Now, here’s a thing. If you were at one of our mid-week devotional meetings, or have caught it on-line you will know that Graham finished looking at Matthew Ch 11 by commenting briefly upon the final two verses in the chapter.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” – Matthew 11.28-29
Wonderful verses, I am sure you agree. But I got to thinking about just what they mean. It seems to me that there are a variety of interpretations, particularly given that (in my reading) these verses do not seem to follow that closely from what went before (‘No-one knows the Son, except the Father and no-one knows the father except the Son’).
My first thought had been about how weary and heavily-laden people feel at present, with the pandemic and all that goes with it. But, when I thought about it some more it seemed to me that there are a variety of ways to look at these words of Jesus.
In Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan gave Christian a spiritual burden to carry that was unresolved sin. He had been made aware of his sinful state, but was not clear about how to deal with it. Last Sunday Graham reminded us that Jesus is the ‘light of the world’ (John 8.12) but that also the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers ….so that they cannot see the light of the gospel..’ (2 Cor. 4.4). Christian’s blindness had lifted enough for him to see the problem (sin), but not the solution (Christ, the Light of the World). Thankfully, that burden can be lifted by coming to Christ. Often, of course, we stumble and again fall into sin – this too is a burden until we come to Christ for forgiveness. Often too, some people, having come to Christ still worry that they are not good enough for God. That is wearisome, and that too can be cast upon Christ.
Linked to that, some people are burdened by desire and temptation that may never leave them. This too can be dealt with if you come to Jesus for rest. Paul says in 1 Cor.10.13 ‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’
Also, as with Covid-19, we have burdens to bear that arise from worldly circumstances. These may include, ill-health, debt, loneliness, persecution, bereavement and many more. These can press down upon us over a long period of time or arise sharply and suddenly. Jesus does not promise he will change our worldly circumstances (although we are enjoined to ‘Bear one another burdens’ (Gal 6.2), and that can help), but he does say he will give us rest.
Last week I wrote about Alexander Hamilton and the musical based upon his life. In it there a lovely and heart-breaking song – ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ about Hamilton and his wife ‘dealing with the unimaginable’ – the loss of their eldest son who died in a duel. No matter – Jesus says, ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’. In part this is about recognising that ultimately what matters is our relationship with God and our eternal destination, but it is also about unburdening ourselves and receiving a sense of relief, comfort, assurance and, yes, joy.
Some people are spiritually burdened by concern for a particular group of people or a particular work of God. This can turn into real anxiety and worry. Again, it needn’t. Remember, Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” – Matthew 11.28-29