“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Let’s consider for a few moments this verse from Matthew 11 by reflecting on its 3 parts.
The first part is the Invitation, which also implies an Inviter: Come to me.
In these days of distancing, we are seldom invited into anyone’s personal space. But here is an invitation to move closer to the inviter, who, in this case, is Jesus. Jesus, who is the Son of God. Jesus, who is called Emmanuel, which means God with us. In other words, the very Lord God who created the world and then came into His own creation by taking on human flesh.
THIS is the One who invites us to come near to Him tonight. We do well to pause and to wonder at such an amazing invitation.
(Do we doubt He is talking to us?) Let us quickly move on to the second part of the verse: the invited. How are they described? All who labor and are heavy laden.
More than once, I have underestimated the contents in my shopping cart in our local grocery and have had to struggle heavy laden with a half dozen bags over my shoulders and one in each hand for the 10 minutes it takes to walk back home.
This is the picture of the invited—those toiling away under a heavy load. Of course, Jesus is not referring to carrying too many potatoes or bottles of water.
I do not need to run through a grocery list of life’s burdens. All of you here tonight have your own list. Perhaps, your life is so heavy in this very moment, you feel you simply cannot go any further.
Listen to the third part of the verse: the Promise. I will give you rest.
When we are exhausted, we long for rest. We need sleep. But rest and sleep are not the same. Rest is about restoration. It is what we hope to find in the morning after a good night’s sleep—to discover we are recharged and fit for a new day.
But true rest seems out of reach. Even WITH a good night’s sleep, we know the burdens of life will still be there in the morning.
So, perhaps, when we hear Jesus say, “Come, I will give you rest,” we doubt it. We suspect he is more likely to ADD to our burden. In the very next verse, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . . for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
See? Even adding something light, like one more tomato to my shopping bag, is not going to make life easier.
So, what is this rest that Jesus offers?
Maybe the term He uses is unfamiliar to us. A yoke is the harness that connects one or more farm animals to the plow. Imagine two farm animals yoked together. They pull the load together. Where one goes, the other goes.
But with this image, Jesus does not simply offer us the promise of impersonal Divine power to help us pull or carry life’s load. To be yoked to Him is to walk with Him, to go where He goes. Jesus is inviting us to be joined to Him in personal relationship! The Lord is offering us rest by offering us Himself.
Again, we do well to pause and to reflect on such an amazing invitation.
As we read further in the Gospels, we find Jesus, Himself, laboring and heavy laden. But he was struggling under the weight of the sins and sorrows of the whole world. We cannot comprehend the weight of such a burden. You and I cannot carry our OWN sins and sorrows.
But this was the reason Jesus came into the world—to remove the sins and sorrows of the world, by carrying them to the Cross, where He suffered and died, and was buried.
After the crucifixion, someone might have said: Ah, now Jesus is resting in eternal peace.
But do not think, tonight, that true rest in found in death—that life’s problems are ended by entering some eternal state of unconsciousness. For just like sleep is not rest, neither is death.
The true rest Jesus promises is found in AWAKING from the sleep of death to a life restored and set free from all the burdens removed by His Cross!
The rest, then, Jesus promises to you and me is nothing less than true and eternal life in His presence!!
We need not doubt that Jesus will keep this promise, because His own tomb is empty. Jesus did not remain dead and buried! He was raised to life on the morning of the third day. In His Resurrection, creation life begins anew, freed now from the burden and decay of sin and death.
(Pause) If we would receive the rest Jesus promises, we must be yoked with Him, which means where He goes, we, too, must go. Jesus took the way of the Cross. The Cross is the way we, too, must take.
As you take time to kneel before Jesus and His Cross tonight. Cry out to Him: I can no longer carry the weight of my own guilt and sorrow. It is simply too heavy. Lord, I give my life to you, even as you gave your life for me. In humble faith I trust that your way and the sacrifice of your Cross is the only way to eternal life and rest.
I love this worship space (Gedächtniskirche)! Look, the living Jesus stands with open arms welcoming you. Hear His promise to you. Come to me, and I will give you rest. Both now and forever. Amen.