Come, take and learn from Jesus.
2022 has been especially tiring. After two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, we’ve seen war begin in Europe, economic upheavals, political demonstrations and division, and the continuation of social and technological change that is stressing many people.
As we end the year, taking a break and heading into 2023, Jesus’ words are as relevant as ever.
“Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.“
This beautiful offer is one of the most quoted sayings of Jesus. It is attractive in so many ways. Who doesn’t want a lighter load to carry in the New Year? Who wouldn’t want an easier way through life?
If this is your desire for 2023, keep reading.
Weariness from working hard, and feeling overloaded from an increasingly demanding world, are major sources of stress for many. This sweet offer of ‘rest’ and ‘ease’ is the dessert at the end of an awkward and heavy main meal that is verses 1-27.
Firstly, John the Baptist questioned the true identity of his cousin Jesus. “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (v.3)
Then Jesus set about challenging the arrogance of the apparently “wise and learned” people (v.25), and the cities that had rejected him following his teaching and miracles (vv. 20-24)
To unrepentant people, those who refuse to change their thinking and follow Jesus more, this is a tough download from him. Those who think they know better than Jesus, who are married to legalism and submission to regulations, he confronts. But for the weary and genuinely seeking people, Jesus graciously invites them to ‘come’ and find rest and ease.
So how can we do this better? How can 2023 be a restful and easier year if the world around us doesn’t get any better? What if there is a recession?
The answer from Jesus is this:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In other words: Stop working life your own way. Don’t yoke yourself to legalism, regulations and man-made rules. Don’t try and impress God, but instead let him amaze you. Find your value and worth in His love for you, and not in your work for him.
To be physically yoked to something is to have a plank across the shoulders and neck. Usually two creatures are harnessed together to combine their power and produce more output. Usually oxen or horses.
We too are yoked or coupled emotionally and spiritually to whatever or whoever we are following or trying to please. Unless we are more yoked to Jesus than any other thing or person, it will grind us down, overpower us, and hurt.
We too are yoked or coupled, emotionally and spiritually, to whatever or whoever we are following or trying to please.
As you enter a new year, turn again and again to Jesus Christ and let his words, promises, presence and power make you more like him. Meditate on him. Read and listen to him. Talk with him. Do this privately and together with others.
“and learn from me”
In 2023 this could be as simple as setting your alarm half an hour earlier, getting up and reading one chapter of Jesus, and praying the Lord’s prayer and talking with him about life. This could change your life. You may need to make greater changes. I don’t know what they are, but you can. Talk to him about it. He promises to teach you. This is prayer.
The body of Christ needs you.
This does mean gathering together with other believers in deliberate, Jesus-focused groups for feasting on his word, opening your mouth in gratitude and adoration, and praying for and with each other. This is church. (Hebrews 10:25) We are designed to need each other, and to stir one another up towards faith and care for the lost and needy. If you have been more absent from Christian gatherings since Covid, I urge you to find a new community for 2023. They need you. You need them. The world needs us.
Be guided by Jesus’ calm and peaceful humility…
“for I am gentle and lowly in heart”
His promise is emphatic: If you do this …
“you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
These words “easy” and “light” have alluded many of us over the years, but below the surface they are profound. “Easy” can be translated into a combination of ‘better,’ ‘gracious,’ ‘useful,’ and even ’employed.’ In other words Jesus says ‘Being coupled with me is a gracious and better kind of employment for you, because the load we carry together, I can lighten it. Just let me.‘
So the commands for us are these:
- Come to me…
- take my yoke upon you…
- learn from me…
That’s our part. He will do the rest. The Message says it well:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I hope and pray this gives you food for thought on your Christmas holiday. Maybe this can be your verse for 2023 (or at least for January 🙂 ). If you’d like to read more wisdom from Matthew chapter 11, here is a special article I wrote for last year on the first few verses.
Happy New Year.