For most adults it does not quite have the ring to it that it used to during college days. I am one of the few who get a reprieve when school is on a break because my work primarily involves youth. During this week, I have had some time to slow down and reflect — aka rest. Some of my time I have reflected about how on the go I allowed myself to get the past couple of months and how I let the daily grind wear me down. I realize I need to do a better job of focusing on rest and out of that, I hope to help you and me better understand Jesus’ theology of rest.
Of course, if you have read your Bible much, you know Jesus talks about rest. In Matthew 11:28, he said, “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”
How does Jesus want us to rest? The next two verses bring Jesus’ practical advice. He continues: “Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light. ”
Initially I was confused as to why Jesus would mention work in the same sentence as rest. It is not a common idea that the two are symbiotic. But with the help of others who know a lot more than me, it all came together. Biblical scholar Dale Bruner explained a lot to me in his study on Matthew. He writes: “Jesus realizes that the most restful gift he can give the tired is a new way to carry life, a fresh way to bear responsibilities ... instead of offering escape, Jesus offers equipment.”
Bruner is not saying that taking a literal vacation is a bad thing. By all means, we all need an escape sometimes. What Bruner emphasizes though is that Jesus is saying that he desires to enter into all of our lives and provide “equipment” to get the job done. He is not taking work or burdens away, but by trusting and allowing our life to be under his yolk, it provides spiritual rest.
For what it is worth, I have learned (and need to remind myself more) that it takes work to rest. Our relationship with God needs to be active. Verses like Amos 5:4, “seek God and live,” and all of John 15 where Jesus encourages us to “abide in him” in order to bear fruit have been lighthouses during my troubled seas.
Obviously, our body has physical needs for rest. That is when seven days in Florida comes in handy. What Jesus is offering is a spiritual rest that can happen in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Are you able to use active verbs like “seek” and “abide” when describing your relationship with the Lord? Or, like me when I am not intentional enough, do they turn into adjectives like “complacent,” “procrastinating” or “dormant.”
Jesus offers rest, but he requires action to acquire it. I pray we can all seek and abide him to experience his yoke.