In one of my classes last week we were talking about the rest and peace that Jesus offers, and that He asks us to take a weekly rest, to recharge and restore our souls and reconnect relationships. Way back in the Garden of Eden, sin broke our relationship with God, and a Sabbath rest is one way we can activly participate in reconnecting our relationship with God. He commands it in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20), and even Jesus had the custom of worshiping at the Synagogue (Luke 4:16). Obviously our relationship with God won’t be fully restored until Jesus comes again, when sin is destroyed and everything is made new. But in the mean time, the beauty of the gospel is that Jesus offers to be the link between us and God. He was God, yet led a perfect human existence here on earth. He has full authority to be that link, and has promised to give us the Holy Spirit as our comforter, teacher and intercessor. Those topics deserve time for each to unpack, but for now I want to dwell on the idea of rest…a Sabbath rest.
The scripture below is an example from the teachings of Jesus himself about how he offers rest.
Matthew 11:28-30. “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It occurred to me that not only did Jesus die the death we deserve, but he took our burdens right there on the cross. I had always known that Jesus took our ‘sin’ on the cross, but the thought crossed my mind (of course – one night when trying to go to sleep) that it included our burdens. So if Jesus has taken our burdens already, then it is up to us to take the advice in Matthew 11, and give our burdens, worry and stress to Jesus because he has already had them on the cross, and has already won victory over sin AND our burdens.
The concept of a yoke was new for some of my students. We talked about how a yoke keeps two animals together for pulling something, or plowing. A yoke can also be used to put around you neck to carry heavy things. The metaphor of a yoke is powerful for our experience to understand how Jesus takes our yoke of burdens. You see when we have a yoke of burdens around our neck, sometimes we can be pulling other, unnecessary things along with us. Sometimes we worry about things we cannot change, and that yoke of worry can pull the burdens through our whole day. Sometimes if we carry a yoke of stress, we add buckets and buckets to it. I often think with my own experience, when I add more things to my to-do-list than I can actually do, I am adding buckets to my yoke. Adding realistic boundaries, saying no, delegating can all help to take buckets off our yoke. However, when it comes to worry, sometimes we find it hard to stop worrying. We stop worrying about one thing and replace it with another. This is where Jesus says, don’t just give me the one worry, give me your whole yoke of worrying so that through this day, you will not add any more buckets of worry to it! Jesus is wanting us to give all our worries and stress to him, and to not add to it! He has things under control, knows us better than we know ourselves, and he has asked us to trust Him with everything.
In the verse above it also talks about taking on His yoke, which is light and easy. I thought about what Jesus’ yoke is all about. The verse talks about learning from Jesus, and so maybe taking on His yoke means learning from Him, learning from our experience. It’s all about allowing Jesus to shape us and mould us from what we learn from our experience. Taking on His yoke means changing the way we talk to ourselves, think about, and view, our experience. And that is what brings true rest for our souls. The storms may still be surging around us, but we can have peace and rest for our souls for we know Jesus is in charge, he is at the helm.
I love the line where it says ‘for I am gentle, and humble in heart and you will find rest…’. This is a beautiful picture of a gentle saviour, full of compassions for his children, his creation. He wants to restore the beauty of Eden, before sin arrived. He wants to restore relationship…he knows the burdens and stress we go through, and He is longing to have our permission to take it all and give us true rest.
The Message version puts the verse this way:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Isn’t that beautiful. ‘Learn the unforced rhythms of grace’. The rhythm of grace, is to every day accept what Jesus has done for us, and allow Him to gently shape us, teach us and to gently take our burdens from us. What a beautiful picture of our Saviour.
Father in Heaven, our gentle Saviour,
Thank-you for Jesus, thank-you for the life that he lived, so that he would take part in our experience. Thank-you that He totally understands us. Thank-you that not only did He take sin on the cross, but he took our burdens, and died the death we deserve, so we could have the life that he deserved. Help us to understand this simple beauty of grace, and to learn the unforced rhythm of grace in our every day experience! Today we want to give our burdens to you, all the stuff of our everyday living that weighs us down, our worries, our stress, everything…to you. Please take them, please be in control of our lives. We want to learn from you, and so please teach us and shape us into the people you know we can become.
Thank-you Father, Amen!
Featured image from – http://www.sanbornmills.org.
Image of oxen from https://pixabay.com