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Rest for Our Weary Souls

Updated: May 4, 2021

Rest for Our Weary Souls

Pastor Danny Castiglione

In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 11, Jesus says:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Last week, as I was preparing the sermon on Isaiah 36-39, I looked at the previous chapters trying to see what God is doing through Isaiah to conclude the entire section (1-39) with the historical interlude where Isaiah shares about the account of King Hezekiah. In Isaiah chapter 30, I saw this proclamation,

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength… Isaiah 30:15

and my thoughts immediately turned to Matthew 11:28-30.

I know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promised rest of Exodus 33:14, Deuteronomy 12:9-10, and Joshua 1:15, as Isaiah 11:10 and Hebrews 4 proclaim. Yet, I often get distracted in “doing things for God” and I forget to fully rest in Jesus. In light of all that has been happening over the past year, my soul is weary and burdened. So, I have found great comfort over the last few days meditating on Isaiah 30:15-20 and Matthew 11:28-30.

I found this helpful reflection on Matthew 11:28-30, from Pastor and Theologian Michael Green, that he wrote after almost 50 years in ministry and I wanted to share it with our congregation.

“What grace, that God should come to seek his rebel subjects with no word of condemnation on his lips, but an invitation, ‘Come’! That one word shows us the very heart of God. That is his attitude to sinners.

The weary and the heavily burdened are particularly invited. That may have a significance beyond the obvious, for the Greeks were exhausted by the search for truth, which had been proceeding for centuries without resolution. They anticipated modern existentialists in concluding that authentic experience was incommunicable: ‘It is very difficult to find God, and when you have found him it is impossible to tell anyone else about him.’ As for the Jews, they must have found religion a great burden. It had become a matter of endless regulations and duties. Did not the teachers of the law and the Pharisees ‘tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders’ (23:4)? Jesus came to end the search by taking us in his loving arms. He came to lift burdens off our aching backs, not tie them on. He offers ‘rest,’ not cessation from toil, but peace and fulfillment and a sense of being put right. We have only to come, to entrust ourselves to him, and we shall find that rest. Millions have done so and have enjoyed that given rest.

There is a deeper rest, which cannot be given but can only be found: the rest of taking his yoke upon us and entering into partnership with him. He wants not only to welcome back the sinner, but to train the disciple. ‘Come to me’ is followed by ‘Take my yoke upon you’ (28–29). The yoke was the wooden collar that ran across the shoulders of a pair of oxen and enabled them jointly to pull enormous weights. Metaphorically, the yoke was used to describe the law which the Jewish youth undertook to bind to himself in the bar mitzvah ceremony. It spoke of loyal commitment. And here the carpenter of Nazareth, who had made many a yoke, says in effect, ‘My yokes fit well. They do not rub your neck and shoulders. Come to me. Get yoked up to me. Make an act of loyal obedience to me. And you will find a deep peace and satisfaction that you could never find elsewhere. I have come for you. Come to me.’

His yoke is gentle, but not in the sense that it is less demanding than Judaism. In some ways it is more demanding. But it is the yoke of love, not of duty. It is the response of the liberated, not the duty of the obligated. And that makes all the difference.”[1]

May we who are weary and burdened, find our rest in Jesus alone!

[1] Green, M. (2001). The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven (pp. 142–143). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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