We don’t get rest. At least that would seem to be the case. We live in a society that seems to reward those who skimp on sleep and rest, yet research indicates that we are far more productive when we are well rested and have had adequate sleep.
The days when Sunday was a day of rest are long gone. There was a time when Saturday was the last day of the week to do any serious shopping. And it was only people who were employed in the most essential services who worked on a Sunday. Perhaps it helps to explain why we find it difficult to rest and difficult to sleep. In 2011, 15.3 million NHS prescriptions were made for sleeping tablets.
Without wishing to overreact, such a statistic does suggest that we are an anxious society.
Perhaps it has never really been any different. In Matthew 11.28-30 Jesus holds out the promise of rest to anyone who is weary and burdened. People needed rest in Jesus’ day, and struggled to find rest then, every bit as much as they do today. Jesus was and is the ultimate provider of rest.
How do we find the rest that Jesus offers?
Firstly, Jesus says come to me.
Turn toward Jesus. People try many other things to give them rest. Some of them are not necessarily bad things. Career, image, money, pleasure even friendships and family are all sometimes unwittingly sought as a source of peace. And of course, when they fail to deliver, we can be left to wrestle with darker temptations. Taking time out for ourselves, which is very necessary, can even take on a semblance of self idolatry; “me” time needs to be “Him” time as well, if we are going to discover real spiritual renewal.
Coming to Jesus for rest means no longer going to other things for rest.
Secondly, Jesus invites us to connect to Him:
“Take my yoke upon you” (v.29).
The people of his day had been “yoked” to an interpretation of God’s law which was proving unbearable. Lots of demands, but little help to obey them.
When a yoke was applied to oxen it joined the two animals to each other. Once an ox was yoked to another, it had to go where the other went and do what the other did. Either that or it had to try and impose its will on the other, which would result in conflict.
Religion either subdues our will or turns us into rebels. We might not have the experience of religion that people a couple of thousand years ago had, but the pressures modern society puts on us to have a particular kind of lifestyle that will supposedly make us happy, can become as oppressive as the laws of the scribes and pharisees. And of course there are many who suffer the ill effects of legalistic Christianity.
Jesus invites us to throw off the yoke of religion and pressure and come under His leadership. The yoke of Jesus brings true direction into our lives; the yoke of religion brings only destruction.
Finally, Jesus calls us to consult with Him:
“…and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart “ (v.29).
Jesus promises to be our teacher. In John 14.16, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to the disciples. He describes Him as another advocate (NIV) or helper (NKJV). In this verse “another” means another of the same kind. The Holy Spirit is our teacher.
The great thing about our Great Teacher is that He is gentle and humble in heart. He is approachable.
A few years ago some research was conducted into humility. The actions of people who were considered to have traits associated with humility were assessed. The results concluded that humble people were helpful people.
Jesus is helpful. He helps us. And because He is God, that means that God helps us. What a shock Jesus’ words must have been! Here He is, the Son of God, describing Himself as gentle and humble.
It is humility that marks out the whole life and ministry of Jesus. In Jesus, we see that humility was God’s strategy for reaching a lost and broken world.