4) Rest for the sinner
Jesus provides rest for those who minister, he provides rest for the doubters, he provides rest for those who are suffering, and lastly, Jesus provides rest for the sinner.
Jesus prefaces the verses about rest with verses 16-24 about sin. Before we can talk about true rest, we cannot ignore the topic of sin.
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
How does Jesus characterize sin in these verses? He characterizes sin as stubborn children who are unwilling to change. He makes his point by comparing himself with John the Baptist. John was an ascetic. He didn’t eat normal food and drink. He chomped on insects and lived in the desert like an animal. And the Jewish people said, John with his asceticism can’t be a messenger of God. He’s too weird. On the flip side, when Jesus came eating and drinking and he interacted with tax collectors and prostitutes, the same people said, this person can’t be a messenger from God because he’s a glutton and a drunk. You go one extreme and they are not happy. You go the opposite extreme and they are not happy. They are like children who can’t be pleased. This is how Jesus choose to depict sin. Never happy, never convinced, never changing.
Wisdom is proved, not by clear arguments and sound theology, according to Jesus, wisdom is proved by your actions. We say we love God, but are we willing to suffer, are we willing to live in a desert and do what he asks of us, are we willing to abandon our plans and conform to his will? It’s not what we confess with our mouths, but it’s how we choose to live our lives that matters in the end.
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are towns in Galilee where Jesus did the bulk of his ministry. Tyre and Sidon are outside of Galilee so Jesus spent less time in those cities. The principle here is simple. If you fail to live wisely through your actions, then eventually, there is judgment. And the greater the blessing, meaning, the greater the number of chances you had to respond to Jesus and change through your actions and you refused, then the greater the judgment.
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
In contrast to the stubborn children in the marketplace who are never happy and who never change, Jesus tells us to be like little children. Not childish, but childlike. Children are innocent. They are not wise and learned. They are simpler. Therefore, they are not guarded. They are more trusting. They get easily awed. And Jesus says, if you want rest from your sin, then you need to come to me like little children. And when we come to him like little children, we hear the words starting in v28–
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.”
What kind of people should come to Jesus for rest? Those who are weary. Weary means those who have been toiling, working, laboring with effort, bodily effort and mental effort to the point of being completely worn out and depleted.
If you are of average weight and height, here is what you will go through in an average 24 hr period: your heart will beat 103,689 times. Your blood will travel 168 million miles as your heart pumps approximately 4 ounces per beat. You will breathe 23,040 times, inhaling 438 cubic feet of air. You stomach will take in 3.5 lbs of food and 2.9 quarts of liquid. You will lose seven eighths of a pound of waste. If you are a man, you will speak 4,800 words, and if you are a woman, you will speak close to 7,000 words. You will move 750 muscles and exercise 7 million brain cells.
No wonder we’re tired. It takes a tremendous amount of work just to stay alive! Weariness comes from physical fatigue after a long day. But there is a weariness that comes from life itself.
The weariness of a parent when a child is doing wrong. The weariness of a friend when he has been abandoned or misunderstood, the weariness a wife feels whose husband has rejected her. It’s the weariness that can take a toll on even the most successful individual.
Are you weary today? I invite you to come to Jesus.
Who else needs rest? Those who are burdened. Burdened means overloaded, literally, weighted down. And the immediate context suggests that God’s people have been burdened, loaded down with a bunch of religious legalism.
Are you burdened by religion? Are you burdened by sin? Are you burdened by the cares of this life? Come to Jesus.
If you come to Jesus wearied and burdened, he promises, I will give you rest. Rest means to give a pause after completing a task or after precious toil and care. We usually think of this call for rest as a call for non-Christians to come to faith in Christ. And it is true. Sin is the largest burden we carry and only Jesus can take that load away from us. But in the context, we forget that Jesus is dealing with his disciples, John the Baptist, these are Christians who are working hard and suffering and experiencing doubt and they are in desperate need of rest as well.
This is the rhythm of faith. You go out for battle, you try your best to be forceful in preaching Jesus and ministering to the broken. And we get beaten up. We get rejected. We become tired. And we return to Jesus for rest, for refueling, to be recharged and replenished. Get equipped. Refreshed. With new supplies. So that we can be sent out again and forcefully advance the kingdom of God again. This is the rhythm of life for a disciple of Jesus.
v29 – take my yoke. The yoke was a common metaphor in Judasim for the law. The Pharisees took the law and added 613 additional laws to the original Torah or the first 5 books of the Old Testament. And that yoke became a crushing burden upon the people.
Jesus says, cast off the yoke of religion and put on my yoke. Why? v30 – because his yoke is easy and it’s light.
Yoke also refers to the wooden frame that tied two oxen together. And these yokes placed on oxen were designed in such a way that the lead ox would pull the greater weight. The follower or assistant ox was just to follow and carry a lighter load. Isn’t this a picture of our relationship with Jesus? He is the lead ox. He shoulders most of the burden. And we are following behind with an easy, light load because we have cast most of our burdens upon Jesus.
The yoke of religion is burdensome. Being yoked with Jesus is not burdensome. Rather, it’s life-giving, it’s easy, it’s light. There is freedom in Christ.
Jesus says 2 things about himself. Learn these 2 things about me. v29 – learn from Jesus what it means to be gentle and humble in heart.
And if you learn these things from Jesus and you become more like Jesus, then you will find rest for your soul. I can’t give you rest. Church can’t give you rest. The best we can do when we gather as a community of faith is to point each other to the one person who can give every single person, young and old, rich and poor, rest for their souls. It’s none other than Jesus.