Come and Rest
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus spoke those words in the crowded marketplace of Capernaum nearly 20 centuries ago. But He could just as well have spoken them at Broadway and 42nd in New York, or 5th and Vine in Cincinnati, or State and Madison in Chicago. No matter what the period in history, no matter what the place on Earth, men have the same basic problem: men are restless.
The trouble, of course, is on the inside. We look back at life in Jesus’ day and we say, “If only we could have lived that kind of quiet, simple life!” But the people in Jesus’ day were just as restless as we are today! In fact, they were saying, “If only we could escape this terrible daily grind!” We today have medicine, electricity, all kinds of labor-saving devices—things that people centuries ago would like to have had—and yet we are plagued with restlessness. St. Augustine was right when he said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
Jesus is inviting us to rest. But please understand what this rest is that He offers. It is not rest from life—but rest in life. He is not inviting us to retire and take it easy! He is asking us to take a yoke of responsibility and face life courageously with a new peace in our hearts. He is asking us to share the rest that He enjoys. As you read the four Gospels, you never see Jesus rushing around nervously, or pushing the panic button. He always has a calmness, even in the midst of trial. His life is controlled by a wonderful peace, and it is this peace that He offers you and me.
Jesus will give us the rest that we need if we will only respond to His gracious invitation. He asks us to take three simple steps.
When Jesus says, “Come!” He is implying that you and I are walking in the wrong direction. We are walking away from Him instead of walking with Him, and this is what brings unrest to our hearts. Christ alone can give us peace within, and we must come to Him by faith and surrender our lives to Him. Peace is not found in a bottle; it is found in a Person, Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Now, this invitation to “Come” is just the opposite of what men are suggesting today as the remedy for confusion and unrest. The way to peace is “Go!” Take a vacation; get a new job; make some kind of change. Well, vacations are wonderful, but (as Emerson said years ago) “a change in geography can never overcome a flaw in character.” We can travel to the most exotic place on Earth and still carry our restless hearts with us! The “jet set” is more bored with life than people in the slums.
Another suggestion is “Do!” Enroll in an adult education course; join a drama group; become a hospital helper. All of these are useful activities, but none of them can cure a restless heart. These activities may give a few hours’ truce in the war of life, but the old battles will come back again, and they might be worse.
“Buy!” is another remedy men offer for the restlessness of life. We pacify little children with little toys, and we pacify big adults with big toys. Buy a new house—a new car—a new outfit! Well, you can buy things, but you can never buy peace in your heart. You can go to the drug store and buy sleep, but you can never buy rest. No, the solution to the restlessness of life is not “Go!” or “Do!” or “Buy!” it is “Come! Come unto Me and I will give you rest!”
This is Christ’s personal invitation to you. No special conditions are laid down; He simply says, “Come!” Come as you are. Come with your burdens of sin and disappointment. If you are weary and heavy laden, then Jesus is inviting you. This is the first step toward peace in the heart: come to Jesus Christ, trust Him as your Saviour, yield your life to Him. You may have a thousand questions about life and God and the Bible, but leave those until later. Take that first step—come to Christ and believe in Him.
When you come to Christ, He gives you rest. The heart-peace that you are looking for is not something you earn; it is a gift from God. The cause of unrest is sin, and the secret of peace is forgiveness. You and I can never have peace in our hearts until we are in a right relationship with God, and this can come only through Jesus Christ. This is why He went to the cross: there He paid the price for our salvation and made it possible for us to be forgiven, cleansed, and taken into the family of God. Rest is God’s gift to those who will turn from their sins and trust Jesus Christ.
“Come!” is step one in this thrilling experience of salvation. But it does not stop there. Step two is—
“Take my yoke upon you!” When we come to Christ by faith, He gives us rest. This is what the Bible calls “peace with God.” But when we take His yoke and submit ourselves to Him, we find rest. This is a deeper rest that the Bible calls “the peace of God.” By coming to Christ, we experience salvation and He gives us rest. By taking His yoke and yielding to Him, we find a deeper satisfaction and a “peace that passes understanding.”
The yoke, of course, is a symbol of submission. Whenever an army in ancient times conquered an enemy, it forced the enemy troops to go under the yoke. This was a public symbol of total surrender. Of course, the farmer uses the yoke to control his animals. When an animal is broken to the yoke, it can be useful and fulfill its purpose in this world. Back in Jesus’ day, the Jewish rabbis used the phrase “Take my yoke” when they invited a pupil to enroll in their school. Unless the pupil was submitted to the teacher, he could never learn anything.
Jesus invites us to take His yoke. He wants us to surrender to Him, to turn over to Him our bodies, minds, wills, and hearts. He does not simply want to be our Saviour from sin; He also wants to be the Lord of our lives. The yoke is a symbol of submission, and He invites us to submit to Him and experience a deeper peace day by day.
