Matthew 11:28-29 isn’t an invitation to lay at pastures green but rather an invitation to work along Jesus and learn from him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.Matthew 11:28-29 NIV
If we read only verse 28 of Matthew 11:28-29, we will indeed find it a comforting verse for the times when we feel tired. However, if we continue reading all the way through verse 29, we will see that Jesus is not inviting us to a typical rest – laying on the green grass and looking at blue sky. In fact, He is not inviting us to rest at all but to continue working. It is not however the kind of work we are used to. He is inviting us to work with Him and learn on the job. He does promise a rest but not for our bodies but, more importantly, for our souls.
When we look at this passage from that perspective, it won’t be a cliché anymore. It will become a life-changing verse.
“Come to me, all…”
What Jesus definitely does promise in verse 28 is that if we go to Him, no matter what level of tiredness or burden we carry, He will give us rest. He doesn’t specify yet at this stage what kind of rest is waiting for us but what we know is that He invites everyone.
You might think that your weariness is small, so there’s no point bothering Jesus about it, or, on the opposite, your burdens have accumulated for so long that you can’t even move. To that and to all in between Jesus gently says ‘come’. His invitation isn’t forced. He is not shouting but rather saying ‘come over here and see; you’ll like it’. It sounds like a parent talking to their child – ‘come, I’ll show you something interesting’.
Jesus is already waiting for every one of us and the next step is ours. We need to go. The final move and the final decision is up to us. However hard it might be, we need to go and ask for help.
When we do, we show our willingness to accept whatever Jesus has to offer and His offers are always better than what we can come up with.
This case is no different and what Jesus is offering us is mind-blowing.
“…you who are weary and burdened…”
Jesus knows that we all work hard and are physically tired- after all, He was addressing Jews working under tough Romans rule, but He’s not talking about physical here. As on many other occasions, it’s not the visible and the expected that He addresses. Jews were expecting the Messiah to come and free them from the visible slavery of Romans but He came to release them from something much worse – the invisible slavery of sin. As we read passage, we expect him to free us from physical tiredness but He comes to say that it’s our burdened soul that he’s more concerned about because this is what makes us discontent and discouraged.
His priority is to give us freedom from unnecessary burdens and over thinking. From the burdens of everyday normal life – worries, lack of money, unruly children, a friend with depression, a parent who is becoming fragile and unwell or a lack of partner but also from things like no direction in life.
He will not take them away but He will help us to look at these and other things through his lens.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me
Jesus invites us to continue the work but in a different way – not as tiring as when we work by ourselves. When we are yoked with Jesus, observe what He does and follow His example, the hard work becomes discipleship. It is not a tough toiling to get job done but it is walking through life learning and becoming more like Jesus.
When we work with Him, we learn humility, gentleness and meekness. And the latter here means – necessary balance between exercising power and avoiding harshness. With Jesus we learn balance. We learn to do things just right.
Jesus’ invitation is more than ‘come and see’, it’s ‘come and live with me’. Commit to living with me and I’ll show you a better way, a better life, an abundant life.
Taking Jesus’ yoke is easy and light because we’re not the ones doing the work. He is. But we need to submit – if we want to go our own way, the yoke will start hurting and be uncomfortable.
Our culture is ridden by tiredness, not because we‘re not strong people but because our souls are burdened – we don’t know what’s our goal, purpose, what’s important and where we are going. And we don’t know whom to learn from or whom to go to with our burdens. As a result, we do too many unnecessary things, become burdened and the cycle continues. The rest of the soul and mind is the one we really need.
When we are tired, we expect a rest in form of lying on a beach or reading a nice book. That indeed can alleviate our pain but only temporary. What Jesus offers us, not only in this Bible passage, is to turn our lives upside down by submitting to him, following him and changing our lifestyle.
Yes, you might need physical rest right now – we all need it on a regular basis, and Jesus will lead you to ‘pastures green’ every now and then, but what we really need daily is rest for our souls and changing the way we live.
We cannot however achieve this in our own strength by changing a habit or two.
Jesus is the only one who can give this kind of rest. “I will give you rest” – he says. He’s our provider.
If we are looking for a real change, for something different, for something that will last, submitting to Jesus and working with Him is the only way forward. When we do acknowledge that and agree to be yoked with Him, we will see a lasting difference.
An open invitation
In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus is offering us a different life and a better life but this is only one of Jesus’ many invitations to us. Others in John 6 and John 7 say:
“Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. “John 6:35 NLT
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.John 7:37-39 NIV
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus is once more inviting us to come to him and find all our needs satisfied in Him. He wants to be our sole provider and the source of everything we need. Jesus’ invitation issued to Jews nearly 2,000 years ago is still applicable for people like us. And it’s still open.