I love taking naps. Sometimes, I get so excited about taking naps that I can’t sleep. I used to hate naps (mostly because I was forced to take them instead of playing outside). Those days have long passed. I have a fairly busy schedule, so, to me, naps are like the instant recharge and refuel that keep me going. Also…I wake up feeling amazing. Most often, naps are my relief from the weariness of work or pain. I used to think that Christ offered rest like that…like the rest he offered was some sort of spiritual nap to relieve me from all the pains and trials of everyday life. I thought it was kind of like an escape from real life. I remember seeing a painting of the following verse depicting Christ with a sleeping child on his lap and a lamb sitting at his feet.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
God promises an easy life and a Joel Osteen brand of heaven on earth type bliss, Right? Isn’t that what this passage is saying? Isn’t Christ offering spiritual nap-time to all the weary travelers of the world? I don’t think so. Let’s back up a couple verses and see who he’s talking to.
Matt 11:20-30 0 Then He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago! 22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today. 24 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Jesus has just issued the strongest warning toward people that he ever gave while on this earth. He’s talking to the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida. After explaining the horrible logic they used to give themselves a reason to hate the messiah (accusing Christ of being a drunkard for eating with sinners), he begins to pronounce a warning to two cities; mostly because of the amount of revelation they received and the degree to which they rejected it. He says that even the most notoriously evil cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, will be better off on the day of judgment than these two cities (Chorazin and Bethsaida). The reason the day of Judgment will be so bad for them is that salvation was so close to them and they refused to see it. It’s that they were so arrogant that they didn’t care to notice Christ standing in front of them on earth. The feeling that they rejected something so obvious will be worse for them than Sodom and Gommorrah who never saw God in person or his miracles. Let’s continue on:
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him….
Jesus is telling them…you think you know me. And what you think you know about me…you don’t like. Just like John the Baptist (Matt. 11:1-15)…you are letting your presuppositions of what you think the Messiah should be like influence the view you have of him. You think he should fit into your little mold. So instead…you ask for another. You write the one off who’s actually the Messiah as a drunkard and a glutton. Your values are completely skewed. You think that you are wise. I thank God that he does not take your human intellect into account. (It is interesting that when Peter came to a true understanding of who Christ was, Jesus commented by saying that it wasn’t flesh or blood that revealed Christ to him…it was by “my Father”). Instead the gospel is easer for those who are not as arrogant and foolishly wise as you. They have less to be offended by (v. 6). In fact…this is how things really work. You think you know me… but nobody knows me except my Father. Nobody knows the Father except me and whomever I desire to reveal him to. Instead of being the glutton and drunkard you think I am…I’m going to turn your world upside down and reveal myself to you in the middle of your unbelief. This is who I really am. I am one who extends rest and patient learning to all who will come to me. Even you. The one’s who are rejecting me.
These are the people Christ is talking to when he issues the following invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
He gave that invitation to the people who hated him. He says to them, “I will give you rest.” Often, as Christians today, we get confused about this “rest” that Christ promised. Instead of spiritual nap-time Christ offers a rest that is a burden. He says, “You’re already burdened, but you have no help carrying it. I will carry your burden for you. In return I’ll give you a burden that is only seemingly a burden. It’s only a burden if you make it one. It’s called the cross. You give me the burden of your sin…I’ll give you my cross. My yoke is the cross. You are not content wrapped up in your burdens. You can’t be. So, I offer you another way. You have the yoke of your sin and it’s so hard because you make it that way. All you have is the law that constantly condemns you. Your life is hard because you’re beaten down by the law. Let me take that from you and give you my grace. Let me give you my grace.” This is the rest that we find in the Messiah.
Our burden has been exchanged for a cross. Life is not promised to be “easy.” However, if we are trusting God he shares the weight of our life. It’s no longer you who has to carry it.
Rejoice in the work of Christ this season. Explore the greatness of his offer.