Jesus made a wonderful offer and a promise that He will give us rest. Jesus' invitation and promise was directed towards you and I - "all who labour and are heavy laden". According to Carson, labour implies the burdens we take upon ourselves, and heavy laden implies the burdens other puts upon us. Jesus speaks to those who are weary of trying to please God by their own efforts. He speaks to those who labour under the law. Those who are burdened with weight of guilt. Those who are loaded with the weariness and burdens that life and people place upon them. Jesus speaks to those who are heavy laden with loads they are unable to carry. To those who realize their weariness and burdened state, Jesus says today, “Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest.” Is Jesus speaking to you? “All who labour and are heavy laden”: Is that you? Are you weary and burdened? Jesus is speaking to you and me today. He is inviting us to come to him and to receive from him the rest he freely offers.
Jesus’ words back then addressed people who knew what it was to labour and be heavy laden. The Pharisees would load heavy weights on people’s backs. They preached that you need to work hard enough in order to be counted righteous before God. And that is a heavy burden to bear. The Pharisees thought they could manage and master the law but what they did was superficial keeping of the law in its outward form. For example, the Sabbath commanded that people should rest from their work on the Sabbath in order to hear God’s word. However, the Pharisees made up their own rules and regulations by adding to the law of God. By doing this, they missed the whole point. They devised a lot of man-made laws, a lot of regulations, and developed a whole system of rules. Instead of helping people to keep the law, they put more burden on the people.
God’s laws are meant to show us the sinfulness of our heart. His laws are meant to expose us as sinners who do not want to do God’s will. However, the Pharisees used the law as a way of making them more righteous that others. This is contrary to what the Bible teaches as our righteousness is like filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). What was the effect this had on people? They felt weighted down and burdened. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders.” By directing people to the law–what’s more, to their own added-on human regulations–the Pharisees tied heavy loads on people’s backs. It was more than they could bear.
The law is a heavy yoke that you and I are not able to bear. Keeping all the commandments of God is an enormous weight, and we are not strong enough to lift them all. If the law was easy to abide by, we wouldn’t need Jesus Christ. The fact remain that we cannot obey every letter of the law by our own power. Apostle Paul realized this about himself, as we heard in today’s Epistle “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:14). Paul himself was a Pharisee and he knew how trying to keep the law puts burden on people. If Paul couldn’t keep the law by his own strength despite the fact that he was about as zealous and religious as they come, guess what? You and I cannot do it either.
Jesus Christ is the only one who can do this for you. He is the only one strong enough to carry the weight of the law. He lived the righteous life we do not live. He kept God’s law completely. The sinless Son of God died the death of sinners, hanging on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth, mocked by men and abandoned by God. Jesus carried the heavy and unbearable weight of the whole world’s sins, “behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). That is the load Christ carried to the cross. He lifted the load off our shoulders and puts them on his own. My friends, the weight of your sins has been lifted, the load has been removed. That heavy load is gone!
Jesus lifted these burdens from you. And now he says to you, in warm, inviting tones: “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Quit struggling on your own. Lay down your burdens at the foot of the cross. Come to Jesus and find the rest you need. Rest for the weary, needy, troubled and rest for everyone. Jesus is speaking to you today, come and lay your burdens down. It is worth knowing that true Spiritual rest can only be found in God. The truth is, when you enjoy Spiritual rest in God, physical rest will come naturally to you. We are only struggling with physical rest because we have denied ourselves of Spiritual rest.
We need to find spiritual rest in Christ, both for this life and for the age to come. We have this rest now–peace with God and the forgiveness of sins. We also have the sure hope of eternal rest with Him in glory. `Regardless of the burdens you are carrying, Cast all your anxiety on Him (Jesus), because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) because he will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Alleluia.