28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.
Do you believe Jesus? I am not asking if you believe in Jesus, I am particularly asking if you believe Jesus. Do you see his words as true? Is he honest? Does he know what he is talking about? And all who are Christians would say that, of course we believe Jesus and his words.
Look then at the beauty of the close of Matthew 11. Jesus tells us about himself. Jesus tells us about following him. Jesus tells us about what he is like and what he has for those who come to him. And the invitation and description are glorious.
Jesus puts out a call to those who are weary, burdened, heavy-laden. Jesus speaks to those who are worn down by life. Jesus cries out to the one who is in desperate need of help, of relief, of rest. Like lady wisdom in the proverbs calling on all the simple to come to her for safety, Jesus calls on the tired to come to him.
And Jesus says that he will give rest to the weary. Grab on to that for a moment. I know that Paul tells us that he buffets his body to make it his slave, not being lazy but actively honing his spiritual skills. I know that Jesus sends his disciples out as sheep among wolves into a world that would eat us for lunch should it get the chance. I know that the author of Hebrews talks about us resisting sin to the point of shedding our blood. So I am not grabbing onto some sort of odd Keswick theology calling us to “let go and let God.” But just stop and hear Jesus. Jesus says that he will give the weary rest. And I believe him.
Part of resting in Christ is knowing that you no longer have the burden of being perfect to be welcomed into God’s kingdom. You cannot fulfill the covenant with Adam. You cannot obey perfectly and earn life. No descendant of Adam, under Adam’s curse, can do so. That burden and that task, they are not yours. You can let go of that and rest.
But in this section of Scripture, Jesus has also been talking about the pains and pressures of living in this lost world. John the Baptist was in prison. John’s disciples had come to Jesus to ask him if he really is the promised one. Nearby cities are condemned by Jesus for their lack of faith in the face of miraculous evidence. Hard people are attacking God’s kingdom. In the light of that hard world, Jesus says that he gives rest to those who come to him.
Jesus describes himself as gentle and lowly in heart. There is a kindness to Jesus. There is a sweetness to Jesus. There is a mercy in Jesus. There is a welcoming, loving ease to Jesus. Think about it. There are some people in our world who are just hard to be around. To spend time with them is work. You feel that you are always on the edge of being criticized, being mocked, being put upon. There are others who are easy to be with. You can relax. You can rest knowing that they know who you are, they know your weaknesses, they know your own hurts and fears, and they are not going to pile on. Jesus claims to be that latter kind of person. Jesus is welcoming, gentle, humble in his own heart toward weak ones who will come to him to find rest.
Jesus is gentle, but no wimp. Jesus is gracious, but not at all compromised. Jesus looks to the one who will come to him for rest, and he grants true rest, true friendship, true love, true adoption into his family. He will let us under his yoke, a gentle one, a light one, and he will walk with us toward the righteousness that he credits to our account. He will sanctify us. He will help us change. He will not let us stand still in our sin. But he will give us rest even as he moves us away from evil and toward the righteousness without which no one will see God. Jesus will make it easy to call him Lord even as he walks with us through a persecuting world. And we will have true rest, as Jesus will never fail. He will be victorious. He will rescue his own. He will rule as King forever. And he welcomes all who come to him to rest under his glorious rule and his gentle heart.