“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 ESV)
After having explained that God withholds His truth from those who are proud and self-sufficient when it comes to their eternity, Jesus today addresses those who are just the opposite – those who are weary and burdened. Jesus invites all such people to come to Him.
Jesus is all-inclusive. He never turns anyone away who truly seeks Him. But only those who recognize their spiritual need and the fruitlessness of pursuing heaven through their own effort will respond to His call. Notice the verb tense (are) is in the present. This implies a recognition of one’s current spiritual state.
Jesus invitation is to anyone who is trying to earn salvation through their own efforts to be “good enough” or who is trying to find truth through human wisdom. None of these people will never find what they are looking for. Instead they will only experience restlessness with no reward. Jesus offers rest from these pursuits.
Rest has many definitions. It means to cease from exertion; to be free from troubles; to be calm and stationary; to lean against/depend upon. Jesus is offering us all these things. When we lean upon Jesus and let Him bear our burdens we can cease our striving and searching for truth. In turn we are freed from our troubles because they are put in proper perspective.
Seemingly paradoxically, Jesus instructs us to take His yoke upon them. Jesus is asking us to submit to Him. And while that might seem like a heavy burden, it is not.
In ancient times farmers would yoke two oxen together, usually an experienced one and a younger one. The oxen would share the work of pulling a plow or turning a mill through the distributed weight of the yoke. The younger ox would learn by being yoked to the older.
Jesus is offering us essentially the same thing. Whereas the yoke the world puts on us (and which we put on ourselves) is a burden and results in weariness, Jesus’ yoke teaches us (learn) because Jesus is right beside us sharing the burden with us. In fact, He carries most of the load. His yoke is easy and His burden is light on us.
Yokes were custom built for a particular animal so that it fit that animal perfectly so the animal wouldn’t chafe or be in pain when wearing the yoke. Similarly, the life Jesus has for each of us is custom-made. Whatever God asks us to do we can be sure that it will suit the talents and abilities He has given us perfectly.
When we come to Jesus and submit to Him we can be sure that life will be better because that is the only way to be truly free to be exactly who He designed us to be [Jeremiah 29:11; John 8:32].
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