Most of us resent the idea of being “under a yoke.” We like to feel we are free and can run our own lives. In reality, everybody is wearing some kind of a yoke. There is the yoke of sin. “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:4). When we first start to sin, the yoke seems so easy and enjoyable; but then it grows heavier and heavier. Or, there is the yoke of religion. Jesus said of the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders…” (Matthew 23:4). Paul calls the Old Testament Law “the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). Yet how many people today are trying to find peace by getting entangled in religious rituals and regulations. Instead of finding liberty and rest, they only find bondage and a restlessness of heart. Martin Luther sought peace through religion, sacrifice, and service, but he found no peace in his heart until he trusted Christ and took His yoke.
You are wearing a yoke today, and that yoke is controlling your life. Why not give up the yoke that is wearing you out and burdening your life, and today accept Christ’s yoke that brings peace and fulfillment? You see, Jesus wore a yoke when He was here on Earth: it was the yoke of His Father’s will. But this yoke was easy! He did not complain about it; He rejoiced in it. And He wants to give you and me that same yoke—His yoke—the yoke of the Father’s will for our lives. If you wear any other yoke, it will be heavy and galling and make you miserable. But if you wear His yoke, you will discover that it is easy and joyful.
The yoke Christ has for you is designed especially for you. It is measured to your specifications, your needs, your abilities. You never have to gear the will of God, because the will of God is the expression of the love of God for you. At first, we may think that accepting Christ’s yoke will cripple us and rob us of happiness; but just the opposite is true. Christ’s yoke releases us and gives us exciting fulfillment and joy. It is when we run our own lives that we experience disappointment and misery.
“Take My yoke.” He is offering you one yoke instead of the many yokes you are now wearing. He is offering you a light yoke for the heavy yoke of sin. He wants to give you a deeper peace and rest in your heart, and this can come only when you yield to Him. When you come to Him, He saves you and gives you peace with God. When you yield to Him and take His yoke, He guides you and uses you, and you find day by day a deeper and deeper peace, the peace of God that passes all understanding.
But there is a third step for us to take: “Come!” “Take” and—
“Learn of me.” The first two steps are a crisis: “Come! Take!” But this step is a process: “Learn of me.” It is the day-by-day experience of being yoked to Jesus Christ and getting closer to His heart. And the more we learn about Jesus Christ, the more we learn about our Heavenly Father.
Do you know what it is that causes a great deal of the heartache and trouble in our world? It is ignorance. Men are ignorant of one another, and (most of all) ignorant of God. How many false and foolish ideas men have about God! Some think of God as a celestial grandfather who winks His eyes when His children sin. Others see God as a tyrant whose main purpose is to rob men of their happiness. To others, God is a distant Creator who started everything going but is not really concerned about how it is going to end.
Jesus wants us to understand God. To be sure, no man can fully know God in this world, but we can make a beginning. I may not be able to drink the entire ocean, but the glass of water I do drink quenches my thirst. The most important knowledge a man can have in this life is the knowledge of God. If a man knows God, he can face any problem or trial of life and be victorious. The man who knows God through Jesus Christ need never fear life or death, time or eternity. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” To know Jesus Christ is to know God.
What does Jesus reveal to us about God? What does He want us to learn from Him about God? That God has a heart! “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Now, meekness is not weakness. Meekness is power under control. The heart of God is so loving and gracious that He stoops to fellowship with us creatures of clay! As you get next to the heart of Jesus—and you do this by taking His yoke daily—you get next to the heart of God. As you rub shoulders with people in the world and try to share God’s love, you learn of Him. What an exciting way to live!
If we are going to learn from the heart of God, we must ourselves be “meek and lowly in heart.” God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. This word “meek” carries with it the idea of a colt that has been broken. The colt can never really enjoy life until it fulfills the purpose for which it was created. As long as it rebels and fights, it loses. But the minute it is broken, and its stubborn will is subject to the master, then it begins to live. So it is with us. Like wild, stubborn colts, we fight God and resist His yoke. But then we realize how foolish this is, and we submit to Him in meekness—and then we begin to live! Our hearts are like His heart—meek and lowly—and therefore we share the rest that He has, and we find peace and fulfillment.
If you go out looking for rest, you will never find it. Rest is the result of something else—a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The steps to rest are really quite simply: come-take-learn. Jesus Christ the Carpenter has a yoke prepared especially for you. Refuse that yoke, and you will miss all that He has for you. Submit to that yoke and you will really begin to live. He will give you rest—peace with God. And day by day you will find rest—the peace of God. you will learn to know God better, and this spiritual knowledge will completely transform your world. Come-take-learn. Will you respond to His invitation today?