“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28, NIV
When we read this passage, our minds almost always go to the idea of rest from physical labor. This may be because Jesus mentions a yoke, commonly fastened on livestock so they can pull heavy burdens. But Jesus often spoke in metaphor which the people did not understand. An example of this problem is seen with Jesus’ reference to his blood and flesh. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." (John 6:54) Today, most understand this metaphorically, but many, who heard Jesus say these words, could not move beyond a literal understanding and stopped following him.
To understand the metaphor of Matthew 11:28, we need to seek out what else Jesus has said about burdens. Perhaps the most telling passage to help us here is when he confronted the lawyers and chastised them for loading the people with burdens that they themselves will not help to lift. (Luke 11:46) Was he accusing the lawyers of loading people down with firewood or bricks or some other heavy load? No. He was speaking to lawyers, experts in pointing out violations of the law, especially the Law of God. The Jews had parsed that law down to its finest elements that they might better judge one another over the most miniscule violations.
Their proscriptions, intended to purify Israel, instead loaded the Jewish people down with heavy burdens of guilt and shame. They were powerless to lift this guilt. They could point everyone to the temple and the sacrificial rites, but these also were powerless to deal with the guilt. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4) Jesus pointed out that this could only be done with his blood and flesh. His way is the way of rest, not from physical burdens, but the burdens of guilt and shame.
Sometimes people say religion will make a person insane, but a psychologist one told me that the biggest cause of insanity is unrelieved guilt that torments a person until they finally go beyond the point of recovery. He told me they can give the person medications, so they do not think about the guilt, but they are unable to remove it. Without medication it can come roaring back. The only effective treatment that he had seen in his patients was lifting the burden of guilt they carried. This is what Jesus offers when He says, "Come to me." All of us have this need, for we all carry guilt. The law, if nothing else, points that out to us.
Paul tells us, "I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law." (Romans 7:7) He also reveals that no one is free from this, writing, "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:22b-23) To say we are without guilt, and therefore without sin is self-deception. Guilt hidden in this way will fester like an infected wound. That wound can take us to our grave if we do not remove what is causing the infection. Jesus is waiting to give us the help and rest we need if we will only come to him.
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by Still Waters Ministry