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.’ Matthew 11:28-30
In the first post in this series, we thought about THE GIFT OF REST. We reminded ourselves that Jesus is the great burden bearer, and wants to take from us our burdens and give us his rest – spiritual rest (our sins forgiven), physical rest (permission to pause from our work) and mental-emotional rest (the opportunity to share our concerns with him).
Now we consider what we may call ‘THE DISCOVERY OF REST’. Jesus says, ‘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.’ Rest is a gift, but it is also a discovery. It is something we ‘find’ along the way.
Jesus was probably a carpenter, learning his trade from his father Joseph. In the workshop at Nazareth, at the heart of a farming community, he would often have make the kind of yoke he speaks about here. In those days farmers would plough their land or transport their goods using a pair of oxen. The oxen would be joined together by a yoke, a wooden crosspiece that was fastened over the necks of the two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they were to pull.
Jesus uses this common sight as a picture of the relationship he wants us to have with him. He wants us to be joined with him, to come into partnership with him, in order to accomplish the work he has given us to do. He does not expect us to do it alone. He does not ask us to work by ourselves on his behalf. No, he invites us to join with him in what he is doing. To be yoked to him, because it is his work. He invites us to be his partners, not his labourers.
The apostle Paul uses an interesting expression along these same lines. He says that we are God’s co-workers, God’s fellow-workers (1Cor 3:9, 2Cor 6:1). This is a partnership, with Jesus as the Senior Partner. He initiates, and we respond; he directs and we follow. In the Great Commission Jesus did not leave us a task to do and then abandon us. No, the Great Commission reflects what he is doing and he invites us to join with him in his work. That takes a lot of pressure of us! We don’t have to make it happen, simply watch what he is doing and join in.
What it does require, however, is that we are yoked to him. But what does that mean?
It means I think that our lives are surrendered to him.
It means our lives are handed over to him, as a response of love to his prior love for us.
It means we are available to him to do his will and serve his purposes.
We should not be afraid of such surrender. The One who is gentle and humble in heart will never take advantage us, never abuse us, never exploit us. In fact it is in doing his will that we find our true freedom. It is as we give ourselves to his plan for our lives that we discover – almost as a by-product – rest for our souls, that is the peace and contentment for which we long. This kind of true rest is never found in going our own way, or in doing our own thing. It is only to be found in surrender to Jesus.
Why not take time today to think about your relationship with Jesus? Perhaps as you ponder his love for you, you want to offer yourself to him afresh? Remember that surrender to God is always surrender to love. In his service there is perfect freedom.
Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you. My heart is restless too, Lord, whenever I refuse your yoke, and try to live independently of you. Today, I gladly and freely take your yoke upon me. Help me by your grace to live fully for you, in the place to which you have called me right now. In Jesus Name, Amen.