Weekends, holidays, vacation time — we want rest! Today we have more time off than people of any age. But some still think that the time they have for rest is little for so much work and responsibility.
Our problem is that the rest we need is for the soul.
In the greater context of chapters 11-12 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus condemns the Jews for not accepting God’s emissaries (John the Immerser and himself) and for creating and imposing upon others their religious rules. To those willing to accept it, Jesus offers rest for the soul, with these conditions:
1. Accepting the simplicity of God’s wisdom, Matthew 11.25-26
The scholars are know-nothings. The wise of this world need to wise up. The learned love theories and theologies. They engage in speculation and fake news. The march for science proclaims the ignorance of the human race. Not only do they not know God’s revelation, but it has been hidden from them. They cannot find it. All their turnings and twistings only serve to conceal that rest for the soul that God offers.
It’s the little ones, the humble, who accept God’s revelation. They know that they of themselves know nothing. They go to God for guidance. They are receptive to divine enlightenment. Rest comes from accepting the simple teaching revealed by the Father.
2. Submitting to the exclusiveness of Jesus’ revelation, Matthew 11.27.
Everything good that God has for man has been delivered into Jesus’ hands. Only Jesus can give rest for the soul, because it comes with all the things received from the Father. Jesus is the exclusive distributor of rest.
We will receive rest only through obedience to Jesus as Lord — and not merely by mouthing his name. Jesus is the only way to God, John 14.6. In Christ is all God’s fullness (salvation, blessing), Colossians 1.19; 2.9-10.
3. Exchanging our weights for Jesus’ yoke, Matthew 11.28-30.
We must throw aside what weighs us down. Those weights may be sin, guilt, fear, worry, ambition, or any number of thoughts or things. This must be given up in order to take on Jesus’ yoke. The shoulders that bear their own collection of burdens find no place for the yoke of Christ.
His yoke represents connection to himself, relationship with him, discipleship, submission to his authority. It also represents work. It means that God’s work and the purpose we find in Christ serve as our rest.
How do we enter into this rest, into Christ, where all the things of God reside? By receiving God’s revelation, by trusting in his promises, by giving up our own burdensome thoughts and habits, by diving into his death, burial, and resurrection, in the purifying water of obedience.
We rest when Christ is all. We rest when he abides in the heart. We rest when we learn from Jesus in his gentleness and humility of heart. We rest when we take on his yoke and give him the reins of our lives.
The day of rest can be today. Rest for the soul is for the taking, for the willing.