Rest In Jesus
July 9, 2023 |Rest In Jesus |Matthew 11:28-30
This past week, while both girls were at GA camp, Brittany and I took Lincoln to Dallas, which in our family requires an obligatory stop in Terrell at Buc-ees.
You know Buc-ees, right? If not, just imagine that somebody crammed a gas station, a reststop, a Walmart, and a restaurant into one building, and then installed the largest, cleanest restrooms you have ever seen and you will have some idea what it’s like. It’s a magical place if you are a kid. There are not a whole lot of places where you can buy a toy, get a bag of beef jerky, a fresh pastry, and meet someone in a giant beaver costume in under 10 minutes.
When I was a kid, stopping on a trip was a whole different experience. IF my dad stopped, it was at one of the little rest areas that had a really gross bathroom and a vending machine that he said was too expensive to get anything out of, but mom might get you something if you had been good, right?
But whether it's an uncommonly hot little gross bathroom or a giant convenience store, the point is the same. You need a place to stop and rest for a minute on your trip. To stretch your legs and take a break from driving, to rest for a minute before you get back on the road.
Sometimes we need a minute to rest and sometimes we need to stop and spend the night to rest, but we all know what it is like to need to rest.
Not just driving, we build in rests in our day to day lives. Lunch breaks, coffee breaks, weekends, holidays. Time to rest from our normal day to day labors.
God modeled rest for us when he rested on the seventh day. It was so important to him that he commanded his people to set aside a whole day for rest. We need rest as human beings.
Jesus uses the idea of physical rest in our text today to speak about the greater need in men and women for spiritual rest. Twice he talks about rest in Matthew 11:28-30 which we are going to look at under the divisions a rest received, and a rest realized.
Grab your bibles and turn with me there now. Matthew 11, at verse 28.
We are looking at what it means to rest in Jesus.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, [and] I will give you rest.
A Rest Received
There is a sense in which this speech is a pattern of Jesus’ invitations where Jesus himself is the answer to our greatest needs.
John 7:37-38 (ESV) “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 6:35 (ESV) 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
There is a universality to his statements, right? Everyone knows what it is like to thirst, everyone knows what it is like to be hungry. These are part of the common human experience.
Similarly, laboring and struggling in life is a common enough experience. Most of us know what it is like to work too long or too hard, most of us have felt burdens financially, familially, or socially.
We also know intuitively that he is referencing something beyond the physical, don’t we?
We don’t expect coming to Jesus to physically satisfy us in the sense that our bodies no longer need fuel in the form of food, we don’t expect coming to Jesus to physically satisfy us in the sense that we no longer need water for our physical bodies.
We know that he is referencing a spiritual thirst, a spiritual hunger that is not able to be satisfied by the things of the world.
A longing to be free of the bondage of sin, a longing to be in right relationship to our creator, a sense of unrest and dissatisfaction as long as we are separated from God.
Now, those who are lost would not articulate it that way, they may not even understand what is going on in their lives, but the evidence is there nonetheless.
A string of toxic relationships or one night stands, recurring bouts with drugs or abusing alchohol, jumping from job to job, addicted to buying the new; new houses, new cars, new clothes, new phones, constantly trying to fill a void in their life, the hunger, the thirst for something bigger than the world has to offer. Constantly unsatisfied. This is the human experience apart from God. I think it is why Jesus uses imagery that provokes our understanding of desiring something as normal as water or as regular as food.
It is my belief that he is addressing the same thing in our text today, but from a different perspective. One that touches on our attempts to meet this inner need in our own strength and in our own ways.
Let’s look together at the way Jesus implores men and women to stop what they are doing and come to him.
Come to me- the language used here is interesting to me.
This is not a command, you will not find an imperative tense until verse 29 in the form of ‘take’, in take my yoke, rather this word translated come is an adverbial interjection, something that grabs attention. It is an invitation.
To whom? All who labor and are heavy laden.
This is one of the most beautiful invitations in scripture.
One of the things that makes it beautiful is that it comes shortly after Jesus makes a statement referencing God’s sovereignty and divine choice in revealing himself.
Matthew 11:27 (ESV) All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Further clarifying his praise of the Father recorded in verse 25 that God has divinely chosen to conceal things from some and reveal them to others.
