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What is the significance of Jesus saying, “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)?

I will give you rest

Matthew 11:28 is one of the most comforting verses in the Gospels. There, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” This is an open invitation, extended to those who are willing to come.

The entire chapter is set in the time after Jesus sent the disciples out on a mission (Matthew 11:1). He first had an interaction with John the Baptist’s disciples. Apparently, John was having doubts, which Jesus assuaged. Jesus then addressed the crowd regarding John, who was the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Messiah (verse 10).

Tragically, many in that generation rejected both John and Jesus. They called John demon-possessed and Jesus a drunkard. As a result of this rejection, Jesus pronounces judgment on some towns that had witnessed divine miracles (Matthew 11:20–24). Next, He affirms His oneness with the Father, stating clearly that no one can know God except through Him. Finally, He offers an invitation to the weary and burdened. Those willing to come to Him have this promise: “I will give you rest.”

Jesus is eager to reveal the Father to those who are willing. The “weariness” of those who needed to come was likely a result of futile, man-made efforts to reach the Father. Elsewhere, Jesus denounced the religious leaders of His day for placing unnecessary burdens on people (Matthew 23:4, 13–15; Luke 11:46). In addition to strict adherence to the law, the religious leaders added various traditions of their own (Matthew 15:3–6; Mark 7:8–9). Jesus presents a better way. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, unlike that of the Pharisees (Matthew 11:29–30).

In ancient times, a yoke was placed on the neck of two animals working together in a field. Taking Jesus’ yoke is coming into union with Him. This opens up a life of discipleship where the willing learn from Christ and are guided by His humble and gentle self. The humility of Christ is unlike the self-righteousness of the religious leaders.

The “burden” Jesus speaks of refers to what Jesus expects of His followers. He has teachings and commandments, but, unlike the onerous requirements of the Pharisees, Jesus’ burden is light. John affirms this in 1 John 5:3, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (NLT). Even better, God works in the believer to bring about obedience (Philippians 2:13).

In light of Scripture’s teaching, the “rest” Jesus gives also entails being free from the burden of sin. Sin is a brutal slave-master, and its slavery leads to death, while obeying God leads to freedom and righteous living (Romans 6:16–18). Christ’s redemptive work on the cross saved us from the penalty of sin and broke its power in our lives (Romans 6:10).

Another passage dealing with Jesus’ rest is Hebrews 4. The epistle of Hebrews was written to distraught Christians who were tempted to revert to the old Jewish system, and the writer emphasizes the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old. In this context, we find that God’s rest is associated with trusting in Christ.

Thank God for His grace! Everyone burdened by sin and striving to earn salvation through works should heed Christ’s invitation and accept His rest, breaking free from sin and placing all hope in His death and resurrection. Also, believers should recognize that Christ’s yoke is easy. We follow His humble guidance by obeying His teachings, knowing that His way is better than both legalism and licentiousness. How different the way of Christ is from the way of the legalists, who “tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4).

Finally, because Jesus gives us rest, Christian leaders should avoid adding more burdens to their flock. They are to proclaim God’s message of grace and truth, not load God’s people down with human traditions.

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What is the significance of Jesus saying, “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)?
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This page last updated: May 13, 2024