I Will Give You Rest

Matthew 11:25-30


Audio Version

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.” “But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.” In today’s America, everyone is always busy. People are up all day and considerable parts of the night working. And this is in spite of the fact that we have many more machines now that are supposed to make our work easier! We have so many ways to make our work load easier, and yet we don’t seem to get nearly as much work done as our predecessors. Furthermore, we don’t seem to have any time left for fellowship or any kind of social gatherings, because we are so busy. Sometimes it makes me think that people are trying to earn their way to heaven by being busy. They think that they can get to the door of heaven, and God will ask them, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” and they will answer, “Because I’ve been so busy all my life. Just look at all the things I’ve done.” The Pharisees had similar thoughts in Jesus’ day. And Jesus alone has the answer. “Come to me,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest.” The answer is not work, but rest, rest in Jesus. And only Jesus can give us rest.

Now, this passage seems like a shock, coming as it does immediately after Jesus has just finished pronouncing a scathing judgment on the people of three towns, Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. However, the connection is not difficult. The people of those towns thought they were being wise in rejecting Jesus. After all, shouldn’t the Messiah be someone they don’t already know? Wouldn’t He just drop out of heaven into their laps, so to speak? So Jesus starts to pray to the Father, thanking the Father, praising the Father that these things have not been revealed to those people who thought of themselves as wise, but instead have been revealed to people like the disciples. Now, we must be careful here. Jesus is not rejecting intelligence. He is rejecting intellectual pride. You can perhaps put quotation marks around the words “wise and learned.” They were wise and learned in their own eyes, but they could not see that Jesus was the Son of God come in the flesh to give salvation to people on earth. They could not see that. Last week we saw that there was no excuse for the people in those three towns. They should have repented. Here, we learn that the ultimate reason why they did not repent is that the Father had hidden these things from them. The Father did this in order to overturn worldly wisdom and arrogance, and instead exalt His own grace, by revealing these things to children. In other words, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

In verse 27 we have a remarkable statement from Jesus’ own lips about His relationship with His Father. If, in verses 25-26, Jesus has been talking about the people to whom revelation is given, here in verse 27 we learn where that revelation is located: it is in Jesus Himself! Only in Jesus can we see the Father. The relationship that the Son has with the Father is an exclusive relationship. No one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father. But they know each other. This is what constitutes “all things.” What the Father knows, the Son knows. Of course, this is referring to Jesus’ divine nature. There are things that the human nature of Jesus does not know. But that is not what Jesus is talking about here. What Jesus is talking about is His own divine nature as it relates to the Father. In other words, Jesus knew that He was divine.

Now, when we come to the last part of the passage, we might wonder how it all hangs together. What does God hiding things from the wise and learned, and all things being committed to the Son have to do with Jesus giving us rest? It has everything to do with it. There is no rest outside of Christ. These things have to be made known to us by Christ Himself. And any trust of anything outside of Christ will not lead to rest, but to a heavy burden. It is important here to notice that Jesus is not saying that there are people outside of Christ who have rest. In essence, we could paraphrase it this way, “All you out there, all you who don’t have me, you all are weary and burdened. Come to me to have rest.” In the context, however, Jesus is particularly targeting those people who have followed the Pharisaical way of thinking. This is proved by verse 29, which mentions a yoke. The Jews always said that people should take upon themselves the yoke of the law. Jesus is telling people that the yoke of the law is too heavy to carry. One must carry it perfectly if one is to have rest. None of us can do that. But Christ took that yoke of the law so that we would not have to carry it. Jesus, in effect, is the law. But the yoke He lays upon us is very different. I am not saying that the law is meaningless to us today. By no means. However, we do not carry the law as a burden. In other words, we do not work to earn our salvation. Instead, we trust that Christ has carried that burden for us. After all, Christ does not advocate the abandonment of the law. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus actually told us that the requirements are now stricter, and that our righteousness has to surpass that of the Pharisees and the scribes! This is what is ironic about what Jesus says. However, the key here is that Jesus helps us to carry the burden. A yoke was put on two beasts of burden, not just one. So when Jesus tells us to take upon ourselves HIS yoke, it means that Jesus is our yoke-fellow, the one who helps us to bear the yoke of righteousness. He helps us by implanting in us the Holy Spirit, so that we can bear that yoke. No longer do we have to carry that yoke of the law in order to obtain salvation. Rather, we can carry the yoke of Christ, who helps us to accomplish the law in our lives as a result of salvation.