This is commonly referred to as the doctrines of predestination and election and is something that every Christian must affirm because it is clearly taught in our holy scriptures. What is commonly debated is not whether or not God predestines, but on what basis he elects. We will not get into that this morning because it would take us beyond our text, but suffice it to say that Jesus here attributes the choice to the Father and to the Son who chooses who to reveal the Father to.
Immediately after that statement, Jesus makes this one. Come to me, all…
Jesus first states that he alone has the ability to reveal the Father to anyone he chooses and then he states that he has the will to reveal him to all who would come.
It is beautiful, not just in its scope, ‘all’, but to whom the invitation is issued.
All who are worth it? No
All who are wise and understanding? No
All who are powerful, wealthy, important? No, no, and no.
All who labor and are heavy laden.
These two words are related and yet distinct enough to warrant a closer look at them individually.
Those who labor- to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief)to labor with wearisome effort, to toil; of bodily labor
This verb is in the present active form in the Greek signifying an ongoing action. ‘All those currently experiencing weariness from laboring.’
And who are heavy laden- to place a burden upon, to load; metaph. to load one with a burden (of rites and unwarranted precepts)
This verb is in the perfect passive form in the Greek signifying something that has been done in the past but still has ongoing effects. ‘Those that have been placed under a burden.’
Taken together the sense is one who has grown weary with the effort to carry the burden placed on them.
We have to ask at this point, what is the burden that he is referring to?
Later in Matthew 23, he refers to the burdens that are placed on the people by their religious leaders.
Matthew 23:1-4 (ESV) 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
The scribes and Pharisees took the law that God had given his people and added to it so that ‘rest from your labors on the Sabbath day’ became a list of things you could and could not do on the Sabbath. Things as tedious as ‘a man could write a two-letter word, but not a three-letter word on the day, for three letters would constitute labor.’
One commentator illustrated it this way for a modern audience.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC)
Drunkenness is a sin. Therefore, one must never drink alcohol.
It is best, to avoid temptation, not even to use wine or sherry in cooking.
To avoid impurity, one must always check the ingredients of all prepared food. At restaurants, we must also inquire about cooking wine.
Just in case a restaurateur would give an erroneous answer to the question above, the faithful should not even dine at a restaurant that has alcohol on the premises.
Now, imagine the treatment of every one of God’s good commands this way. Trying to keep the law became burdensome and indeed you can imagine wearisome.
The scribes and Pharisees taught a religion, a way to God that promoted works as the way to be right with God, apart from which salvation was not possible. This was the burden they laid on the people of God.
Peter, through coming to Jesus realized that the law was a burden lifted by Christ. We know this because he says as much in the Jerusalem council. (context)
Acts 15:10 (ESV) 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
Peter says, we as Jews could not perfectly keep the law, our father’s as Jews could not perfectly keep the law, why would you burden the Gentiles with that unbearable yoke?
So, let us return to the statement Jesus makes, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden…
Who is the all then? Those who labor and are heavy laden. What burden are they laboring under? Trying to fulfill the law. Why are they trying to fulfill the law? To experience salvation in God.
Who is the all then? Those that are aware of their need for salvation and are trying to accomplish it in their own power.
What does he offer to this group of men and women?
What they desperately need. Rest.
Rest here means exactly what you think it does.
Rest- to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength;
to give rest, refresh, to give one's self rest, take rest
How will they get this rest?
It will not be from completing their labors. That is impossible.
It will not be from abandoning their labors. That would be to give up on a legitimate need, to be right with God.
No, it will be given to them by Christ.
A gift is inherently not something that is earned, but received.
To come to Jesus is to receive rest from your attempts at being right with God.
Because Jesus has already perfectly and fully kept the law. Scripture tells us that he was without sin, that is he never violated God’s perfect law, he was never outside of God’s will.
Jesus died in the place of man so that his righteousness might be imputed to us. He took our sin on the cross, bearing the weight of it so that we might come to him and rest from our attempts to earn the unearnable, by receiving what he and he alone could ever earn.
