“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been tired? Of course you have. What a silly question, right? I’m not talking about being just physically tired, though. I’m talking about being exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually wiped out. You know that when the sun rises you’ll be able to get up and drift through the day, but it’s going to be by sheer force of autopilot, not because you have anything in you to give to it. Have you ever been so weary, though, that you weren’t even sure you were going to be able to do that much? Jesus has a message for you.
If we looked at some of Jesus’ most disturbing words a couple of days ago, these are some of His most encouraging ones. This is a set of verses worth your time to memorize. These are ones the Holy Spirit will call to mind for you when you need them to lift you up a bit to make it one more day.
If you are weary from the travails of life and burdened under a load you don’t feel like you can carry anymore, Jesus can help. More than that, He wants to help. He wants to lighten your load. He wants you to experience the same peace and joy that He has. What a promise!
And this is all good and true generally, but we’ve talked before about the fact that every verse comes with a context and that the context is key to understanding it even better than we will without it. This one is no exception. When we understand what prompted Jesus to say what He did here, the words become even more powerful, especially today.
In order to understand what prompted these words, we need to look back to the beginning of chapter 11. Take a minute to click through the link up above and read the whole chapter. At the beginning of the chapter we find John the Baptist sitting in Herod’s prison waiting to discover his fate. This perhaps wasn’t surprising for him given that he had called Herod out publicly for his sin, but given the high calling from God he had received from even before he was born, it was not how he expected his life to go. At all. And he was struggling with it. A lot.
So he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask Him a question: Are you the one I’ve been telling everybody about, or is there somebody else coming? Most folks looking at this passage spend time analyzing John’s doubt, and that’s okay to do. But think for a minute about the emotional weight bearing down on John’s heart and mind to go to the lengths of expressing this and to Jesus Himself. It must have been enormous.
Jesus responded by praising John in terms we should all wish He would use with us. And then He finishes with this. John was struggling with doubt. This is the burden he brought to Jesus. And Jesus’ response was to affirm him in glowing terms. He affirmed him and extended the offer to all of us.
There are days when following Jesus is hard. We are still coming through a season when all the normal stresses of life have been concentrated by COVID such that even the little things are harder. When it comes to the practice of our faith, everything we are accustomed to doing has been upended and we’ve spent months figuring out new ways to do it. And can we just say this together? We’re exhausted. We’re burdened under the weight of it all. We’re anxious that we’re not going to ever know what was “normal” again.
If that’s even remotely where you find yourself, Jesus’ words here are for you. Whatever stresses or worries or burdens you are carrying, take them to Jesus. Let Him lighten your burden. Let Him refresh your Spirit with an infusion of His own. Let Him give you strength and make you able, in Him, to keep moving forward. On your own, you can’t. But in Him, you most definitely can.