Jesus our Rest

By Mitch Marczewski

“Oh for grace to be always coming to Jesus, and to be constantly inviting others to do the same! Always free yet always bearing his yoke; always having rest once given, yet always finding more: this is the experience of those who come to Jesus always and for everything. Blessed heritage; and it is ours.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The Rest He Gives

Charles H. Spurgeon writes in his commentary on Matthew 11:28-30, “[W]e rest by faith in Jesus, and next we rest through obedience to him…We are to learn of Christ and also to learn Christ. He is both teacher and lesson…If we can become as he is, we shall rest as he does. We shall not only rest from the guilt of sin - this he gives us; but we shall rest in the peace of holiness, which we find through obedience to him.”

The rest that Christ gives us is the rest of the Gospel. His perfect life, undeserved death, and glorious resurrection secure for us an eternal rest that we could never achieve. Christ freely gives us rest from sin, death, and hell, which was impossible through the law, while rest through a neglect of the law proved unfruitful as well. In verse 28, Christ calls us to come. He doesn’t tell us to “go to good works” or to go to “being a good person”, but rather He calls all to come to Him. As Spurgeon goes on to say, “To Jesus Himself, we must come, by a personal trust.” This rest is freely given to us and requires nothing from us except our repentance and faith, given to us by God.

The Rest We Find

Second rest that Christ speaks of here is the type of rest that we find. The first rest we are given comes through His death for us. The second type of rest comes through His life. We find rest in obeying Christ in all things. His life lived in perfect obedience is shown to us so that we may find rest in its imitation. Christ’s authority over our lives is not meant to crush us but rather to free us. His word is not meant to rob us of joy but rather to give us the joy, and rest, that we so desire. The yoke of Christ is not forced upon us; it is taken by us. We willingly walk in obedience because of the rest we find in his death, and the future rest that we attain when we, as saints, persevere to the end by His grace.

We are given rest, and we find rest. What a beautiful picture of our responsibility meshing with the sovereign work of grace in our lives! Christ does not force rest upon us but rather we find rest by engaging in His mission. We do not earn rest but we are freely given rest by no merit of our own. We are given rest although we were not seeking Him for it, and we are continually finding rest in our obedience to Him.

Rest for Sinners

Christ’s rest is, first and foremost, offered to sinners. Those who do not know the Lord are seeking rest, but they are not looking for it in the proper places. To the non-believer, rest is sought in relationships, cash, or substances. Alcohol promises rest but ends up making us restless. Illicit sex promises rest but is ultimately found wanting. Christ’s call of “come” is directed first to those who do not yet know Him. He invites them to enter the rest that they so desire. This rest cannot be found anywhere else but Christ and no one but Christ can give this rest to those who need it. It cannot be earned or found; it is freely given.

Rest for the Religious

Christ makes a point to show that rest is needed for those who are religious. For the religious person, rest is found in the law. They like rules and structure, and all things are measured by merit and by works. The mindset is that their consciences will be put to rest if their behavior lines up with their standards. There is no freedom or rest in the law. Paul, in Galatians, tells us that the law binds us rather than frees us. The law restricts us but Christ gives us freedom and rest. The religious person needs to come to Jesus. They need not go to the law or to rituals or moralism. Only in Christ is rest given, and obedience to the law fulfilling and purposeful.

Rest for the Disciple

Finally, Christ gives rest those whom He loves. He gives the follower of Him rest in the midst of tragedy, hardship, and suffering. Following Christ can be difficult; it can be wearying. The life of a disciple of Jesus can be wrought with winding and troubled roads. Christ promises rest for the weary and hope for the hopeless. Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, He says. He desires those who are wearied from the journey to come to Him. He promises rest.

The other element to Christ’s call to rest for the disciple is the call to find rest in obedience. As we covered before, the rest Christ gives through His death secures our eternal rest. The rest we find in Him is a rest that is found through imitating His life. Sin screws things up. Our sin has very real and damaging consequences. Obedience to Christ can save us from the consequences of sin. A holy life is a life that imitates Christ for the sake of His name and the sake of others knowing Him. This kind of life is one free from sin and strife. It is a life of rest, knowing that we may see pain and experience tragedy, but our rest in found in Him alone not our circumstances.

Spurgeon again writes, “Oh for grace to be always coming to Jesus, and to be constantly inviting others to do the same! Always free yet always bearing his yoke; always having rest once given, yet always finding more: this is the experience of those who come to Jesus always and for everything. Blessed heritage; and it is ours.”