The Gospel reading for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost offers a promise many might crave. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “I will give you rest.”
In this passage, Jesus addresses people who are burdened and weighed down by legalistic and oppressive ways. It’s while they are in this oppressive place that Jesus makes his gracious invitation of rest.
But this invitation might seem misleading. Perhaps the promise “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” leads you to believe this is about a nice, long sleep. Or maybe rest for you is a free day without anyone around, when you can recline in your special chair and watch your favorite TV show without anybody talking to you during the good parts.
But a nap and watching TV aren’t what this promise from Jesus is all about. It was a call for people to depend on Christ, rather than on themselves. Jesus was calling the gathered community to follow him as committed disciples. The same call is extended to us as we gather.
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me” (verse 29). This call to discipleship, the means by which people find rest, is by walking with and learning the ways of the Lord. This learning isn’t just cognitive—it’s experiential. It’s a way of life. It means to learn by asking questions and practicing until the ways of Christ become part of who we are.
The yoke of Jesus is different—it is gentle, it is humble, it is caring. One learns of Jesus by adopting his spirit and living with a focus on those things important to Christ.
The yoke of Jesus is different—it is gentle, it is humble, it is caring. One learns of Jesus by adopting his spirit and living with a focus on those things important to Christ, by engaging in Jesus’ mission and ministry.
The only time the load becomes overwhelming is when we try to take it over and do the pulling ourselves. Come, all who labor, and the Lord will give you rest. Take on the ways of Christ, learn from him. The burden is light.
To be clear, this invitation of rest isn’t an invitation into a life of ease. Following Jesus will be full of risks and challenges, as he has made abundantly clear. Yet, Jesus calls us to a life of humble service, and in that service is a life of freedom instead of captivity.
We are freed to walk with Jesus. Freed to be honest about those ways in which we struggle. Freed to be released from the bonds of sin. Freed to live into the mission of Christ. Freed to love our neighbor as Christ has so beautifully modeled for us. Freed to experience the relief, joy and blessings of life through a grace-filled relationship with our Lord.
When life is yoked to Jesus under God’s gracious and merciful reign, free from the burden of sin and the need to prove ourselves, free to rest deeply and securely in God’s grace, we find rest.