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Jesus makes a powerful statement to all who are weary and overburdened with religion to come to Him. Prior to this statement Jesus had sent out His 12 disciples into the world. They were to declare the kingdom of God had come near to them in Jesus coming to earth.
Another significant event prior to Jesus’ powerful statement was that John the Baptist had been put in prison. Whilst in prison, John sent some of his followers to Jesus, to ask if Jesus was the coming one. That is to ask Jesus if He is the Messiah, the anointed one of God and saviour of the world.
In response to John’s enquiry, Jesus turns to the multitudes and honours John the Baptist. He reveals how John was the fulfilment of the prophecy hundreds of years before by the prophet Malachi. John the Baptist witnessed the sign from heaven that Jesus was the one in whom the kingdom of heaven had come on earth.
Jesus also states that the prophets of God, up until and including John the Baptist, testified of His coming. Up until His coming the kingdom of heaven had suffered violence.
Continuing on, Jesus declared to the multitudes that judgement will come upon those cities where most of His mighty works were done, for they rejected God in Jesus. In rejecting God in Jesus, they chose to be enemies of God and rejected their only pathway to salvation.
the burden of religion
Jesus likened the generation to which He had come as a controlling and debilitating form of religion. They were like children calling to each other and saying, ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’
Basically the people were saying we did all this for you, but you did not respond how we wanted you to. Religions devised by humanity appeals to the pride of humanity and tries to self achieve. Offerings and sacrifices are given out of selfish motive in an attempt to appease, bribe or manipulate the believed deities or spirits. Fuelled by fear and superstition, these self orientated religions are described by the Apostle Paul as, ‘worship which a person devises for their own self, contrary to the contents and nature of faith in God.’
It is misdirected zeal, devised by humanity and fuelled by fear. Fear is not of God. Philosophies, religions, world systems or traditions of humanity cannot bring salvation.
Salvation is an inner peace, an eternal rest (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) and deliverance from the debilitating, destructive forces of evil, death and judgement. It is a gift from God.
Jesus contrasts the traditions and bondage of humanity’s religions handed down to the next generation, to Himself, conveying the truth and freedom of God and His kingdom. God the Father and Jesus God the Son have always been in perfect relationship with each other. Jesus reveals their intimate relationship to the multitudes and passes it on to others.
The Father testifies and identifies with His beloved Son and the Son testifies and identities with His Father in heaven. Jesus states, My Father knows Me and I the Son know the Father.
Their knowing of each other comes through being of the same essence and journeying through eternity as one. Together, Father, Son and Spirit created and continue to pursue humanity in love. Jesus is one with the Father and the Father is one with Him. They serve each other with the same desires, character and oneness.
Jesus declares that it was Father God’s good pleasure to give all things to Him. He is the king of God’s kingdom, the righteous judge and saviour of the world.
It is into this context of salvation and judgement, who Jesus is and the bondage of religions devised by humanity, that Jesus makes the powerful statement concerning rest.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you 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.”
Jesus refers to all those who labour and are heavy laden.
Labouring in this context is religious striving or self effort of trying to be good enough to earn ones own salvation. As a result become trapped in fear and in bondage to adherence to humanity’s religious traditions.
The deep thoughts of the mind know that self can never achieve it’s own salvation or perfect goodness. This creates an inner conflict of striving to be good enough, but in the deep thoughts knowing that is not achievable. This comes with a heavy burden of covering up the guilt, condemnation and shame. Guilt, condemnation and shame oppresses the soul.
come to me all who are heavy laden
Heavy laden literally means to be over burdened with ceremony. In a deeper sense laden means to have spiritual anxiety. Or to put it another way according to the message translation, ‘burnt out on religion.’
So Jesus states, ‘Come to Me… and I will give you rest.’
Jesus gives true rest. That is freedom from religious striving and a cease from the labour of trying to be good enough or accepted or loved. Jesus gives an eternal rest which refreshes the soul and delivers humanity from the fear of death, shame, guilt and condemnation. A rest that is totally free from judgement and is eternal salvation. Only God can bring this eternal rest of salvation. It is a free gift from God the Father, through Jesus the Son.
Jesus continues, ‘Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…’
In the culture at the time of Jesus declaring this powerful truth, the people would be familiar with the imagery of ploughing using a yoke. A yoke is the device that binds the two animals together, whether 2 oxen or bulls. A yoke is a coupling or pair of balances that can regulate the load between the two animals connected to the plough.