The result is rest, rest for our souls. The problem with taking upon ourselves the yoke of the law is that we never know if we have done enough. And then, when we hear that the standard is God’s own perfection, we collapse into despair. This was the despair of Martin Luther before he discovered that the righteousness that was required of us by God is the righteousness that God gives in Jesus Christ, and not a righteousness that we ourselves earn. All we do is lay hold of that righteousness by faith without any kind of works of ours involved. Oh, it is rest to know that Christ has accomplished all for us. He took upon Himself the yoke of the law, the heavy burden of our sin, so that we could have a lighter burden. Our lives may be harder in this life that those lives of the non-believer. However, what we will discover is that our souls are lighter, for we can have the joy of salvation, the joy of knowing Christ. Christ denounced the Pharisees for laying on the people burdens too heavy to carry, and not lifting one finger to help the people carry those burdens. Not so, Christ! He has promised to carry our burdens, and oftentimes He does that by carrying us entirely! One is reminded of the woman who looked over the footprints in the sand of her own life, and saw for most of the way two sets of footprints, hers and Christ’s. However, there were times when she saw only one set of footprints. She accused God of abandoning her. Jesus said that He had never abandoned her. Then she asked why there were sometimes only one set of footprints. Jesus answered that it was not because He had abandoned her, but because He was carrying her. God will never give us a heavier load than we can bear. Any burden that we bear is certainly infinitely lighter than the burden that Jesus Himself carried for us. And these two things can be of great comfort to us when we undergo trials: Jesus carried more than we ever will, and Jesus is helping us to carry ours even now. He is yoked to us. What a merciful, faithful High Priest we have! Jesus is not aloof from us, but knows us. He knows our burdens, and helps us carry them.

So, we should all come to Jesus. Any other burden is simply too heavy for us. We certainly do not want the burden of judgment on us for ignoring Christ. We do not want the burden of hell. We do not want the burden of trying to earn our way to heaven, nor do we want the burden of being too busy. We need the light and easy burden that Jesus offers. Come to Jesus, and He will give you rest.


  1. Nate said,

    May 26, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I think the picture of Christ’s relationship with us and his relationship with the other members of the Trinity is painted beautifully in the ideas of rest and joyous celebration. Like your post says, Christ offers us rest from the burden of keeping the Law (although I would offer that the Law was never even intended to be kept perfectly, rather as a standard set too high for anyone to attempt to attain. . . in order to show us our complete depravity, our complete brokenness. . . for a sermon on why I think this is the case, head over to the Liquid Church video player).

    Regarding celebration: the Greek term perichoresis is used to describe the relationships that each member of the Trinity have with one another (I know, it’s a limited definition, but bear with me). Peri translates to “around or about,” and choresis, “to dance.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine the three Persons of God in a celebration dance of love out of which Man was born.

    I know I’m moving on a tangent here (which I should probably reserve for my own post), but I want to follow this rabbit trail for a minute. God did not create Man because he was lonely or because he needed some entertainment. God created Man because the natural expression of love is to share. The members of the Trinity loved and glorified one another so much that the obvious course of action was to introduce that love to something else.

    Just like in a marriage relationship. . . when a husband and wife share that intense love with one another, they long to share that love with someone new—a child.

    So I’ve completely departed from the topic of your post. I’m sorry. It’s a very encouraging post, by the way, albeit a tad long (like my comment, so I have no room to talk).

  2. Barry Waugh said,

    May 27, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Maybe the high gas prices will help us to understand rest better. Running around in the car with the phone in one hand and a burger in the other (yes, I have seen people try to drive with no hands) is seen by many as getting the job done, but whatever happened to “working smart” and not “working hard” (per your introductory illustration). Not only are work hours consumed with “busy-ness” but the rest of grace, salvation and worship are sometimes cluttered with the “busy-ness” of programs and running-back-and-forth to the church physical plant. Sanctification is not through “busy-ness,” but it is through grace, rest and perseverance. As the pump prices rise, maybe we will not only slow-down and be more efficiently physically, but maybe we will find that “busy-ness” is not all that it is cracked up to be. A fine sermon, Lane.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    May 27, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Praise God you found the sermon helpful, Barry. And Nate, it is a sermon, so it will be longer than most of my other posts!

  4. November 23, 2008 at 12:14 am

    I know I am a little late coming to the game on this post, but my blog post said that your blog post (this one) was “possibly related” so here I am!

    That said, it is late here and I can see that you have said many other things in addition to this post, so for the time being, I will be brief…

    Well said.

    (more later)

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