Rest for Your Weary Soul

Part Two of the Previous Post

When you’re weary, go to Jesus for rest.

(Please read Matthew 11:25-30.)

        Let’s begin by examining the context. The New Testament is the record of the New Covenant, the new agreement between God and man, mediated by Jesus Christ.  The first book of the New Testament is Matthew, where we see that the New Covenant is established by Jesus Christ, the long-anticipated Messiah.  In chapter 11 the emphasis is on John the Baptist who, enduring the rigors of imprisonment, sent some of his disciples to Jesus to settle new doubts that Jesus was the Messiah.  Jesus’ answer attracted a crowd and these words were directed at them. And specifically, we learn in verses 28-29 that those who, like John the Baptist, become weary and have second thoughts, can find REST in Jesus.

What’s central to our purpose today is the truth that whatever wearies us, we find true REST in Jesus. When Jesus said, “COME TO ME,” He’s reminding us that our part is to seek Jesus.  Similarly, in Matthew 7:7-8 He said, “ASK AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU; SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND; KNOCK AND THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED TO YOU.  FOR EVERYONE WHO ASKS RECEIVES; HE WHO SEEKS FINDS; AND TO HIM WHO KNOCKS, THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED.” Jesus’ promise echoes Jeremiah 31:25; “I WILL REFRESH THE WEARY AND SATISFY THE FAINT.”

Our need to seek Jesus is the second step of faith; God has already sought us. We try all sorts of worldly remedies, but only Jesus gives us true rest; only He can restore our souls.  Would the worldly wise folk mentioned in verse 25 come to him?

Jesus invited ALL who are “WEARY AND BURDENED” to seek Him. As Paul pictured this state in Galatians, here too we have the picture of the “weary warrior;” someone burdened with cares that become a detriment to their health and sense of well-being. What’s different here in Matthew is that it doesn’t matter what causes the weariness –what matters is where go for REST.

Jesus promises ultimate REST in this world and in the world to come. In verse 28 He said, “I WILL GIVE YOU REST.”  The promise is repeated in verse 29; “YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS,” which is a phrase directly quoted from Jeremiah 6:16.

Jesus’ teaching about REST takes in 3 aspects. The first is a personal sense of security based on membership in the family of God (see Matthew 12:46-50). The second is assurance of care and provision for our daily human needs (see Matthew 6:8, 25-34; 7:11). The third is an expectant hope for blessing in the world to come (see Matthew 5:2-12).

But Jesus also makes it clear that we don’t come to Jesus on our own terms; we find REST on His terms.  When He said, “TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU,” He was using a common idiom of His time.

In the Jewish faith, a YOKE was a symbol that meant to come under the authority of a rabbi to be trained by him in t use of the Law. But Jesus offered a respite from the burden of keeping the Law.  He offered REST to those who’d been wearied by the religious burdens the rabbis created with their manifold interpretations and applications of the Law. “LEARN FROM ME” is another way of saying the same thing.

His REST is easier, more positive, and more pleasant than merely being religious and significantly better than living the world’s way.  This is, in part, due to His character; “I AM GENTLE AND HUMBLE IN HEART” These qualities feel more restful, don’t they?  Jesus has the authority to offer rest because of His GENTLE and HUMBLE character. Also, He was the fulfillment of the “True Servant” prophecies of Isaiah 42:2-3; 53:1-2 and Zechariah 9:9.

He mentioned the YOKE twice; “MY YOKE IS EASY” He said the second time. Some have speculated that as a carpenter, Jesus specialized in making yokes and that this expression may have been something like a slogan. EASY is Chrestos in the Greek and it means “well-fitting;” it referred to a yoke that had been expertly made to fit a certain beast.  When it fit well, it did not chafe the neck or shoulders of the animal.

In spiritual terms, this means that God will not call you to do anything for which He has not already equipped you.  Whether by experience, ability, talent, or Spiritual Gift, God has already made you able to succeed.

Jesus’ use of YOKE is meant to explain His REST. It is not refraining from work, but doing work that we love.  Or, better still, doing work because we love. It is doing work that has meaning and significance; that makes an eternal difference in God’s kingdom.

Similarly, He added, “MY BURDEN IS LIGHT.” Things are not a BURDEN to us when we do them in love.  Whether we love what we’re doing and/or we love the people for whom we are doing them, we don’t mind hard work as much. The difficulty comes in aligning our will with God’s; learning to love the things He loves in the first place and then doing the things He wants us to do in the second place.

One quick and easy method to experience a bit of Jesus’ peace is to take a short break from whatever you’re doing.  Go into what I call “record mode.”  Similar to pushing the “record” button on a camcorder, take careful note of your surroundings.  Take several seconds to indulge each of your five senses to the fullest.  Deliberately make a memory for what you’re experiencing.  If you’re deliberate, this will be a memory you’ll be able to access again, and the feelings may come back with it too.

At first, the idea is to pay attention to the details that your mind automatically filters out as unimportant.  Focusing on the details will help you to experience your situation more fully.

Then, when you have fixed the memory, and you feel your attention may start to wander, thank God for all the individual items you have experienced with your five senses.  This is not a complicated prayer; just a feeling of gratitude and a connection with the Spirit is what you seek.

As a result of the first two steps, you will begin to sense God’s presence in a way to which you have not been attentive to Him before.  This will give you a sense of peace.  You will experience a transcendence of the moment even though you are, paradoxically, more aware of the moment than you were before you began.  The purpose is not to empty your mind, but to fill your awareness with all the variety of the moment and surety of God’s abiding presence.  In that, you will feel His peace, know His rest, and receive a refreshing time that only He can provide.

Try it.  Let me know how you fare.

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