There is an elusive place in life, a place I would love to live every day, but find it increasingly difficult to find. Even when I find it it is short lived and fleeting. That place is the place we call rest.
So many of us today could say with Job:
“I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes.”
As I considered this subject I had a sudden picture in my mind of Jesus standing a short distance in front of me with his arms open. And as he stood gazing directly at me he said – “Come to Me and I will give you rest.”
Come to me! Not come to church, not come to a pastor or minister, not even come to my word or come to me in prayer – simply come to me.
This is a very simple invitation with an equally simple promise. But the invitation requires that I respond – that I take a step towards Jesus. And the promise is that when I take that step and enter the embrace of his open arms I will enter his rest.
The full invitation is of course found in Matthew 11:28-29:
“Come to Me, all 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.”
I suspect today some of us are weary – some of us may be broken, frustrated, and confused. Some of us may think that the rest we find in coming to Jesus is a once only experience. That is far from the truth!
I want you to see Jesus standing before you now, at this very moment, as he says to you:
“Put all your concerns and worries to one side – look at me – look into my eyes of love and compassion – it is I that offers you peace and rest – my arms are open to receive you – enter my embrace, come to me!”
If you don’t read on any further then I will be happy – just as long as you find Rest.
Although Job said what he said – a short time later later he could say this:
“Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety.”
I believe hope is a person and his name is Jesus! And He is asking you to live in the place David speaks of in Psalm 91:
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Sadly, so often, for some unknown reason, we do not want to enter in to the rest God has provided for us. We are like the people of Israel to whom God said through the prophet Isaiah:
“God has told his people, “Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.” But they would not listen.”
You see the place of rest is the only place from which we can be truly blessed, truly renewed, truly empowered and truly effective. Isaiah again:
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
Rest is above everything a relationship rooted in love and true effectiveness comes only from the quiet place where we are confident in our God – confident in his compassion, mercy, grace and love!
It is very interesting, and I think instructive to notice, that back in the beginning of all things – the first full day men and women spent on this earth was the Sabbath – a day of rest! We were created for the rest of God! Eden is a picture of paradise – of perfection. There is nothing to distract – nothing to disturb – it is a place of perfect rest. But after Adam’s sin everything changed. And one of the first consequences is that his rest is destroyed. Genesis 3:17 – 19:
“The ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle (the opposite of rest) to scratch a living from it.”
His rest has been destroyed! But the Sabbath, this day of rest, was and is a picture or a shadow of a true – a deeper rest God has provided for us in the person of Jesus.
Many reading this will be aware of the problems and issues the observance of the Sabbath day has caused in our Highland culture. But the bible is clear – the fulfilment of the Sabbath of the OT is found in a person who is himself our Rest.
Let’s remain with this for a moment – as I know many people still have an issue with the whole Sabbath observance issue.
Our key text is Matthew 11:28-29 (TLV): “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Just after this statement we find Jesus embroiled in a debate about the Sabbath:
“At about that time Jesus was walking through some grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:1 – 2
So we go from a statement where Jesus invites people to come to him for rest – to a debate about the Sabbath day of rest. This is not a coincidence! The two are linked . The second incident finishes with the statement by Jesus – “For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (Matthew 12:8).
Jacob Neusner, a devout Jewish scholar, has studied the life of Jesus in detail and written a book entitled “A Rabbi talks with Jesus”. Neusner ultimately rejects Jesus because he comes to the conclusion that Jesus taught the he personally was the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets – and by default replaced what he terms “Eternal Israel”. Here is what he writes regarding the incidents we have just mentioned:
“My yoke is easy, I give you rest, the son of man is lord of the Sabbath indeed, because the son of man is now Israel’s Sabbath: how we act like God” (p86)
This Jewish scholar has seen and albeit rejected, what so many people and groups fail to see – Jesus himself, Jesus the person, Jesus the Rabbi not only claims to be God – but is both the only the true Sabbath and our only true rest!
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”