Ah, Summer. It is a chance to take a break; school is out, weekends are full of fun, “play” is the primary word on the minds of children (and many adults!). Summer should be a time for relaxing and enjoying free time with loved ones, right? But so many of us are so caught up in the daily grind of life that even sunshine and sprinklers don’t bring the relaxation we so need. I am finding it hard to slow down the pace of my day, my minutes, and my thoughts to simply enjoy summer.
Matthew 11:28-30 tells us Jesus wants us to REST. In this particular passage, Jesus is speaking to a group of individuals who have questioned who he is… they even witnessed John the Baptist question if Jesus was in fact the Messiah. The political and royal upheaval expected by the Jews had not occurred with Jesus, what was he waiting for!? Isn’t the Messiah the one who would reign as king and save them all!?! Jesus did in fact come to save them from the burdens they were experiencing… from the heavy oppression they were under. However, it was not social or political oppression He would free them from, but rather the oppression of their soul.
The Jews were under a law that was becoming heavier and harder to bear. They were at the mercy of religious leaders that would lay more and more requirements on them, bringing fear and frustration to the people. Jesus knew that until their soul was freed from the fear, labor, hopelessness, and heaviness of the Law, no one would ever know true rest. That is what he wanted them to realize so badly, “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 soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
In Hebrew, the word yoke had several different meanings, but metaphorically it was the term used to describe one individual’s subjection to another. Those under the law were subject to the law, but they were also subject to Jewish Rabbi and leaders who were demanding, unrelenting, and strict. The Jews as a group were subject to the Pharisees who were specific and severe in their expectations of others and who Jesus referred to as a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). The yoke of these leaders was heavy and took great effort to bear. For them, worth, value and justification were found in adherence to law, behavior and achievement. Then comes Jesus who says, “I am gentle and humble” not demanding and proud. He invites these tired, weary people to learn from Him, be subject to him, and to sit at his feet and listen. But in contrast to the leaders they had been under for so long, Jesus wants them to stop working, stop earning, stop sacrificing…. just rest.
My life might look different in many ways from these Jews, but so often I also feel weighed down. The leaders of the world (societal standards, media ideology, cultural expectation,etc.) give me a list of requirements I must fulfill to be worthy. I must have a clean house, a big house, a nice car, trendy clothes, cute hair, a certain waist size, acceptable success, well behaved children- in a variety of activities…the list goes on. Sadly, the religious world doesn’t look much different. I must serve, lead, study, pray, behave a certain way, agree with acceptable things, disagree with unacceptable things…again, the list goes on. Life in general gives us circumstances that weigh us down: death, birth, moving, divorce, jobs, children, illness… and here is another list. Some of the items on the lists are wonderful individually, but when they begin to pile up and weigh us down we must ask ourselves, what or who are we subject to? Whose yoke are we bearing?
But this is what Jesus would say to us. We do not have to be burdened, weary, tired, weighed down or work hard all the time. We don’t have to try so hard to find success, achievement, worth, value or salvation through any of the lists- religious or otherwise. We are not subject to these lists, but to him… and he offers us REST. All we have to do is take a cue from Mary in Luke 10 and sit at his feet and listen. Just sit.at.his.feet. When is the last time you simply sat down?
Take time this summer to just BE. Don’t slave away to have a perfect home, whittle your waist, climb the proverbial ladder (I am speaking to myself in so many of these areas!)… rather, just for a few weeks, allow Christ to fill you up and give you the rest so many of us need. This is my prayer for you all over the summer months. I hope you enjoy them!