Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:1-30, Isaiah 29:18-19, 1 John 5:3-4
It’s one of those moments so deeply seared onto my heart that I still glance at the memories and wince. I was in a Jamaican infirmary, tasked with offering some measure of comfort to the sick and dying housed there. Their beds were jammed together, packing every room. Conditions weren’t sanitary. Many patients wailed incessantly. My comfort-craving brain wanted to find the escape hatch, to look somewhere other than at the faces of these people I could do so little for. Maybe that’s why my eyes kept drifting out the windows at the sugary white sand and emerald blue Caribbean waters that sparkled just beyond the compound’s walls.
The juxtaposition of human sorrow and breathtaking beauty sticks with me still. Jesus was on the shore and in the suffering at the same time. We find a juxtaposition just as jarring in Matthew 11.
John the Baptist was imprisoned for his faith, sitting on death row. Yet, Jesus was using John’s predicament as an object lesson for true discipleship when He delivered these comforting words:
“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” (vv. 28-30).
Rest. Our bleary eyes and exhausted souls crave it, don’t they? And yet, John would remain in prison until his gruesome death. Humanly speaking, John’s yoke was not easy. His burden was not light. So, what did Jesus mean?
I imagine John must have looked around his prison cell and felt tired from the weight of it all. He sent messengers to make sure Jesus had something better to offer (vv. 1-3). Our weary hearts often wonder the same thing, don’t they?
Jesus responds like this:
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (vv. 4-5).
Rest from pain, suffering, and worry is certainly something we can all readily give our “Amen!” to. But then here comes that juxtaposition again—that same tension—when Jesus adds, “And blessed be the one who is not offended by me” (v. 6).
When this world leaves me weary, I want to take a nap. But Jesus wants to give me a break from the tyranny of self. If the kind of rest Christ offers doesn’t look like I think it will, He must be promising so much more.
If a good night’s sleep and an easy life was all Jesus had to give John, it would not have been enough to keep him chained to Christ. John would die for his faith—not for a handful of miracles that had already happened, but for a tsunami of healing that was to come. Somewhere along the way, John must’ve resolved that the rest he needed most was not circumstantial.
We are all broken by sin, longing for a cure. Jesus walks among us, removing the yoke of sin that bends our backs and breaks our hearts. Suffering and sleeplessness may remain temporarily, but the burden of sin is no longer ours to carry. Jesus took that burden so we could know the kind of rest that seeps past our bones and into our weary souls.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.