Ah! REST...what a glorious word! I inhale and exhale deeply at just the sound of it. And oh, how we humans need deep, glorious rest... Moms especially need it...as do dads. Single folks need it; workers need it; retirees do, too. Even kids need it (although they would protest most loudly...especially in the midst of the frenetic-ness of no-sleep sleepovers!)
I remember as a mom of an infant how I longed for rest, praying my crying-in-the-middle-of-the-night baby would just fall quietly back to dreamland. Or my napping toddler would stay napping so I could lie prostrate for just a few more moments (Please, God!) And now, even as a senior retired adult, that beautiful rest calls my name more often than not in the midst of my afternoons. So I often take to my overstuffed couch and doze as I watch the old westerns from my childhood.
I can’t help but think our craving for physical rest is really just a picture of the rest we need even more so for our souls and spirits. That’s why Christ’s invitation is so attractive. We see it here:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
Here in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus promises rest as a gift. This is not just the "take a nap" kind of rest, it goes much deeper. It’s anapausis (“rest” in Greek.) It’s “inner tranquility” even while “engaged in necessary labor.”
In our passage, we see Jesus teaching and preaching to a crowd of people in Galilee. Who were these people? Of course, the crowd would include His disciples, who were His learners. The religious leaders dogged His every step, so of course, they surely were part of this crowd. But in the previous verses, there is a hint at who Jesus’ real audience is. Listen to how He prayed just before His invitation:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… Matthew 11:25-28 ESV
Jesus’ primary offer was to the common folk, like you and me - “ragamuffins,” as one author calls us. Not the “perfect people” who have it all together. No, it’s for those of us who know we don’t have it together. Maybe we keep on trying, we “weary ones” who work our religious “to do list” to exhaustion or the “heavy laden,” burdened by the failure of falling back into habits of sinful shame. The invitation is for all of us who know we need something we cannot produce. So we see and hear Jesus, with His beautiful “yes face,” call to us:
Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest …
Literally, it reads, “Here to Me, and I will rest you.”
Our Lord is pointing, as it were, to Himself as the Person who is the place of rest, in contrast to the Pharisees who were following Him and harassing the people with their “religious mega-list.”
we see and hear Jesus, with His beautiful “yes face,” call to us: Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest …
That little Greek word translated “to/toward” in this verse is like an arrow aimed in a certain direction. So here we have Jesus saying “I am your focus, not those Pharisees over there and their ‘religious to do list;’ not your own self-effort to be righteous and good, but ME! I am your Rest.” And this is the inner rest of spirit that Jesus gives as a totally free gift when we come to Him. “I will rest you!”
What is this rest of spirit Jesus gives as a gift? It’s the rest of union with Him (Colossians 3:3.) This is rest indeed! And it is fixed, permanent, unchanging. It includes total forgiveness of all our sins, past, present, and future (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17;) birth into God’s family as a beloved child of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2;) identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4-14; Galatians 2:20.) It means Christ is living in me by His Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:17,19.) I have all of Him in all of me (Colossians 2:9-10.) And this is true the moment I respond to Christ’s invitation: “Here, to ME!” He rests me.
So there is no more working, no earning, no trying to be right in God’s eyes; no grasping for His love, no agonizing over getting more of Him and His Spirit. I have it all because I have HIM. It’s all about receiving HIM who is my promised Sabbath Rest.
So may I ask you, dear sister in Christ, are you resting in Him who is your Rest? Or are you still working, trying to achieve what you already have and who you already are in Him? If so, search out some of the Scriptures above and rest in Him who rests in you.
Next time we will explore the crucial question: How can I experience this rest relationship with Christ in my real daily life? How can I live from these truths?
Jan Loyd is a child of God, a disciple of Christ, a Jersey girl, a former nun, a teacher, and now a wife of 47 years, mother of two, grandmother of 5 boys and finally a baby girl...these are just some of the hats she wears or has worn. Her hat as teacher has seemed to be one she’s worn her entire adult life, ranging from elementary school, homeschool, adult ESOL and GED language and writing. But along with all of these opportunities has been her favorite above all the rest: teaching women the Word of God in various ways, Precept Upon Precept and Bible Studies she’s developed by the grace and tutelage of God along the way. Currently you may find her on her devotional blog “A Branch in the Vine” where she share several times a week and in her Bible Study/ devotional book The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension.