Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Two things make us more weary than anything else we might do. One is sin; the other is trying to be holy through our own efforts. Sin is a heavy burden because it separates us from God, harms ourselves and others, leads to a cycle of addiction and bondage, and brings judgment and eternal consequences. The good news is that God offers forgiveness and redemption through faith in Jesus Christ, who took on the burden of our sins on the cross and gave us freedom and eternal life.
But being holy can also be a heavy burden if we don’t do it the right way. The Jews, for example, in their desire to show God how holy they were, added 613 commandments to the ten that God had given Moses and tried to follow them to the letter. And then they insisted others follow these laws too! Jesus scolded them, telling them that instead of helping people know God and follow his ways, they made following him a cumbersome and arduous task (see Matthew 23:3-5). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) emphasizes the true intent of the Law over the letter of the Law. We can make the same mistake today.
Jesus tells us he can give us rest from both. Are you burdened with sin? Turn to Christ in repentance. As Scripture says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). What a relief to be forgiven!
Are you burdened with trying to be holy? Jesus will take the pressure off you. How? He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). What’s a yoke? It is what binds two oxen together as they plow a field. Isn’t that adding a burden instead of taking it away? No. Imagine you are one of the two oxen, and Jesus is the other. Your burden disappears when you are yoked to Jesus because he is strong and can shoulder your entire load. Then, because you are yoked to him, you will go where he leads you, which is the path of holiness. Easy, yes? We will talk more about this when we choose to abide in Jesus.
There are other types of rest we need. God rested on the seventh day after creating the world (Genesis 2:2-3), establishing a pattern of work and rest. His fourth commandment instructs us to observe a day of rest and worship (Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus recognized the importance of rest and often withdrew to quiet places to pray and recharge (Mark 6:31, Luke 5:16). We need to rest. We can rest from fasting, so feel free to take a break tomorrow. I will rest from these reflections every Sunday, so you won’t hear from me until the day after. Let us choose to rest!
God bless you.