This second week of Advent is the week of Peace!
It was at that time that Yeshua said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated and revealed them to ordinary folks. Yes, Father, I thank you that it pleased you to do this.
“My Father has handed over everything to me. Indeed, no one fully knows the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
One Shabbat during that time, Yeshua was walking through some wheat fields. His talmidim were hungry, so they began picking heads of grain and eating them. On seeing this, the P’rushim said to him, “Look! Your talmidim are violating Shabbat!” But he said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? He entered the House of God and ate the Bread of the Presence!” — which was prohibited, both to him and to his companions; it is permitted only to the cohanim. “Or haven’t you read in the Torah that on Shabbat the cohanim profane Shabbat and yet are blameless? I tell you, there is in this place something greater than the Temple! If you knew what ‘I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifice’ meant, you would not condemn the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of Shabbat!”Matthew 11:25-12:8 (CJB)
You won’t find this as part of any productivity lecture. Resting in Jesus isn’t about being your best you. So often, when we talk about Sabbath and rest, we talk about the practical applications and advantages, rather than just looking at it as a command we are to obey. While it is true that you cannot pour from an empty cup, this isn’t about that. And while it is true that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, this isn’t about that either. This is about resting in Jesus and seeing things how He sees them.
I find it profoundly interesting that Jesus is talking about coming to Him and resting and then immediately begins discussing the Sabbath laws. We’ll get to the Sabbath laws in a minute, but I want to first point out that connection.
Jesus says to come to Him, take up His cause, and His cross. We read “come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest” and think more of something like a spa day than what Jesus is really talking about. He says to take on his yoke. Know what a yoke is? Yeah. A harness for animals so they can pull a burden of some sort. Jesus isn’t promising a life of ease as that flobbit in “Lord of the Beans” fondly dreamed of. Jesus is asking us to take up His cause, His burden—to put ourselves willingly into His yoke and pull His burden. That isn’t a spa day. But that is a sort of rest.
It is a rest from our overscheduled suburban life. It is a rest from trying to fit everything in and always missing out on the most important, eternal things. As a pastor’s wife, I can assure you that I have heard just about every excuse for missing church that exists. I’m not shaming anyone right now, just giving perspective, so bear with me—this isn’t to guilt you into going to church. “It’s the only day we really have as a family.” “The soccer season ends soon, and we’ll be back in church.” “It is so hard to get up with little kids on Sunday morning.” “I didn’t get much sleep last night.” “It is so hard to sit through church with a wiggling baby.” “It is so hard to sit and listen in church with my child.” “We decided to head out a day early for our vacation.” “Our family scheduled a family reunion that morning. They don’t go to church.” All these excuses are really just that: excuses. It becomes very easy for our excuses to just become our “regular”. As one thing after another vies for our Sunday morning attention, it can be easy to say, “I can talk to Jesus anywhere, anytime. There is nothing special about going to church.” The problem, of course, is that you won’t talk to Jesus anytime, anywhere unless you’re in crisis. You won’t raise a family and establish the habit of “the strong start on Sunday”, to quote Kanye. Soon, our excuses define our lives—not Jesus. You’ve put a yoke on yourself (and your family if you’re a parent or spouse) that isn’t the yoke of Jesus. You’ve taken up causes that aren’t His. And you’ll find yourself heavy. You’ll become burdened. Meeting together with other believers to celebrate our risen Lord each week isn’t just another thing to add to our to-do list. It is a way of ordering life that says, “I’m putting Jesus first.” First day of the week (the day of the Resurrection, not the Sabbath)—I’m putting aside for meeting with God and His people. We’re starting the week strong. We’re taking on Jesus’s yoke. Know what happens when you do that? You can’t get yourself into another yoke. You can’t burden yourself with lesser things. Seek the Kingdom first and you’ll find that your entire direction is toward the Kingdom. You do yourself and your family a great disservice when you let lesser things become first things. That altar of soccer, ease, even family—it isn’t one that will be light or easy. And it isn’t one that will save. That is a path to destruction. I don’t want that for you. Jesus doesn’t want that for you. You don’t want that for those you love.
Now, we get to the Sabbath. Jesus tells his disciples to find rest in Him and take up His cause. Then in a turn of the chapter, it flips to Jesus seeming to flick away the Sabbath. What gives? The Sabbath laws were intended to help the people of Israel, but they became a burden to them instead. Why? They didn’t understand the point. God wants mercy from us, not sacrifice. So, in your quest to end busyness, make sure you leave room for rest and mercy. One reason to resist filling your schedule and living a busy life is so you’ll have room for the cause of Jesus, room for other people. You may say, we rest on Saturday. But if a friend calls and needs you to come and have coffee and talk and pray with them, we don’t say, “Sorry, today is my rest day.” We’ve made the room for precisely this thing! This Advent, as you make room for rest, make room for mercy with it. Make room at your table for those who may be alone or struggling this holiday season. Make room to prepare an extra meal to help someone else this season. Take up the Kingdom’s cause this Advent.
Today’s song: The Hope of Christmas by Matthew West