Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) 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. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30)
It was Jesus who spoke these words and since the time when He spoke them, many well-meaning persons who have not understood the gospel have had to ask themselves the question, “what did He really mean by these words?”
Jesus' promise was, “I will give you rest,” and the question is, when Jesus promises rest, what is the problem from which he is seeking to relieve us? Obviously the opposite of “rest” is “work” or labour. What is the difference between rest and work?
Work is an activity. Work requires effort, energy. Sometimes energy of the mind as well as of the body. And rest? Rest is the opposite isn't it. Rest is non-activity, it is a state of relaxation.
Let us consider still another question: Can a person who is working be resting at the same time?
Strictly speaking we cannot work and rest as the same time, and Christians who find that the effort to serve God is a hard job and a constant strain may know that they have not experienced the rest promised by Jesus and that they have not found the true gospel.
Jesus' appeal is to those who are “heavy laden.” What does this mean? It suggests that these persons are carrying loads and of course they are bound to be tired! Is Jesus here talking about people who are out in the field carrying sacks of potatoes on their backs? Is he talking about this kind of load? What is it that has burdened these people and made them “heavy-laden” and in what are they labouring?
Clearly they are labouring in trying to be righteous! That is what their hard work is all about. The burden which they are carrying is the burden of sin and guilt, it is the weight they bear as a result of the knowledge of their wretched sinfulness and failings and they are labouring hard in trying to get rid of that burden, to somehow obtain righteousness.
Jesus says, “come unto me all you who are working and are under this load, and I will give you rest!” So then if you claim to be a Christian but yet you find yourself in this heavy labour to achieve righteousness, the fact is, you have not yet found what Jesus has to offer!
Again he says, “Take my yoke and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls!” This makes it clear that the part of us which is heavy-laden is the soul. That is where we need rest. Jesus continues by saying, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light!”
A yoke is an instrument which binds one to another in such a way that it compels him to travel in the same direction as that other person. It is not just cows on which a yoke is put. In the wicked days of slavery, when slaves were being transported they often led them in a line and put a yoke around their necks so that no slave could get out of line. Each one had to follow where the one in front of him led. This is the main reason for a yoke, its main purpose is to bind one person to another so that where one goes the other must follow. Jesus says, “you are working hard and you are carrying a heavy load, what you must do is to take my yoke, bind yourself to me because the yoke I give you to wear is easy and the burden is light and if you take it you will find rest for your souls.”
In Isaiah 11:10 it says,
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. (Isa 11:10)
His rest shall be what? GLORIOUS! The one who comes from the root of Jesse will give rest to his people and that rest will be glorious.
The Obstacle to Rest
Now let us turn to the book of Hebrews and see what it says concerning this rest which Christ gives.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, (8) Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. (10) Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. (11) So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) (Heb 3:7-11)
God said the Jews could not enter into His rest. That experience of rest which Jesus promised was not attained by them because their hearts were hardened.
Further on it says in chapter 4:1-3,
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (2) For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (3) For we which have believed do enter into rest . . . . (Heb 4:1-3)
Now what are some of the things that can stop us from coming into that rest which Jesus promised? It is evident that one of the problems is unbelief. But I would like to suggest to you that another serious hindrance (which is really linked to unbelief) is LABOUR!! If we are working how can we rest? Struggling in labour, to do things ourselves will certainly prevent us from experiencing that rest which Christ promised and we will see in just a moment that the greatest reason for unbelief is this labour.
In verses 9-10 it says,
(Heb 4:9-10) There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. (10) For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Those who are doing their own works cannot have God's rest. The one who has entered God's rest has ceased from his own works. It does not mean that works will not appear in you, but you certainly will not be the one who is working. Somebody else is going to be working in you to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13). You wont be working and that is why the burden is lifted off your back, that is why the yoke is easy, because it is not your problem anymore. Somebody else is dealing with that problem and that is the reason why you are able to rest.
The Struggle Ended
In the J.B. Phillips translation of the New Testament, Romans 10:4 reads as follows:
“For Christ means the end of the struggle for righteouness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes in him.” (Romans 10:4 - Phillips)
Hallelujah! Christ is the end of the struggle for righteousness by the law. When you have come to Christ the struggle is over, Christ brings it to an end.
Now it is interesting that Hebrews 4:11 says that we should labour to enter into God's rest. Is there a contradiction here? How do we labour if we are resting? How do we work so that we may not work? It is evident that the word “labour” as used here means, “be diligent,” “seek earnestly,” because one of the things that the Bible does say is that he who seeks will find. But there is a difference between seeking the right way and seeking in the wrong way. In labouring here, what is it that we are seeking to do? In this case, we are “labouring,” we are seeking to find Christ, whereas before, we were labouring to do good, a different thing entirely. Fighting to do good, is labouring to be righteous by our own works - a vain effort. But fighting to find Christ is what all of us must do because when we have found Him we have found wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, eternal life, the fullness of the Godhead, perfection, - all that we need.
So in one stroke we have everything we have been working for and couldn't have, Christ is the end of the struggle for righteousness by the law.”
Let us recognize something before we go any further. What we are talking about is not how we are forgiven. All of us are very familiar with that process and that is what most Christians are concentrating on. That is probably the reason why we have become a people who are content to live by sinning and repenting, sinning and repenting, sinning and repenting on and on as a way of life. Because we know how to be forgiven, we simply repent and then God forgives and washes the slate clean. Amen! Back we go to sin. shortly we return to confess again because we have done it all over in just a few hours!
We have not applied the gospel to the lives we live and that is the problem why we have all laboured under this heavy burden and been so dissatisfied. But the gospel is a complete thing, it is not any half-done thing, it's not any partially done work. God is able to set us free. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation! It is the power of God! And so Paul could say I am not ashamed of it (Rom. 1:16).
What we are dealing with is the issue of the life we live. God does not say, “O.K. see, I have forgiven you, I have given you a push start, now go and finish it. Now you go and live a good life because you see I forgave you.” He doesn't do that. We think actions cannot justify us, but actions can sanctify us. That is foolishness! The same process by which we received Christ is the same process by which we walk all the days of our lives right into the kingdom.
By Faith Only
In Galatians chapter 3 Paul writes,
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (2) This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Gal 3:1-2)
Now this is an interesting question. What is Paul saying? The fact is that these people were filled with the spirit, isn't that right? Paul was saying, “how did you get the holy spirit, was it by keeping the law or was it by believing?” What is the obvious answer? Evidently it was by believing, it was not by anything they did. He says “you silly people, how did you receive the Holy Spirit?” And that is the question I want to ask us all. How do we expect to receive the Holy Spirit? Is it by gradually becoming better, by fasting and praying and similar works for days and weeks and months and years until heaven knows when, or simply by faith? How do we expect to receive it?
Again he says in verse 3,
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
When he says “the flesh” what is he referring to? He is referring to works! He is saying, “you began by faith, why have you gone back to works?”
In verse 5 he goes on to say,
“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?
How does a man perform miracles? Many times we have heard the arguments: “Well we don't see anybody raising the dead, we don't see anybody healing the sick, we don't see anybody prophesying, what is the reason? Is it that we are not righteous enough, we are not holy enough, nobody is dedicated enough?” Paul says, “you foolish people, don't you know it was just by faith that these things were done? It was not by any work on your part, it was just by faith, you silly people!” And two thousand years later we are still in the same hole! Striving to become righteous enough so that we can one day perform a miracle, so that God can use us.
But the wonderful truth is that through faith we have already reached the pinnacle of human existence in Christ Jesus! What a privilege God has given to His sons and daughters, what a wonderful thing it is to know that we are complete in him.