When Jesus says ‘ Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28) he identifies a problem we all have. Greater than the physical weariness we all experience at times is our need for ‘spiritual’ rest. What are some of the things that weigh us down?
a) Religious rules. Jesus said The teachers of the law and the Pharisees…tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders… (Matthew 23: 2-4). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day added regulations to God’s word that neither they nor the people could keep. Religions all over the world today leave people with the same sense of weariness. Perhaps you’ve had a religious background and can identify with the weariness and burdens of religious regulations.
b) Guilt. While it is possible to feel a false sense of guilt about things that are not necessarily wrong, there is also real guilt – feeling rightly ashamed of past actions. We all have a sense of right and wrong. None of us live up to even our own standards or ethics, let alone God’s law. There are actions and thoughts we are right to feel ashamed of. You may be carrying around a burden of guilt, that you can’t get out of your mind, and it’s making you weary.
c) Anger / Bitterness. All of us have been hurt by others, sometimes in devastating ways. Those hurts can keep coming back and youfind your mind replaying them over and over. You may find yourself fantasising about ways to get even, or imagining bad things happening to the person who hurt you. One man who’d suffered terribly said the anger and bitterness had gone on for so long inside him, that if you were to lick his heart, it would poison you. His heart had become hardened, weary and burdened by his own anger and bitterness.
d) Anxiety. In a similar way it’s easy to become weary and burdened through anxiety. Your mind keeps coming back to concerns you have about your finances or your health, or relationship problems. You can’t get them out of your mind, and it’s making you weary and burdened.
e) Desire to prove yourself. Often we’re weary because we are simply doing too much. We find it hard to say no to things. If we’re honest we’re often just trying to prove ourselves –to others at work, or to family or friends. There’s a restlessness inside of us that makes us weary and burdened as we fill our lives with all this activity that still leaves us spiritually weary and burdened.
In claiming to be the one who can provide us with spiritual rest, Jesus is claiming to be God. In the Old Testament David said: My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62:1). Jesus calls us not just to come to God for rest, but to come to him – he is God. He is inviting us to come to him – to pray to him, to get to know him through God’s word, to put our trust in his death and resurrection as being for us, to get to know God the Father intimately through him.
It’s in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that our soul finds rest from the religion we can never do, from the guilt we can never change, from the anger we can never stop, from the anxiety we can never get rid of, and from the desire to prove ourselves. You won’t have to prove yourself to anyone if you come to Jesus and trust in what he has done. Through his life and his death, he has done all that is needed for you to be made right with God.
Come to me Jesus says, and I will give you rest.
(Other posts on Matthew 11:28-30: Part 2 How is Jesus’ yoke easy? , Part 3 Rest for the weary – forgiveness illustrated )