In my last blog I said I was working on two problems. My first problem was to determine what Jesus meant about the rest he invites is to, and second, how his words related to the words of the apostle Paul. Solving these two problems could lead to the beginning of a theology of rest.
Our pastor challenged us with two passages of scripture. The first passage is Matthew 11:28-30 (Contemporary English Version):
If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.
The key words in this translation from the Greek are heavy (to weigh down, carry a heavy load), burdens (weary, work related fatigue), and rest (a temporary cessation of labor, motion).
Jesus can give this invitation because he took time to be alone with God in order to find the help and comfort he needed. The invitation is to those who are carrying heavy emotional and physical burdens.
A yoke is for two animals and Jesus uses that as a metaphor for our relationship with him. Jesus is already there “in-yoked,” and asks us to join him in the yoke. Jesus is then alongside us to give respite from our emotional, physical, and spiritual fatigue.
The metaphor of coming alongside is how Jesus describes the work of the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 15. The Spirit comes alongside us as an intercessor, consoler, advocate, and/or comforter.
This is also the idea in the second passage, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (Contemporary English Version):
Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble. We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives. We suffer in the hope that you will be comforted and saved. And because we are comforted, you will also be comforted, as you patiently endure suffering like ours. You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.
The key words in this translation from the Greek are comfort (solace, consolation), trouble (tribulations, pressures), afflict/afflictions (sufferings as an enduring inward state), and terrible (to be in excess).
We praise God the Father, for he is the source of all help, and through his mercy we are provided with what we need. We have pressures in our service to God and in our daily living that threaten our inmost being. God is our source for help and comfort.
The emotional and physical sufferings Jesus suffered were excessive compared to ours, but were endured in order for him to help those in need. He knows and understands what we experience. Now, he comes alongside us in our troubles to bring help and comfort.
I think we can learn both from the practice of Jesus and these two passages of scripture that the pressures of job, marriage, parenting, and just plain living can sometimes threaten our being. We find ourselves drained emotionally and physically. This is a given: we cannot avoid life pressures
The rest Jesus gives is not a retreat or an avoidance of the pressures of living. The rest that Jesus gives is endurance (v. 6). To endure means not to be swerved from a deliberate purpose.
By taking his yoke and learning of him, Jesus is alongside us and gives us strength for the endurance to go on living and helping others. Just as God comforted Jesus in his troubles, Jesus comforts us in our troubles. As we have found help and comfort in Christ, we share that solace, that peace with others.