Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 16 2013 - Matthew 11:7-30 – I will give you rest

We saw yesterday that the children of the Kingdom are not promised a peaceful life. But we are promised rest – rest for our souls.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 are well known and well loved: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The pressures of this world leave us feeling "harassed and helpless" (9:36), "weary and burdened". The promise of rest is like the promise of water to a traveller in a dry and thirsty land. Eagerly we come to Jesus for the rest he can give us.

But the promise of Jesus is paradoxical. Jesus says that we enjoy the rest he has to give when we take his yoke upon us. The yoke is a picture of burdensome work. The yoke is laid upon the ox that it may pull the plough. The yoke is not a symbol of rest but of hard labour. More than that, Jesus invites his disciples to take his yoke upon them; to join him in the work that his Father has called him to do. And Jesus yoke becomes his cross; this is the wood that he shoulders to the place of execution. The invitation to share Jesus' yoke hardly seems to be a promise of rest. Can it really be said that this yoke is easy and this burden is light?

Part of the answer to this question comes from a realisation that we do not bear this yoke alone. Often a pair of oxen would be yoked together in the work of ploughing. A young ox would be yoked to an older animal that was well used to labouring under the hand of its master. In this way the novice would learn from the experienced animal. Perhaps this is the image used by Jesus. He invites us to take his yoke upon us, not that he might shift it from his shoulders but that we might join him in his work. Yoked to him we labour with him and learn from him and never bear the burden on our own. And, in the paradox of the kingdom, it is in labouring with Christ in the work the Father has given him to do that we find our rest.

Kingdom rest is not inactivity. It is the rest and refreshment that comes from sticking close to the Good Shepherd and following him in path he treads before us.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

With him, the labour of the Kingdom becomes rest and the birth pangs of the Kingdom become our joy. This is something that many cannot understand, but the children the kingdom of this gentle Saviour can testify that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Lord Jesus, you have revealed to us the father-heart of God. I have heard your call to come to you and find rest for my soul. Gladly I come. Bind me close to you that I may never leave your side. Place your yoke upon me and teach me to work alongside you in the field of the kingdom. May this be my daily delight.

Peter Misselbrook