How many of you feel like you're carrying a load like the woman in this picture?
Schoolwork, special projects, a job, homemaking, planning for the future, hectic schedules--we all have our own set of tasks and responsibilities that weigh on us, and then we're supposed to add growing in Christ and fulfilling our life purpose into that mix? Sometimes I think, "You've gotta be crazy. I've barely got time to do the minimum, much less bother with spiritual growth and working for a higher purpose." I have the tendency to say, "When I get it all done, then I can concentrate on the big picture."
That's when Jesus speaks to me. Sometimes it's with a whisper, sometimes it's with a skillet being banging over my head:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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 Jews of Jesus' day had plenty to worry about. According to one website, a Jewish woman had to "obey her husband, mill the grain, cook, wash, make the meals, nurse the infants, work the wool, and, in some cases, wash the face and feet of her husband....To the young girls was given the duty of feeding and dressing their father, (and) of helping him when going out or returning when they are old.... The father was also able to sell his daughter as a slave. Only a girl older than 12 and one half years of age was autonomous regarding her own marriage."
That doesn't sound like a walk in the park.
So Jesus was talking to people who had just as much--probably more--on their plates than we do. And yet he told them that he would give rest. The part of this verse that says "you will find rest for your souls" is actually a reference to Jeremiah 6:16:
"Thus says the LORD,
'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls....'"
This is what life looked like under the Old Covenant. "Follow the rules, and you will have peace." But that isn't how it works now. Now we are to come to Jesus. We are not expected to carry the load alone. Isn't that wonderful?! The idea of a yoke is that two oxen are pulling together, in unison; when we take Jesus' yoke upon us that means that we are pulling together. He is giving us strength that we could never have by ourselves!
When we become Christians it's easy to imagine that we've left one set of rules and now we have to follow another, but peace and rest is not found in rule-following. Right before that verse in Matthew, 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. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 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." It is in knowing Christ that our rest is found.
I said earlier that I sometimes fall into the trap of believing that when I "get it all done" I'll be able to focus on things like spiritual growth and ministry. But the truth is that I'll never get it all done. You know that from personal experience, I'm sure. There's always something else to do. But rest is found not in checking off tasks on a list, or trying to grin and bear your burden, it's found through knowing Christ.
Manns, Frederick. "Everyday Life in the Time of Jesus." Christus Rex. Web. 06 Apr. 2012.