What burdens do we carry? What does criticism of believers who are different from us do for us? Where can we find rest from these heavy burdens?
Let’s find rest from the heavy burdens that we and others place upon ourselves.
Let’s look at what Jesus had to say about burdens and rest in Matthew 11:16-30.
Matthew 11:16-19 Eating and Drinking
Greek notes: Verse 17 “lament” [literally beat the chest in grief]. Verse 18 the more conservative believer is said to have a “demon” [an evil spirit], in our language, is mad. Verse 19 the more liberal Christ is said to be a “glutton and wine-bibber” [an insult].
Matthew 11:16-19 contains an allegory of children in a public square arguing while playing make-believe funerals and weddings. “We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.” In the Church we sometimes argue over such things. Some Christian music sounds like a funeral dirge and some sounds festive like a wedding. Are we too often like the children in the marketplace? Is God interested in petty arguments? Do we childishly criticize legitimate choices like John the Baptist “neither eating nor drinking” versus Jesus “eating and drinking?” The children of true, heavenly wisdom approve the conduct of both as justified.
Matthew 11:20-24 Three Insignificant Towns
Why in Matthew 11:20-24 did Jesus denounce three small towns in Galilee? Were they like Sodom and Gomorrah, or Las Vegas and Amsterdam? They were not major sin cities with prostitution, debauchery or even child sacrifice. Jesus said that such cities, “would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” That’s the problem! While we focus on morality or social justice, Jesus pointed out a far worse problem, unwillingness to repent. What does Jesus say about sin cities? He said, “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Why? It’s not where we start, but where we end up that counts.
Matthew 11:25-27 Hidden Things
Why can national leaders not understand how to lead nations to God? Why can the most highly educated and greatest minds on our planet not bring about peace? Why do the wealthy and powerful of the world not understand that their greed and selfishness destroys their own families and the world? There is an answer in knowing God. In Matthew 11:25-27 Jesus prayed that, “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Who alone can reveal the most important secrets of all? “Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
Matthew 11:28 I Will Give You Rest
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Our Sabbath rest is in Jesus and eternity (Hebrews 4). No Christian keeps the letter of the law as Deuteronomy, which expounds the Ten Commandments,1 demands. Some want to keep the law in the letter and the spirit, but the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). The only option left is keeping the law in spirit. The New Testament teaches us how. Our true rest is in Him, circumcision is in the heart (Romans 2:29), and love fulfills the whole law (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14).
1 1st Deuteronomy 6-11; 2nd Deuteronomy 12; 3rd Deuteronomy 13:1-14:21; 4th Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17; 5th Deuteronomy 16:18-18:22; 6th Deuteronomy 19-21; 7th Deuteronomy 22:1-23:14; 8th Deuteronomy 23:15-24:7; 9th Deuteronomy 24:8-16; 10th Deuteronomy 24:17-26:15. Source: Hill, Andrew E. & Walton, John H. A Survey of the Old Testament. Zondervan Publishing House. 1991. 58.
Matthew 11:28-29 Rest for our Souls
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus offers a rest that no one else can give, that no letter-of-the-law Sabbath day observance can give. Our need of rest is twofold, to “all you who labor and are heavy laden.” Labor becomes like a treadmill when we add the burden of sorrow that sin produces. Jesus’ promise of rest is also twofold, “I will give you rest” and “you will find rest for your souls.” These precious blessings are offered to all of us, the rest in coming to Christ, the rest of a quiet conscience, the rest of friendship with God, the rest of forgiveness, rest from fears, and rest for our souls.
Matthew 11:30 My Burden is Light
A problem that the church has faced down through the ages is the temptation to add to Jesus’ easy burden, the heavy burden of man-made practices, weights, cumbersome rituals, Pharisaic rules, and unbearable religious demands that neither Jesus nor His Apostles taught. Jesus contrasted His light burden with the heavy burden that religious leaders in His day who taught the Scriptures imposed (Matthew 23:1-12). In the hands of hypocrites who love power, church can become a human-created burden. Those who teach the Bible must beware not to add to the light load that Jesus gave. In Matthew 11:30 Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Hebrews 3:7-4:11 A Promise of Rest
Rest for our souls is a topic in Matthew 11 and Hebrews 3 & 4. The Sabbath day and the Promised Land are pictures of eternal rest. “There remains therefore a rest [literally ‘a Sabbath rest’] for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9) Though we find rest for our souls now, there still remains an eternal rest. “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11) We are invited to rest from the burden of sin, our anxieties, the distress of unsatisfied desires, from deep sorrows after a death, and to make every diligence to enter eternal rest.
No need to worry about different approaches to our common faith. We have enough burdens to bear without criticizing others. Let’s unload our heavy burdens on Jesus and find true rest for our souls.
Matthew 11:16-30; Hebrews 3:7-4:11; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 2:29; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; Matthew 23:1-12
Hill, Andrew E. & Walton, John H. A Survey of the Old Testament. Zondervan Publishing House. 1991. 58.