In the past couple of chapters, Jesus has laid out the high cost of discipleship to his followers. He said that following him would be like picking up a cross. It would bring the sword of division between people - even family members. When his disciples followed him, they found themselves in the midst of all sorts of conflict, and even adrift in the darkness of a storm tossed sea. Discipleship is not easy. But the irony of discipleship is that when we walk through life with Jesus he not only leads us into trials, but he also gives us rest. Jesus is the good shepherd of Psalm 23. He leads us beside still waters and gives us rest for our souls.
At the end of chapter 11, Jesus gives a promise that is one of my favorite verses. It is an invitation to find true rest by coming to Jesus. All we have to do is admit that we are weary and heavy laden. The yoke that we take from Jesus is light, because he walks with us and carries the heaviest part of the load. This is what is so unique about Christianity. On one hand, the call of discipleship is so hard. It means dying to ourselves and living for the glory of God. On the other hand, in the midst of dying to our own priorities and self interest, God promises to renew us. It is here - in the midst of death to self - that we find life.
The pharisees didn't get this. They even took God's precious gift of Sabbath rest and made it into a burden. When Jesus used the Sabbath to heal and to feed his disciples, they criticized them. They must have thought of the Sabbath as a day to do earn spiritual credit. Jesus saw the Sabbath as a day to rejoice in God's goodness.
God has given us a day of rest at the beginning of every week. A day in which we can rejoice in our dependence upon our heavenly father and embrace the true Sabbath rest of Christ. Because Jesus rose from the dead we celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday. It is a day in which we can be free from the normal burdens of worrying about our work, the cleanliness of our house, and errands which so easily distract us.
Instead, we can rest in God's goodness by joining our church community in worship, feasting with friends and family, playing with our kids (or our friends' children), breathing in the beauty of God's created world, and taking an easy nap on a sunny couch (to name a few restful activities.) It is a day to cease from our striving and remember that Jesus is carrying the heavy part of the the yoke. His burden is easy and his yoke is light. That is a promise for every day and it is a promise that we can enjoy in particular ways each Sunday.
Rest in Christ today. Celebrate the goodness of our salvation by setting aside the busy stuff of life this Sunday. Rejoice... the yoke of Jesus is light! -MK