At least during some seasons of our lives, life is hard. From illnesses, unemployment, deaths of loved ones, depression, even the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that is upon us—anything—can take the life right out of us. But while these things (and so many more) of this world will continually tap from us our joy, peace, hope, etc., Jesus stands as One who promises us rest as you and I respond to His invitation to tap into Him.
Jesus said, “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, English Standard Version).
We considered the rest Jesus gives in the previous article; that it is when you and I come to Jesus by faith, He gives us rest (vs. 28). But can the experience of rest we attain from faith in Jesus Christ be maintained, and, if so, how? For the answer, let’s return to our text, and pick it up in verse 29: Jesus says, “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.”
First, we will notice that Jesus invites for us to exchange our natural burdens to the burden He offers. Jesus speaks of His yoke and then his burden in these two verses and this teaches us that we will be burdened by something or someone in this life. We do not belong to ourselves; you and I will serve someone or something. We will either serve our idols or the one true God; either our natural spiritual father who is the father of the lies, the devil, or our adopted Father who is in heaven. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, ESV). The moment we accept God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, Jesus lifts our burdens of sin, shame and guilt from us and we are saved from them. However, for the moments, hours, days, and years thereafter we have the choice to make to either continue finding the rest for our souls in Jesus by taking His yoke, or to return again to the enslavement of our idols and sins. This is why the apostle Paul tells us, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, English Standard Version).
But what does it mean to take the yoke of Jesus? What yoke did Jesus have other than that of the Father’s will in being sent from heaven to earth to reconcile sinful man to a holy God? To take His yoke is to take on Christ Himself, His righteousness, and His purpose and mission for which the Father had sent Him into the world. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). The Bible also says we are Christ’s ambassadors who have received the ministry of reconciliation. And just as Jesus came to not to be served but to serve, so are we as members of His body, the body of Christ, are called to serve sacrificially, even unto death, if necessary, for the glory of God and for the eternal benefit of others. We have Jesus’ yoke and subsequent peace when we choose to be identified with Jesus and take the same narrow road He walked which led to life. His rest comes to us as we abide in Him and allow Him to carry out His mission of saving the world through you and me.
This is why Jesus then says, “learn from me” because He is our great example to follow and to emulate. In learning from our humble Master, we discover what it looks like to live in His rest for our souls. How else are to know how to live a life at rest as we live lives obedient to God? If there was a man who knew His purpose and was not easily shaken, it was Jesus of Nazareth. Watch Him as He is in the wilderness being tempted by the devil; watch Him as He sleeps in the boat as the storm rages all around Him; watch Him before the hostile court of the Sanhedrin as they falsely accuse Him. No matter the situation, Jesus is our great Teacher of what it means to live a life at rest. How was He able to do that? Was He not the Son of God who was always straight in the middle of His Father’s will? And have not those who have come to faith in Christ been made sons and daughters of God, and can we not know the will of God for our lives through not only the guidance and working of the Holy Spirit within us, but also through prayer, studying our Bibles and by learning from our great Master, the Lord Jesus?
Jesus continues to encourage us the downtrodden by saying His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. "Wait a minute," you might say. "Is not this the same Jesus who burdens us with the call to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect? Did He not also say that we had to take up our crosses in order to follow Him? Did He not also command us to love the LORD with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves? These certainly do not seem like an easy yoke and a light burden to bear." But isn’t it, though? Has not our great Master and Teacher gone before us and done everything necessary for us to follow Him? Has He not come to fulfill the Law for us lawbreakers? Is He not Immanuel, God with us, who promised to never leave us nor forsake us and to be with us always, even to the end of the age? Has He not sent the precious and powerful gift of God, the Holy Spirit, to live within us to encourage and strengthen us for our journey of faith? Is He not faithful to keep His Word to you and me whom He has begun a good work, to carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus? Yes, His yoke is easy and His burden is light when we remember that Jesus has indeed not only gone before us, but He's done the unquestionable hard part of shedding His innocent blood, dying a shameful death, and enduring the wrath of God in our place.
So to maintain the rest Jesus gives, let us not look within ourselves, but let us look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:2-3, ESV).