Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 3)

“The Rest of God!”

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus is inviting you to come to Him, but what did Jesus promise to give to those who are tired from day-to-day life and weary from carrying the burdens that have been placed on them?


From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the promise found in Matthew 11:28-30, “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.”[1]


Here is a brief survey of numerous Bible teachers’ thoughts on Jesus’ promise of rest in v. 28:


It includes peace of mind and heart, and relief from uncertainty and anxiety [NTC]. It is a deep refreshment that enables a person to go back to his or her tasks with renewed strength and energy [PNTC]. It is relief from sin and guilt, and from striving after salvation [Lns]. It is an eschatological rest, and reflects the language of Jeremiah 6:16 [EBC, NICNT, NIGTC, WBC], but it is also a present reality [EBC, WBC]. This ‘rest’ is a proper fellowship with God [TH]. It is not idleness or inaction [BNTC, ICC], but the contentment and full life that come from knowing and living by the truth which God’s Son reveals [ICC]. It is eternal, eschatological salvation by faith [CC]. It speaks of a refreshing and fulfillment that looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath [WBC].[2]


What a beautiful and robust promise for those who will come to Jesus. All this from a one-word promise.[3] The original Greek word used in Matthew 11:28c is ἀναπαύω which is used 12 times in the New Testament, with the following range of meaning: “to cause someone to gain relief from toil, to cause to rest, refresh, revive; to bring something to a conclusion, end, conclude, finish; to settle on an object, rest upon in imagery.”[4]

Here are three examples of the rest Jesus is referring to in Matthew 11:28. With applications.


First, from Mark 6:31-32, after the disciples come back from successful ministry trips, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”[5] (emphasis of bold and underline added)


APPLICATIONS: Rest can happen in times alone with God or with a small group of people.


Do you have 7 friends (a small group of people) that you can be yourself with?


You won’t find rest as long as you are carrying the yoke of performance to gain acceptance from people. The fear of man and fear of rejection disallow us from finding rest in the easy yoke of Jesus. This level of relationship is cultivated through time together, with an intentional desire to be known and to know. It’s risky, but what worth having does not come with risk to ourselves. Love is the riskiest business!


We will talk about this more in the coming weeks, but it is critical to understand that Jesus’ invitation to find rest is not just a once-upon-a-time faith decision, but daily moment-by-moment decisions to faithfully live by faith to Jesus’ ways and words. This is never tested more than in our relationships, in how we love one another, in how we relate to others ranging from our neighbor to our enemy.


When is the last time you went on a retreat (mini, day, or overnight), either alone or with others?


The ultimate antidote to the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. It is in Christian discipleship, in answering the invitation to come to Jesus, that you learn how to take off the yokes of other people’s expectations. You don’t need to fear them! This includes taking off the yoke of our own expectations of living up to oppressive standards (often driven by our own past hurts, or by pride of performance or insecurity of what others may think, fear of the future including the very relevant fear of missed opportunities that drives so many young families today). It is impossible to rest in the easy yoke of Jesus when you are being driven by puny gods (idols).


Are you making space in little ways for God in your life to experience the rest of God?


Start small and start today. One idea is to get to bed on time and on purpose in order to get a good night sleep. Then you can wake up rested to spend your first part of the day with Jesus. Whether for 2 or 20 minutes or 2 hours, turn your early morning into a mini retreat with Jesus. Your day doesn’t start with how you wake up, how you start your day is determined by how you get to bed! Pray the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 to relax and relax to rest.


The next two examples of rest are from Paul. In 1 Corinthians 16:18, he spoke of the rest that comes from the ministry that Christians can give to one another, “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.”[6] Again in 2 Corinthians 7:13, “we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”[7] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

APPLICATION: Rest happens through the service we provide to one another. Both to the one who is ministering as you serve one another in the yoke of Jesus and to the one who is being blessed by the ministry of the other. When was the last time you obeyed the Spirit to serve another person? How did it make you feel? How did it affect the other person? Do you have 1 place of service where you feel led by God to serve others in the easy yoke of Jesus?


A warning for the sake of your health: Any place of service that is not in submission to God through the yoke of Jesus will either burden, disappoint, or eventually frustrate you or pridefully cause you to feel better than others. In either case, the lack of the Spirit and the increasing of the flesh in that kind of service can only lead to a wary and burdened soul. All service in the easy yoke of Jesus brings about humility in the person and praise to God who is the only one able to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. As Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[8]


Combined, these applications, are what we are calling FBC’s 2019 “7:1 Initiative” that I believe the Lord Jesus is inviting each of us to as members of His body at FBC. This is not a program that we are calling you to, it is a lifestyle. Are you investing in 7 relationships and 1 place of service that will lead to rest for you and rest for others?


You are invited to practically apply Matthew 11:28. Rest is not a complete absence of work, but from a complete surrender to Jesus Christ which includes every single day in every single way, not just a 6:1 ratio of work to rest. Jesus is the purpose and meaning of our work and He is the rest for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.


Immediately after this amazing invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus declares this in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”[9] Jesus calls us to a day of ceasing from our work because He knows we need to rest from our labors, our striving and scheming, and we need above all to remember and to know that He is God and we are not.


The rest of God is not only to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God and move closer and closer to Him every day. Jesus is desiring to be with you, from the inside out. Jesus is desiring to set you free and in your freedom, to give you rest, in this life and in the life to come.


Are you moving closer and closer to Jesus?
Rest Week 3:  Listen to it here

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[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.


[2] David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013), 412–413.


[3] When I was first studying this passage, I was going to demonstrate how God “gives” and cross reference this promise with the famous promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” But while there is a conceptual connection to this truth that God is the giver of all good gifts (cf. James 1:17), there is not a lexical connection. This is a one-word promise and it is not the same Greek verb used in either of these verses or the like (e.g. Rom 8:32).


[4] Word studies and analysis of the text done in Logos 8 Bible Software. Word study with Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Additionally from UBS, “to cause someone to become physically refreshed as the result of resting from work—‘to cause to rest, to give rest.’ δεῦτε πρός με … κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς ‘come to me … and I will give you rest’ Mt 11:28. In some languages it may be difficult to speak of ‘causing someone to become refreshed by resting.’ Normally this would be accomplished simply by causing a person not to have to work. Accordingly, Mt 11:28 may be expressed in some languages as ‘I will make it possible for you no longer to have to work’ or ‘… to toil hard.’ This, however, must not be understood merely in the sense of ‘to give a person a vacation’ or ‘to make it possible for someone to live without working’” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains [New York: United Bible Societies, 1996], 260).


[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 6:31–32.


[6] Ibid., 1 Co 16:18.

[7] Ibid., 2 Co 7:13.


[8] Ibid., Jn 15:5, 16a.


[9] Ibid., Mt 12:8. “What better example than the fourth commandment, which dominates 12:1–14? One experiences the sabbath rest precisely by keeping the sabbath command; and it is rest not just for the ‘soul’ (so most translations of 11:29c), but for the body as well. Yet, this only happens for persons intimately related to ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’ (12:8). In Jesus’ hands, the law is an instrument of grace, a guide for loving God and neighbor. Wielded by alien powers (demonic or human), the law becomes enslaving and destructive” (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries [Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010], 637).