It is true that we who are in Christ still await our eternal rest (ponder Hebrews chapters 4-5, 8, & 11). It is also true that, with the Kingdom of God truly at hand, a foretaste of that rest is ours in Christ.
In verses 20-24 Jesus reminds the crowds that He performed an incredible amount and variety of miracles proving that He fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies, He is the long awaited Messiah. He is God With Us, and is the perfect Mediator. Yet, “He came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Jesus tells them something you or I would consider harsh and “judgmental” yet–it stands: that if Sodom had seen these miracles they would have turned and worshiped and loved the One True God with their whole being. How many miracles had these crowds in Capernaum seen?
Just looking at Matthew 8-9 and Mark 1 alone we learn: the Centurion’s servant was healed, Peter’s Mother in law was healed, the whole town came for healing and exorcism, the storm was stilled, a paralytic was healed, Jairus’ daughter was brought back to life (yes, she had died); the hemorrhaging woman was healed, two blind men were healed, one mute and demon possessed man was healed, another demon possessed man was healed, and again the whole city came with all who were ill or demon possessed and witnessed great miracles.
Oh, is that all? If you think you need a miracle for your faith to grow, you are wrong. It is not a lack of miracles that hardens our hearts. It is sin. We need to listen to His call, and come to Him. We need to trust His words. We need to take heed to what Peter says is “more sure” (see 2 Peter 1:19-21).
Abide in His Call
Matthew 11:25-30 Here I quote only verse 27-30: All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavey-laden, and I will give you rest. 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.
Jesus quotes here from Jeremiah 6:16, but to understand this rest we also turn to Jeremiah 33, and understand both passages in light of the whole book. Remember Jesus was not interested in being tweeted or shortened to a soundbyte. His Word is not reducable to a slogan or catch phrase.
What makes one weary and heavy laden? Selfishness. Pride. Striving. Oppression. Injustice. Physical hindrances to well being. Hope deferred. Shattered relationships. Fear. Anxiety. This list is not exhaustive.
He gives rest. He came to bring release, refreshing, and renewal. He brings us into abundant life.
Rest is connected to work, but not striving. We find the ancient paths and walk in them. We come to Him, He abides in us, and we are made fruitful (John 15). We are filled, and led by the Spirit; enabled to finally obey the law of love (see Romans 8, James 1-2). For further reading on this see chapter 8 of “The Whole Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson (or come to my home for a cup of coffee and we’ll look into it together). Consider how a yoke is put on as a task was to begin? The oxen were yoked to plow, or pull–not to sleep.
When Jesus releases the yoke of our oppressor, of our sin, of our whatever was the heavy burden we seek release from–we can skip about like a calf out of the stall (see Malachi 4), yet we do not run away or run amok, we need Him. We come under the yoke of our God who is gracious, compassionate, abounding in hesed, ready to forgive and help and sustain us.
His Yoke is easy and His burden light; His yoke is the law of love. We are called into it, told later to abide in it, and can learn from Him how to walk in love. A fruitful meditation for this season is John 13-17; wherein we learn that we not only love one another as we want to be loved–but must go further. The Spirit leads you in this, if He dwells in you. You and I are now called to go beyond, and to love one another as Jesus loved us.
Union with Christ
His yoke is a call to lay down our lives and truly find them. We die with Him, we live with Him. We cease striving because we are no longer in Adam trying to survive in this post Genesis 3 world. We are in Christ, united to Him, part of His Body, united to all who are in Christ’s Body. We find rest for our souls in His love, we abide in His love. We do not “hope” to survive, or make it just another day. Our hope is in heaven. Our hope is secure.
Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf (again, Romans 8, but also Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2) not to rid the world of law, but draw us into abiding in Him–and walking in His Spirit, and trusting that love really does fulfill the law (Romans 13), becoming fruitful in obedience to the Lawgiver and Lifegiving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Ceremonies that pointed toward His coming are done; the separation between Jew and Gentile is no more; but His Law is a rule for life, and those united to Christ will find the burden light–as His Spirit leads and guides.