Evening service at Fairview Lifestyle Village, 6 July 2014 – I will give you rest; you will find rest for your souls
Reading: Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“I will give you rest”
“You will find rest for your souls”
At our two services this morning we looked at what it means to be yoked to Jesus. I promised that this evening we would explore the “rests” that are spoken of in this passage.
In short: we come to him because we are physically weary and heavy laden, because he offers physical rest. But then we find a deeper rest – for our souls.
C H Spurgeon and Michael Green both write about these rests – the first in a sermon dated 24 May 1903, and the second in a commentarty “Matthew For Today” published in 1988.
Michael Green is a great preacher and writer from this century. He writes about evangelism at length. He also writes here in this commentary about the exclusive claims of Jesus. Not only does He say “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14, but in this amazing passage Jesus says this:
Mat 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Most prophets would point to God as the one to whom we are to come or go.
But no – Jesus says “Come to me”. I will give you what you need. (Add his other sayings – about the bread of life, living water, the gate, the door, the good shepherd, and you soon have a strong argument for a very exclusive claim).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
What kind of tiredness is this? Who is he inviting?
This first invitation or directive is to those who need to come to faith in Christ! And through Christ to come to God.
This is the rest we find. We are tired from the struggles of life – weary from trying to make sense of it all (my words) – tired of travelling alone and fighting our battles alone.
We come to Jesus the Saviour – and find rest.
At the time Jesus spoke these words to the weary and the heavily burdened, especially inviting them in – there would have been something more worth noting here beyond the obvious rest for tiredness (according to Green). In those days there were Greeks and Jews that Jesus encountered.
Michael Green notes that the Greeks would have been exhausted by the search for truth which they had been engaged in for centuries without resolution. Greeks who if they discovered anything about God – still believed that you couldn’t really tell anything about that God. He was quite unknowable, and searches for truth could lead to despair.
As for the Jews of the day, says Green, they had a religion which they found to be a great burden. Matthew 23:4 makes it clear to us that the scribes and Pharisees were responsible for binding “heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay(ing) them on men’s shoulders.”
Jesus was quite direct in his critique of the religious leaders who made the ordinary people’s lives a burden. The rabbinical teachings at the time suggested that Jews were to be yoked to the law – and that was a burden in the sense that you could not keep so many laws. And some of the interpretations were very picky! They did become quite untenable and unbearable.
Green suggests that Jesus comes to lift the burdens of the aching backs of the people of the day – offering them rest – the end of the striving for a philosphically unknowable God or an unreachable obedience of or compliance with the Law.
Jesus offers Greeks and Jews alike peace and fulfilment, and the sense of being put right with God – ending their respective search for truth and righteousness.
Both Green and Spurgeon speak of the second rest however.
Spurgeon says this: “There are two rests for a Christian to enjoy. The first is the rest Christ gives him when he believes. The next is the rest that he finds when he takes Christ’s yoke upon him. These two rests will be distinctly enjoyed by anyone who comes to Christ and learns of Him…
Spurgeon suggests that If we are bound to Christ (like an apprentice used to be bound to his master in those days) we will find a newer and yet deeper and fuller rest for our souls.
There is a sweetness – a satisfaction – in learning from Jesus. In being coupled to him like two animals yoked together. In sharing the load with Him if you like.
John Ortberg, a current preacher and writer, suggests that being yoked to Christ is really what we used to call in the old days being IN COMMUNION WITH GOD – in a relationship with Him. We spoke about this at our morning services today.
In that close proximity with Jesus and through him with God a number of things are real for us
- He has promised never to leave us for forsake us. (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5 following Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5).
- We are in step with Him – our lives, our relationships and attitudes are surely affected by being so close. (See John 15:4 and Galatians 5:25)
- And being close – as Spurgeon suggests – we observe his grace and love in suffering and pain (in the garden wrestling with pain and death ahead – on the cross carrying the burden of our sins and the sins of the whole world). (See Matthew 26:39-39; Luke 23:34)
Michael Green’s view of the deeper rest (for our souls) is therefore our training as disciples – as we figure out how to be like Jesus and respond to our challenges in life like Jesus.
WHAT ABOUT THE NEED FOR THESE RESTS IN THIS GENERATION?
This is a restless generation. Unlike many before us, we are more connected and networked through media, internet, mobile offices and wireless connections than ever before. Information is freely available on the information super highway. We have all the modern contraptions – and the most developed technology, science, and medical progress of any generation.
But people are still restless. The quest for pleasure, or the will to pleasure (following Sigmund Freud’s psychotherapy) the desire for power, or the will to power (following Alfred Adler’s individual psychology) still motivate many in our society. But it was Viktor Frankl from the same Viennese tradition of psychotherapy who spoke the will to purpose or meaning (known as logotherapy). He was well qualified to speak of this powerful influence, writing his book “Man’s search for Meaning ” in just nine days after being released from the concentration camps. He knew that you could live through anything if you had something to live for.
Jesus gives us that kind of purpose when we are yoked to Him. Someone to live for, and even for many in this generation where the persecuted church proliferates – for many someone whose name they may die for.
What us the key difference between the rabbis’ calling people to be yoked to the law – and our being yoked to Jesus?
Green says that it is the yoke of love – not of duty.
We bear the yoke of the liberated – not the obligated.
And that makes all the difference.
One of the greatest stories in many years is the story of the man who escaped an English rest home recently when the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-day were happening. His carers thought he had caught the bus to town and a search began when he didn’t come home.
What they didn’t know is that he had jumped on a ferry to join his old unit in Normandy to celebrate that liberation again!
And that’ s the key! Liberation is worth celebrating!
That’s the yoke of the liberated which binds us to the Liberator – the Redeemer Jesus who by His conquest sets us free from our enemies – Sin, Satan and Death itself!
Rest for our souls incorporates all these rich concepts!
Thanks be to God!