke was worn by a single person to distribute the weight of a load across the shoulders. Although it sounds like a paradox, Jesus is offering to everyone who labors under an oppressive burden to come to him and take upon their souls yet another burden, but one that will actually bring relief and joy and peace and delight!
How can this be? How can the “yoke” and the “burden” that comes from following Jesus bring to us the opposite of the many burdens that we carry throughout life? That doesn’t appear to make any sense. The answer is found in passages such as Philippians 2:12-13 and Hebrews 13:20-21, where we are assured that whatever he calls upon us to do he more than abundantly supplies the power and grace and strength and energy and incentive to make it happen.
What, then, is the “yoke” or the “burden” that Jesus calls upon us to embrace? It is “learning” from him what it means to follow his lead and pursue his glory and embrace the life that he calls us to live. But this learning does not bring weariness or frustration but rest.
The “rest” Jesus offers does not mean a relaxation of biblical or ethical demands (indeed, Jesus calls for more; see Mt. 5:20). This has nothing to do with vacation time or lounging on a couch or sloth at poolside. But it offers a new relationship with God which makes it possible to fulfill them.
What about descriptions of the Christian life that involve commands like “fight the good fight” and “strive to enter by the narrow gate” and “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”? How can the Christian life involve fighting, striving, and working and yet Jesus say that his yoke is “easy” and his burden is “light”?
The answer is found in the glorious biblical principle, whatever God requires, he provides!
So, yes, there is a “burden” and there is a “yoke” when you come to Jesus. But there is something about Jesus and what he promises to do for you that makes his “light” and “easy”. What is it?
Simply this: with every command, with every imperative, with every exhortation to you and me, Jesus comes to us with every ounce of his omnipotent power and puts it to work in and through us to fulfill what he calls on us to do.
So again, the reason this burden/yoke is easy and light is because Jesus first captivates us with the beauty and splendor of who he is and then abundantly supplies us with the power to do all that he asks. This is what the Apostle John had in mind when he wrote in 1 John 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
The easy yoke frees us from the burden of self-centeredness and the heaviness of self-righteousness. It frees us from self-serving, meritorious, performance-based religion.
Consider how utterly opposite and antithetical Jesus is to the typical religious leader or philosopher. They say:
“Come unto me so that you may join with others in carrying my burden. Come to me because I need you. Come to me so that I may take ownership of your resources. Come to me to serve me. Come to me so that I can off-load my heavy, burdensome responsibilities onto your shoulders. Come to me so that I can put you to work on my behalf.”
Jesus calls us to himself for precisely the opposite reasons. He says:
“Come to me so that I may carry your burden together with that of others who join you in trusting in my grace and my promise. Come to me, not because I need you but because you need me. Come to me and I will supply all your needs. Come to me because the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. Come to me so that I can off-load from your soul all the fears and burdens and anxieties that weigh you down and put them on my shoulders. Come to me so that I can work on your behalf to do what you cannot.”
And all this comes to reality when you “learn” from Jesus. Merely coming to Jesus isn’t enough. You must learn from him. Rest comes from learning: learning who he is, what he’s like, how he serves us, how he supplies us, how he is glorified in our satisfaction in him. We must learn from Jesus about grace and kindness and goodness and power.
(5) What is it about Jesus that makes this invitation appealing and reasonable and wise?
He is “gentle and lowly in heart” (v. 29). He does not beckon us to come because he is ferocious and imposing and the classic example of a Type A personality!
Meek and lowly in heart means that he does not regard himself as above those who are in need of him. He condescends to all. He never responded to anyone as if it were beneath his dignity to stoop down and help them up.
Though he knows everything, he gladly receives the ignorant. Though he is morally perfect, he gladly receives the immoral reprobate. Though he is infinitely powerful, he gladly receives the pathetically weak. Though he is wise, he receives the fool. If the ignorant and immoral and weak and foolish will say, “I have nowhere else to go, no one to whom I can turn, no answer for my questions, no goodness to replace my guilt; I look to Jesus alone to provide for me what my soul most desperately needs," Jesus will gladly receive him.
“Let not conscience make you linger;
Nor of fitness fondly dream.
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him.”
Do you feel your need for him? Then come.