Rest easy – have no fear / I love you perfectly / love drives out fear / I’ll take your burden / you take my grace / Rest easy in My embrace
- Audio Adrenaline, Rest Easy, from the 1993 album “Don’t Censor Me”
As Matthew finishes off the part of his gospel that is recognized as chapter 11, he records a curious and rare statement of the Christ. In it, Jesus gives us a glimpse of how He sees Himself, as well as a promise to those who follow Him. Read verses 28-30 for yourself:
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Huh? Burdens? Yoke? What the heck is He talking about?
First of all, the heavy burdens carried by the people may include sin, oppression and persecution, weariness in the search for God, and the excessive demands of the religious leaders. All burdens still carried by people today. Jesus essentially says He seeks to free people from these issues that weigh down the human soul. “The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing and peace with God, not the end of all labor. A relationship with God changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose” (Study Bible, p. 1565).
So why does He mention a yoke? What is that anyway? The people Jesus was speaking to would have understood the imagery of a yoke. It’s basically a heavy wooden harness which fits over the shoulders of a pair of oxen. It is then attached to a large piece of equipment that the oxen pull like a plow or a wagon. “In what sense was Jesus’ yoke easy? The yoke emphasizes the challenges, work and difficulties of partnering with Christ In life. Responsibilities weigh us down, even the effort of staying true to God. But Jesus’ yoke remains easy compared to the crushing alternative” (Study Bible, p. 1565).
Note, contrary to what some current preachers proclaim, the Christ is not promising a life of luxury, but of shared experience. The weight falls on the shoulders of the bigger individual (here, on Jesus). “Someone with more pulling power is up front helping. Suddenly, you are participating in life’s responsibilities with a great Partner…” (Study Bible, p. 1565). I love that imagery. By entering a relationship with Jesus, suddenly we are not alone anymore and we are not bearing the brunt of the burdens life throws at us.
Finally, I want to point out the statement that Jesus makes about Himself. For the most part, throughout the gospels and rest of the New Testament, the description of the Christ is left up to the authors. But here is something unique. In Matthew 11, Jesus states two things about Himself that are true: He is humble, and He is gentle of heart. Can you imagine a better person to be partnered with in life? He’s not an attention-hog or a braggart. He’s not mean or vindictive. Ever. Preachers are always encouraging us to be more like the Christ. Here are two personality characteristics we can strive to implement: humility and gentleness. This is something we should want to see in ourselves, as well as in our leaders whether it’s a work, at home, or in the nation.
Can you imagine if the world were a more humble and gentler place? Maybe then we would truly be able to rest easy.