As we talked about on Sunday the storyline of Scripture can be thought in four major scenes or movements: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. These are the major movements that form the lens through which we view the world. These give the story through which we find answers to the major questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny.
In this series we are looking at work through this lens—through this story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. We saw last week that work is created by God and good. The creation is then distorted in the fall so our work becomes toilsome and difficult. This week we are going to look at work through the lenses of redemption and restoration, ie. through the lens of Jesus.
One of Jesus’ most shocking statements on work comes in Matthew 11:28-30:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This statement of Jesus three major hyperlinks to the curse of Genesis 3:
- labor, heavy laden — at the fall our work becomes toilsome and a burden. (Gen. 3:17-19)
- rest — after the creation of Gen. 1-2 the humans were set up to experience God’s ideal 7th day rest forever, but of course they forfeited that when they sinned and disobeyed God
- the command to learn from Jesus — in the garden the command remember was to not eat from the tree of knowing good and bad and the implication was that God would teach them good and bad if they would just wait on him. But they tried to learn it on their own by taking the fruit.
Jesus is inviting his followers into a new way of living. A new way of being human. A new way of ruling creation and fulfilling their cultural mandate. This is all achieved by coming to him, not just his teaching but he himself in relationship with him.
The rabbis often spoke of the yoke as a symbol of something to help you carry a heavy object. They often mentioned “taking on the yoke of the Law”, which was a heavy yoke. The yoke that Jesus gives, by contrast is easy and his burden is light. That seems like an oxymoron. Remember, Jesus called his followers to a higher standard of moral purity than even the Pharisees did (Matt. 5:21-48). But Jesus calls to righteous living emphasized the heart of the law instead of the minutia. Jesus called his followers to tend to their heart, not simply their behavior. This yoke is light in comparison to the yoke of the Law and the tradition of the elders.
To take Jesus yoke upon ourselves, we must adopt the way of Jesus which is exemplified in gentleness (not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self importance) and humility. In doing this, he promises that we will find rest for our souls.
In the context of our work, this text points to the futility of our work apart from Jesus. Apart from Jesus we labor and are heavy laden and without rest. When the work behind our work (our passion and motivation for our work) is outside of Christ it is necessarily then based in sin. When our passion for work is based outside of Christ and his story of redemption our soul will never be at rest. Our lust will always crave another experience of pleasure; our pride another achievement to boast in; our envy another person to usurp; our greed another thing to buy; our desire for power another person to subjugate. Outside of work being yoked to Christ we will never find rest for our souls.
Conversely, when we are abiding in Jesus we are participating in his redemption of creation, working in his victory achieved at the cross, living for his glory and the world’s good, we find true Eden rest that will be fully realized in the new creation.
It is only found in Jesus. Only by coming to him is this life achieved. It is only by taking his yoke that we will find this true rest. In paradoxical form, when we take Jesus’ yoke and burden (both symbols of work) we find true rest (kinda like being rested in the garden to work and keep it… wink wink). It’s in this “with-Jesus-redemptive-work” that we find rest while working in the finished work of Jesus.
Bible Project Podcast: Lord of the Sabbath (check out to 12:30-21:00 for a discussion on this text)
Imagine Jesus saying these words to you in the midst of a time when you were weary and burdened, exhausted from your struggle with creation resisting your efforts, other’s sinfulness, or your own sinfulness. Imagine yourself in that moment and Jesus saying to you, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.”