Jesus essentially says, that inner desire to try and be right with God, the desire that leads us to religion or to philanthropy or to self improvement, is not wrong, it is just misplaced.
That inner desire that tells you something is wrong, is good and Godly, just stop trying to meet it in your own power and come to the only one who can meet it and receive rest from your labors.
However, as Jesus says next, this does not mean there is nothing for us to do, no labor for us to be about. This first rest is a rest received that frees us from trying to secure salvation in our own power. Jesus offers another rest in our next verse.
29 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. 30 [For] my yoke is easy, [and] my burden is light.”
A Rest Realized
Jesus unyokes us from the impossible burden of the law and then invites us to a different kind of labor.
As I mentioned in the beginning, this is our first imperative, our first command of our text.
Take my yoke upon you- The yoke comes from the agricultural world.
In its simplest form it is a wooden cross beam that connects two animals to one another for the purpose of working together to accomplish a task such as plowing or pulling.
In the Old Testament the imagery of yoke became synonymous with the burden of enslavement. It is used to describe the enslavement of God’s people to foreign powers. In Jewish literature some rabbis used the imagery to refer to any burden, whether good or bad. It is this imagery that Jesus employs now.
Take my burden upon you, you will find the yoke easy and the burden light.
Jesus seemingly employs a secondary agricultural picture when he issues the command, learn from me.
At least as I understand it, it was a common practice to yoke together an experienced animal with one who needed to be trained. The idea is that by being connected to one who knew the way, the inexperienced animal would learn what to do.
Jesus then doesn’t simply offer us a new yoke, but invites us to share his yoke to learn from him.
To follow him, as a disciple, as a learner, a pupil who seeks to be like his master. This is the essence of being a Christian.
He highlights first what we will learn from him and two what the experience will be like for us.
First he says, after you take up my yoke, to learn from me, you will find that I am gentle and lowly in heart.
Gentle- mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness
Lowly in heart- humble in heart
In what opposition Jesus stands not only to the culture of those not only in his day, but in our day as well.
The way to satisfaction in life is to be aggressive, to look out for number one, to push, pull, or claw our way to the top. The way to happiness is a high sense of self, because after all, you deserve it, right?
This is natural to us, the message resonates with our sinful, selfish hearts. It doesn’t take much to convince someone to try and get what they want or that they deserve what they want.
Especially in places like America, where there is an abundance of opportunity and wealth to be had. Even the poorest in our culture can have it better than millions of people around the world. Rather than being satisfied with what we have, whether enough for the day or enough for a lifetime, it is never enough to satisfy.
You no doubt have heard the story of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard Oil Company, the first billionaire of the United States of America and once the richest man on Earth was asked by a reporter, “How much money is enough?” He calmly replied, “Just a little bit more”.
We may balk at the idea of having a billion dollars and it not being enough, but there are millions of people in the world that would be just as flabbergasted when we change a well paying secure job for a new one for just a little more money, when we trade in a perfectly good phone because the new one has just a little more features, or a car for a newer model with just a little more, speed, comfort, class. They would not understand the amount of food that we throw away because we bought too much. The list goes on and on.
I am convinced if we took anyone from any impoverished country and had them follow any one of us in this building this morning around for a week, they would come to the conclusion, will it ever be enough for them?
I highlight this desire for more because it is so often closely related to self-interest and assertiveness as well as a prideful elevated spirit that is so common in man. The consumer mindset is driven by self-interest and self-inflated sense of being.
You can learn that from anyone, but Jesus offers a different lesson.
He invites us to follow in his gentle and humble ways.
We could easily spend an entire sermon examining the examples of these characteristics of our Lord, but for this morning, let’s just look at a quick summary from
Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
It is easy to see our Lord’s humility in this verse, but do not miss his gentleness.
The way of his humble obedience so succinctly summarized here encompasses the gentle way he loved, served, and taught Judas, who he knew would betray him. The gentle way he bore insult and the many attempts on his life. The gentle way he accepted the imperfect worship of a woman with a bad reputation, the gentle way he called the promiscuous Samaritan woman to repentance, the gentle way he healed one of the servants ears that was struck by Peter in his arrest, the gentle way he restored Peter on the beach after his denial, his gentle reproach of Thomas who doubted his resurrection.