To the first hearers the yoke represented bondage and forced servitude. Which is also represented in the animal used to plough whether oxen or bulls.
So Jesus is contrasting the yoke of bondage and forced servitude to the perfect peace and rest. The peace and rest that He provides us in being yoked to Him.
Jesus is saying to the first hearers and to us today, that unless we come to Him, we will remain trapped in bondage and forced servitude to either self devised religion, evil and/or our selfish desires.
rest from the burden
The burden of self devised religion is immense. Forever striving but never obtaining.
Forced servitude to evil is where inner conflict is denied and the conscience is dulled by claiming evil to be good.
Being in servitude to selfish desires, creates an endless quest for pleasure that can never be satisfied.
All three are destructive, negative forces from which Jesus brings us deliverance from and eternal rest.
Just as Jesus is one with the Father, and the Father is one with the Son, they together willingly chose to serve humanity and give us deliverance. In fact it was their delight to do everything for us, so that we could believe and receive God’s free gift of salvation.
There is no forced servitude with God. Instead because God loves with a perfect love He gives free choice. So anyone who wants to be free simply comes to Jesus.
The main action word of the text is learn. Jesus is not talking about head knowledge. He is talking about to know with the same intimacy and oneness as He is with the Father. When we say yes to Jesus we become one with Him. We have His Spirit within us. Jesus reveals that that there is a freedom and delight in becoming one with Him. An eternal rest with the gift of salvation.
Jesus continues to explain and states, ‘for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’
One of the characters of God is humility. That is He does not boast of His own goodness or power or awesomeness. As God has no selfishness in Him, He does everything for us to believe and receive His salvation and truth and freedom of His Kingdom.
the only one who can give rest
One of the most descriptive passages of scripture that reveals the humbleness of God is Philippians 2:5-11.
The Apostle Paul is writing to those who have already chosen to receive Jesus and their eternal salvation, but they are still trapped in their selfish desires. They are yet to live in the reality of being yoked with Jesus, living in the daily journey of surrender of self will to that of the Father’s will.
As we read this text let us remember that Jesus is God the Son. Who in the beginning said let there be light and there was light. Who together with the Father and Spirit is eternal, self-existing and all powerful. Yet in a moment in time, became human.
Philippians 2:5-11 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
jesus yoke is easy
God chose to take on the form of a bondservant and in Jesus subject Himself to the full human condition. He did it all for us. So we could receive and believe God’s free gift of salvation and eternal rest for our souls.
Back to Jesus’ powerful statement of coming to Him to receive rest for our souls.
Souls in this context is the description for the centre of everything of both spirit and mind. That includes our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, breath of life and physical well being.
In coming to Jesus, saying yes to Jesus, learning from and knowing Him, we find eternal rest for every part of ourself. Mind, body, spirit and emotions. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus continues, For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Unlike the burdens of religious striving and spiritual anxiety, Jesus yoke is easy, kind and gracious. It is the daily journey yoked with Jesus, surrendering self will to that of the Father’s will, receiving from the Father through the Son that we are transformed by Him. Where each day we live in the freedom and victory of surrender, continually immersed in the unforced rhythm of God’s unending love and amazing grace.
Being one with Jesus is easy, pleasant and God’s good pleasure. He did it all for us. He continues to walk with us, leading us to a place of refreshing and rest. God delights in us and desires for us to be truly free. Free from the bondage of religious striving, the chains of selfish desires and the destructive forces of evil.
the gift of rest
There is only way to enter into this eternal rest and assurance of salvation. Where we are free from the bondages of this life and the next and His name is Jesus. Jesus reveals the hidden treasures of wisdom in knowledge of God the Father. The Holy Spirit of God reveals the jewels of God’s kingdom in us in Jesus.
Therefore having received Jesus, yoked with Him, each day is a new day to know Him more and be transformed by Him. Living in the reality of who He is, what He has done for us, is doing and will do is a work of the Holy Spirit. Where by His Spirit, His desires become our desires. His servant heart becomes our servant heart. Where His delight in seeing people set free with the truth becomes our desires. All to the glory of our Father.
As Jesus said, Come to Me, all you 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.”