Rest

“Come to me, you who are weary and laden with heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” -Jesus

Snowflakes – the huge, fluffy kind – drifted slowly to the ground on the plains of Laramie yesterday. I stood by the window, watching them, feeling a sense of wonder mixed with peace, knowing this was an eternal moment.

I was at work, but I was also at rest. It was time out taken from the last week at my old job – and not far away on my desk stood all the projects I was expected to wrap up before I left. But in the midst of them, I got up and stood at the window.

That quote above, about coming and resting, contains familiar words from Jesus, yes? But I wonder if we take him at his word. If I take him at his word.

Because a lot of the time, I expect Jesus to offer me ways to fix things. I expect him to tell me how to improve things. I expect him to give me marching orders or instructions or tell me what I’m doing wrong and not doing that’s right.

Instead, this is his offer: “rest.”

Not, “Come to me, you who are laden with heavy burdens, and I’ll teach you how to juggle it better.” Not, “I’ll show you how to distribute the weight more easily.” Not, “I will give you pointers or steps or principles.”

Just: “I will give you rest.”

What makes this all the more powerful for me, however, is the context into which Jesus spoke these words. It’s in the eleventh chapter of Matthew’s Jesus Story, and we treat it as a moment detached from time — but it came at a very raw moment in Jesus’ ministry.

First, John’s disciples run up to Jesus and ask him, essentially, “Hey, so… ummm, are you really it? Or should we be looking for someone else?” Jesus responds by reminding them of everything they had seen him do and sends them away. Then he goes on a diatribe against the religious folks who are following him. “Look,” he says, “John came and wouldn’t eat or drink with folks and you said he had a demon. Then I came and I do eat and drink with folks and you say I’m a glutton and a drunkard.” Then he excoriates them, and goes on to excoriate the towns who had just rejected him as well.

In other words, we reach a point in the narrative where Jesus is, dare we say, exasperated. Here, you can almost picture him letting out a deep sigh, slumping down on a rock, and holding his head in his hands. After a few moments of silence that feel like an eternity, Jesus finally looks up and prays a prayer of thanks. This prayer is incredibly telling: he thanks God that what has been hidden from the “wise” and the “learned” has been revealed by children.

In other words, stop trying to make this so damn complicated.

That is the pretext to Jesus uttering his now famous words: “Come to me and rest.” It’s not complex. It’s not difficult. Kids get it. We don’t.

So just stop, come, and rest.

You don’t need systematic theologies. You don’t need complicated understandings of God.

Just stop, come, and rest.

You don’t need big words and heady theories. You don’t need to know what propitiation or annihilationism or immutability or sanctification means.

Just stop, come, and rest.

You don’t need to understand everything, to know everything, to have an answer for everything. And you don’t get to judge others for doing something you don’t even understand.

Just stop, come, and rest.

—–

We don’t get it, of course. We don’t get it as it applies to our own lives because we want All the Answers and we want All the Knowledge. We don’t get it in the lives of others because we want All the Piety so we can judge right from wrong (which, by the way, is pretty darn close to what the “original sin” has been all along, isn’t it?).

We don’t get it, and the folks back then didn’t get it either. In fact, right after Jesus said those words, he took his disciples on a walk by a wheat field on the Sabbath. When they began picking heads of grain, the religious leaders jumped on them: “Look! They’re doing what is against the Law!”

It’s like Jesus’ words went right. over. their. heads.

Stop making this so complicated. Jesus left one command under this New Covenant, this New Way of doing life with him: love. That’s it. No need to complicate things beyond that. And in that love, Jesus’ invitation stands: watch the snowflakes for awhile. Come and rest.