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
“Come to me.”
The first thing we see in this passage is that Jesus is inviting us to come to Him. This is much more than a call from our master or our boss who is commanding and requiring us to obey his order. No, this is an invitation from a dear friend to come and spend quality intimate time with Him personally. It is a personal invitation from the Son of God to come and be with Him in a personal relationship.
The second thing we notice is that “we” need to come to Jesus. This is not something that will happen against our will or through passive/willful resistance. This is an act that requires us to admit our own dependence, weakness, and humility. We must drop our pretense of self-reliance and humbly come to Christ.
“all who labor and are heavy laden,”
Who is this invitation open to? All people… anyone and everyone. This invitation is not reserved for the super spiritual or the intelligent or the people who have it all together. No, this invitation is open to every single person with no exceptions.
The only requirement of the invitation is that the person coming to Jesus is laboring and heavy laden.
Labor is indicative of the active striving that we do in this world to make our lives as painless as possible outside of Christ and this can be seen in our lives as we build idols based on:
- Achievement: Where am I seeking to be the best and achieve success above all else?
- Acquisition: Where am I seeking to get more stuff, recognition, or security?
- Appetite: Where am I seeking to gratify my need for ease, control, hunger, lust, and superiority?
- Avoidance: Where do I want to get away from poverty, rejection, suffering, and people?
Heavy laden is indicative of the passive nature of the forces outside your control that are weighing you down. These can range from pressures that we put on ourselves to be or act a certain way or expectations that are put on us that we feel coming from the culture around us. These are generally found in our life when we ask the question, “who or what am I afraid of at this moment?” It’s the fear of man (ridicule, shame, guilt) that drives this heavy laden pressure.
“and I will give you rest.”
So when we come to Jesus in dependence, weakness, and humility bringing our labor and burdens, Jesus has promised to give us the answer we have been pursuing the whole time… rest. This is not the cheap rest of taking a nap or watching television or going on holiday. These are well and good for a moment, but they are weak imitations of the true and perfect rest that Jesus offers. This rest He is offering us is a rest from our labor and burdens. A call to come to Jesus and find true and lasting rest that is eternal.
“Take my yoke upon you,”
Coming to Jesus does not simply mean that we sit around all day gazing at our Savior as life passes us by. No… Part of coming to Jesus is that we must then take upon ourselves his yoke. Drawing near to Jesus and finding rest means that we relinquish our own personal labors and burdens. We cast them away and take upon ourselves the labor and burden of Christ. And what is this yoke?
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)
“and learn from me,”
This is why we need to take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ. This is the pathway to learning. Ours is not a relationship of theory. A relationship based simply on knowledge that can be found only in books and studies. Jesus wants us to learn and experience him not only through knowledge and understanding but in the day-to-day day living of life. As we take His yoke upon us, we learn at His hand. His hand will guide the yoke of our labor.
“for I am gentle and lowly in heart,”
Why should we take this yoke upon us and learn from Jesus? Because he is gentle and lowly. He is compassionate and gracious and loving and kind and understanding. He has at the center of his yoke a gentle way for our hearts. We can trust in this yoke because Jesus himself is the embodiment of the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). We have a witness of His yoke as He lived out His life on this earth. As we read through the gospels, we can see the heart of Jesus in action as he lived out being gentle and lowly among us.
“and you will find rest for your souls.”
What is the result of this yoke? It is rest for our souls. Not the cheap rest we seek in our selfishness. Not that unsatisfying rest of sitting around doing nothing. No this is a deep rest in our souls. A rest from all of our striving after things that are temporary and fleeting. Jesus offers us complete soul rest. A rest that is comforted by the fact that He has accomplished his mission and has conquered sin and death. We no longer have to fear. We can rest safe and secure in the finished work of Christ to bring us safely home to Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This initially feels wrong. As we know that this life, even a life resting in Christ, is difficult. Suffering and heartache are a part of this life in a myriad of ways. But this is not what Jesus is talking about. He is reminding us that His yoke and His burden can be summed up in two sentences. Love God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is freedom. Freedom from ourselves. Freedom to focus on one thing in life… glorifying and enjoying God forever.