In his most aggressive and most zealous encounter, we still find gentleness. Yes, he braided a whip and yes he ran out the money changers and overturned tables, but think about the power that he had.
He could have spoken the word and struck every one of them down. He could have just as easily resisted his betrayal, his arrest, his trials, and his crucifixion, and yet he bore it all with a gentle spirit.
This is what he would have us learn. This is the way of a follower of Christ.
Every time we selfishly assert ourselves, everytime we prop ourselves up with new and better things, everytime we aggressively put ourselves first, we pull against the yoke of our master.
Everytime we buy into the lie that we deserve something other than what we have, every time we elevate ourselves higher than we should, everytime we unjustifiably place ourselves over another, we pull against the yoke of our master.
What burden we must be as he patiently corrects and directs his followers, and yet, where a lesser man would grow weary, a lesser man would throw in the towel, here is the promise.
Even in the midst of our stubbornness, he is gentle. He continues to call us to follow him, to keep in step with him, to pull in the right direction. Thank goodness for a gentle master, amen?
As we walk with him we learn from his gentleness and his meekness.
Secondly, Jesus explains what the experience will be like for us.
My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Easy- manageable; mild, pleasant (as opp. to harsh, hard sharp, bitter)of things: more pleasant, of people, kind, benevolent.
What a contrast!
Come to me, those who are wearied by their heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Now take my yoke upon you and learn from me understanding that the work is easy and the burden is light.
This is what the apostle John wrote later in life.
1 John 5:3 (ESV) 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
John, weren’t you persecuted? John, didn’t you have to watch your brothers and sisters be martyred? John, didn’t you get exiled for your faith?
Yes friend, but the burden is light when you are walking with Jesus.
It’s almost inconceivable, except that John had found what Jesus tells us we will find when we take up his yoke and walk with him in obedience.
You will find rest for your souls.
Rest can also mean quiet, calm, expectation, which is a perfect explanation of the Christian life lived in light of the rest we have been given in Christ.
For your souls- an everlasting rest in the finished work of Christ evidenced by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Notice with me that Jesus says this rest is one that we find, which differentiates it from the rest he gives those who come. Spurgeoun described it like this. Imagine a beautiful golden box adorned with the most precious jewels. As you examine it, as you contemplate its beauty, as you run your hands over its exquisite form, one day you discover a secret compartment that once opened contains the most precious of jewels. It was yours from the beginning, but only by searching did you discover the depth and wealth of the original gift.
If you have come to Jesus, you have been given the gift of rest from your struggle to save yourself. As you walk in obedience to Christ, as you learn from him gentleness, as you learn humility, you find that his rest is so much bigger than just rest from trying to earn God’s favor.
It is rest from the world’s mission to consume more, it is rest from the world’s message of self-centered living, it is rest from the world’s mindset of constant activity and constant stimulation.
It is an invitation to live a life of quiet, calm, expectation that God will set all things right.
That as we labor with and for our Lord, we are laboring for things that have eternal value.
This life is the abundant life Jesus came to give.
Many of you have experienced the first rest when you came to Jesus, but many of you are not experiencing the rest for your souls that Jesus promised. Your life is lacking joy and peace, your attitude is lacking gentleness and patience, your relationships are lacking love, kindness, and self-control. You know it should not be this way, but it is.
Because you have not responded to his invitation to take his yoke upon you, to follow him completely with your life or you are too busy trying to be yoked to Jesus but still follow in the ways of the world and so you experience neither freedom to live how you want or peace in following Jesus. Friends, it is not supposed to be this way.
Christ did not just save you from something, he saved you to something. He gives you rest and offers you a chance to find deeper and deeper expressions of his rest as you follow him.
This morning there is a good chance that there are those here that need the rest that Jesus offers.
You have been trying to work to be good enough to experience salvation.
You are burdened beyond belief every day of your life, hear Jesus when he says come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Others have rested from trying to save themselves, but now they are trying to live the Christian life in their own power. You have found it cumbersome and difficult. This is not the experience Jesus desires for you. Today, decide to take up his yoke and learn from him, understanding that his yoke is easy and his burden is light and begin to find the rest your soul so desperately desires.