Come to me. . .
This is the invitation from the Master. He bids us come to him. But the bidding is of no value if it depends on our desire to respond. For often we feel no such desire. After all, the Book says that "He had nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2)
And yet, . . . there is a drawing to him, not prompted by our own desire. Where does this drawing come from? He said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44) And just as surely, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away." (John 6:37) Dear Reader, just as surely as you have arrived at this passage, just so surely you are being drawn to the one who promises rest.
How so sure? Again, "But I, when I am lifted up
from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32) "So the
Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have
eternal life." (John 3:15)
He is twice lifted: Once on the cross, lifted above the earth, as the guarantee of man's connection to heaven; and, again, in the telling and retelling of the story by the Christian community. It is the first lifting that draws you, friend. It is the first lifting that saves.
Never mind the weakness of the second lifting, the telling.
The community you join is not the Christ himself, but fellows like you
yourself who have been also drawn. Their telling may be no better
than yours will be. Why reject the drawing because the messenger
stutters and is ineffective. Listen more carefully!
All you who are weary and burdened. . .
Yes, YOU are included in the call. For you too are
weary and burdened. All means you. As John Bunyan noted, if
the scripture had named John Bunyan as called, he would have had no hope,
for surely it would have been another John Bunyan being cited. But
no, ALL means all, and that includes YOU! Need proof? Ever
weary and burdened? You're included.
And I will give you rest. . .
There is no one who doesn't need this rest. Someone once said, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." (Job 14:1) From the beginning of life man is troubled and restless. It is the continual conflict between the way things are and the way we want them to be. Or, the way we are and the way we want to be.
This lack of rest has been called sin, and it certainly
does "hinder and so easily entangle." (Hebrews 12:1) Its obtrusiveness
is verily an enslavement. No wonder the escape of Israel from Egypt
was identified as a fleeing from sin (captivity). No wonder the Jews
were looking for rest (us too); but they never found it, even when they
arrived at the promised land.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . .
And we will not receive rest, either, unless we come to
him who offers another, different burden. Notice that rest does not
mean getting rid of a burden. Rest does not mean to have no burden,
it is the type of burden that counts.
This is so well illustrated by the boy of 10 who came to Father Flanagan carrying his crippled younger brother: "He's not heavy, Father, he's my brother." You don't need relief from all burdens, you just need a load that matters, one that is worth the effort.
Learn from the one who carried the weight, not just of one small brother, but of all his brothers! For him, the weight of the world was more than balanced by the prospects for the future:
"For the joy set before him . . . endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2)
What was in the future (the joy), justified the load that
he carried in the now.
For I am gentle and humble in heart . . .
His gentleness and humility did not come from inner weakness
and unworthiness, but rather from strength and honor. It is the insecure
and troubled who must deal roughly and in defense of their honor.
For him, equality with God was not something to be grasped, rather he made
himself to be nothing, he humbled himself. It was for this reason
that the Father exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name
that is above every name. (Philippians 2:6-9)
And you will find rest for your souls . . .
A ceaseless striving, even for godliness, is not restful. Rest for your soul comes with acceptance of God's acceptance. Knowing that God will judge you gently, with grace, as Jesus deserves; and not with vigor and harshly as your deeds and being deserve, gives you rest for your soul.
"Come to me, all you 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. For my yoke
is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.