In honor of spring break, we also took a small break from our Spiritual Disciplines study. This week, we looked at a few verses in Matthew speaking of finding true rest in Jesus.
In Matthew 11:28–30, right before a series of stories that push back on the Pharisees’ strict Sabbath views, Jesus calls all who would hear to find true rest in Him: “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.”
It is likely that when Jesus speaks of those who labor and are heavy laden (or carrying heavy burdens), He is at least in part speaking about those who are weary from trying to uphold the Pharisees’ take on the Law. To those who are weary from following all of the rules that guard against breaking the rules that guard against breaking the Law, the way of Jesus will give them rest as they “learn” from Him (v. 29). His teaching of the Law is not an easy one to follow (see Matthew 5–7), but He teaches the true heart of the Law, and therefore the heart of God, and there is rest to be found in that. The idea of taking His yoke also makes me wonder if this is a promise that He will share the weight of obedience and faith with us.
But while He is likely talking in part of the weight and burden of the Law, I think He is also talking about life in general. Even aside from religious pressures of His day (and of ours today), life in general can be a wearisome and heavy burden upon people. Whether it is the stress of school work, of fitting in, of family strife, or whatever else, many or all of us feel weary and burdened in our souls. It is for this too that His promise applies. If your soul is weary, He can give you rest. If you come to Him as your Savior, to learn from him, to pour your weary soul out to His gentle and lowly (humble) heart, He will give rest to your soul.
This rest does not mean lounging on a porch swing for the rest of your life. It does not mean there will be no more labor, no more striving, or no more sorrow. But it is an invitation to work, to wait, and to endure in the way that we were created to. The work of following Jesus and learning from him is good, and even in that work there is rest.
This message hit my soul deeply this week. Life is tiresome, and often a struggle. If we are not trusting in Jesus and pouring out our souls’ struggles to Him, we will indeed be weary and bear heavy burdens. But if we come to Him and cling to Him, He will make our burden easier (not take it away), and give rest to our souls—something we all need.