Familiar Passage, But Clearly Understood?
A few weeks ago I spoke at the annual Mental Health and Missions Conference. I was asked to speak on the integrated life of the care giver. In my preparation I learned that the English word for integration is sourced in the Latin integratio which means “renewal, refreshment.” I found that fascinating. My reflections led to a familiar passage in Matthew 11. Matthew 11:28-30 is an oft quoted passage, especially Eugene Peterson’s more recent swing on the text:
“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….” (Mt 11:28-29 MSG)
Yet, when I read commentary on this text in various spiritual formation books, I am not sure I am any clearer on what the rest is Jesus is offering. Usually I am encouraged to take more time in silence and solitude or something along those lines. Are the spiritual practices themselves the rest? Does rest mean that the chaos of my personal life will ease? And what is it I am to learn of Jesus – simply to work smarter? Or to work less?
Interesting that Matthew 11:28-30 is but the second half of a paragraph. The section actually begins in verse 25:
“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me…..'”
Obviously Jesus is very excited about something the Father is revealing. Jesus tells us that no one has known the Father except the Son who comes to make him known to us. Jesus has come to reveal the Father. Not just that the Father exists, but who he is and what he is like. By watching and listening to Jesus, we come to learn what this Father is like. He is a kind and benevolent Father. He is a fountain who never ceases flowing love, life, goodness and every sort of blessing. He has loved his Son for all eternity and is eager to have more sons and daughters to lavish his love upon.
This gives a glimpse of what Jesus is inviting us to. It is a Trinitarian reality that has been opened to us by the Son. We are being invited by the Son through the Spirit to join into this eternal communion; to open ourselves up to be lavished upon by the God of love.
Now that sounds like rest.
Rest is A Person, Not Merely a Removal of Unrestful Stuff in Life
The reality is that in this world bad stuff happens. We work hard and briers grow up where we toil. We get sick. Stress happens. We live amidst many unresolved tensions.
What Jesus is inviting us into is communion. He invites us to come to him. He is our rest. My world may be rife of unresolved tensions, yet I can still have rest because I have Jesus and he has me. Further, Jesus invites us to learn of him for during the entirety of his life Jesus live amidst tensions and pains – from the childhood genocide to oppression amongst the pharisees. Yet he walked in the rest of his Father.
Rest is a Person. Jesus is our rest.
Two questions to reflect upon:
1. How is the Spirit inviting you to respond and receive Jesus who is your rest?
2. As a shepherd, how are you leading others to the rest that is theirs in Jesus alone?
Bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people, for he is our rest.
Yes, it is within the Father’s love that we have rest. Thank you for giving a solid Biblical answer once again.
Thank you for the kind response! Trust you are encouraged in him today. SS
Hey Scott, Michael from PTM here.
Thanks for your thoughts on rest. This very helpful.
On a similar line, I’ve looked at this passage in Matthew as I have been pondering Ps. 116. The psalmist calls his soul to be at rest, in response to the bountiful goodness of the Lord (v.7). It seems that the psalmist is filled with gratitude not just (or even primarily) for his deliverance from being near to death, but for coming to know a God who listens, who bends his ear to the psalmist’s distressed cry (v1). In the midst of the psalm, he breaks out in praise (vv. 5-6); the words he uses are not describing a distant delivering deity, but a tender-hearted Father. So again, I see the thrust toward relationship with Him tied to the idea of rest.
The other question that you push on is, What is Jesus calling us to rest from? I think you are right in seeing most writing in this area seems to identify busy-ness as being the culprit. Instead, it’s probably more that busy-ness is the fruit, not the problem. Removing busy-ness might provide us the space to consider things more clearly, but that seems to allow us to avoid the real issue that He wants to reveal: the problem of our hearts. In fact, the push to find rest by simplifying our life or lightening our calendars–external issues–can actually leave us missing the real, inward issues He is seeking to address.
Maybe this is where the Hebrews 4 passage on entering into God’s rest gives some helpful expansion. It seems that the author there is trying to help us to see that the rest we are called to enter into is a relinquishing of our dependence on our own work and a faith-step of entrusting ourselves wholly to God’s provision.Rest isn’t a well-deserved day off after a week of hard work; it is a willingness to be an undeserving, dependent recipient of goodness and peace in the midst of the whirlwind. That is a work of grace that puts the Lord at the center of our need for healing.
I’m writing rhetorically, but feeling those things very much at this point!
Blessings to you and Beth in this Advent season!
Michael A big thanks for your thoughtful response. And well said.
One of the challenges of a blog is to get stuff said in about 500 words (so goes the current blog-writer’s wisdom anyways). You have tied in some crucial passages. It is indeed all about relationship and relationship requires heart connection – us to others, and us to our own hearts. You said it well. There is certainly room to bring to bear numerous other passages and even the consideration of the role of spiritual practices on our “rest.” Thanks for drawing attention to some of these items. SS
Lots of great thought here. Thanks!
Thanks Jeri for your feedback and thoughts. Much appreciated. Peace to You this Advent SS
Scott, when you first put this up I longed to stop right then and write a response touching on the ways this has been on my heart. But necessaries pressed in, and now today I read also your follow-up blog. And my thoughts on this topic have also continued to wander and wonder. When and if I get my response onto my own blog, I’ll send you a link. For now, though, you might enjoy Nouwen’s Way of the Heart. It’s a little book I’ve just re-read. Can’t say I relate much to his middle section on silence (yet?), but his discussion of both solitude and prayer seem right on point. I could say more, but will save it for a more focused writing. Blessings! Jeri
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