(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.”
No burden we carry is greater than the burden of sin. The shame and guilt weigh us down, sapping all the joy out of us. Only Jesus can take away this dirty feeling by forgiving us of our sins, as only he can. But then, when we go to him for forgiveness, he gives us even more. He gives us much-needed rest for our souls.
Life is full of heartache and sorrow, loneliness and pain. We try to get solace from people, but very often, this ends up in only more hurting. And then there is the matter of our insecurities and fears, troubles and worries. I used to work a lot with youth, and the number one problem seems to be this inherent sense of worthlessness. But it isn't only young people who struggle with this. The older among us do, too. What hope is there? None, except through Jesus.
Many years ago — in 1970, I think - the singing duo Simon and Garfunkel composed a song called Bridge Over Troubled Water. The phrase was in a church hymn that Paul heard, and it inspired him to write this beautiful song that describes Jesus so wonderfully. It starts like this: When you're weary, feeling small; when tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all; I'm on your side. When times get rough and friends just can't be found, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. This is all so true with Jesus.
But there is one more reason, and this really needs mentioning because it is the essential context of this passage. The Jews were encumbered with laws, hundreds and hundreds of them, that they had to follow. There were rules and regulations for everything, and as you can imagine, these were very burdensome. They believed that they had to follow all these rules to enter heaven. Jesus told them to put their burdens down; his was the easier way.
It is no different for us. I remember being presented with lists of Do's and Don'ts when I was growing up as a child and told that I had to do certain things and not do certain things to get to heaven. And not only did I feel the pressure of these things, but there was also always the fear that I would blow it and go to hell. Jesus tells us to take it easy and just be in him as a branch remained on the vine, and he would take us through. Or, if you prefer today's analogy, be yoked to him, as one ox might be yoked to another.
So, rest. Jesus is waiting for you.