I saw a man the other day shifting a skip's worth of wet top soil from his driveway into his back garden with a wheelbarrow. He started at 8am and by midday he was cream crackered. He needed a rest.
I was talking to a woman who was a live-in carer for her elderly mother. She was struggling under the 24/7 burden of looking after her Mum's every need. It was too much for her. She needed a rest.
Jesus once said: 'Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.' [Matthew 11v28]. What did he have in mind?
Well, there's no doubt from his attitude to all sorts of people that he would have had some kind words and wisdom for the man and woman above. But the sort of rest they needed was not the sort of rest he had in mind. He had in mind rest for the soul.
He said a little bit later, 'Team up with me and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls.' Jesus was talking of spiritual rest, and we all need this.
First, he was speaking to people who were weary and burdened with religion. Religion is any system or set of 'spiritual rules and rituals' that demand you keep them to try and be right with God.
Jesus taught that if anyone teamed up with him and trusted him, then he would credit his own perfect life to them. There were over 613 laws in the Old Testament, and the teachers of the law came up with a book 6,200 pages long spelling out what a person would have to do to keep those laws fully.
Jesus was saying that rather than you trying to keep the law yourself, and inevitably failing, why not let him lift the burden and fulfil the law for you.
Secondly, he was speaking to people whose consciences were burdened with guilt. All of us have a barrow load of sins - things we've thought and said and done that are bad - and these things weigh heavily on our conscience and gnaw away at us.
Although Jesus himself had done no wrong, we're told as he died on the cross that he bore our sins in his body [1 Peter 2v24]. And we're told that he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows...he was crushed for our iniquities [Isaiah 53v4].
In other words, for all those who team up with him, he took the burden of all our wrongdoing on himself to the grave in order to free us from a guilty conscience.
Rest for the soul
This is rest for the soul, knowing Jesus has done everything necessary to qualify us for a secure friendship with God our Father. Teamed up with Jesus, we're no longer afraid of God or fret about doing enough to win his approval.
Jesus has made us friends with him, and we are free to enjoy him forever.
Pastor at St George’s