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Inexplicable Rest

Some refer to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Holy Saturday. The Scriptures are silent about what Jesus’ disciples did that day. They do not seem to have done anything worth recording. This may have been because it was the Sabbath, and their movements were restricted. Or perhaps the disciples were overwhelmed with grief. Maybe it was too personal to share.

Following Jesus does not exempt us from grief or difficulty. Indeed, Jesus used the metaphor of the cross to help His followers understand the cost of discipleship. But He also promised to bear the load for them. In today’s passage Jesus promises rest to all those who receive the yoke of discipleship. A yoke is an unlikely metaphor for rest. It is normally an instrument of labor, placed on the neck of a beast of burden. The yoke enables the ox to carry a heavy load. Because of this, it is sometimes an image of slavery or hard labor in Scripture. In Exodus 6:6, the Lord promised to bring Israel out from under “the yoke of the Egyptians.” The New Testament characterizes the law of Moses as a “yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear” and a “yoke of slavery” (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1).

Jesus offers rest from weariness. But this is not a life of ease. The image of the yoke implies allegiance and service. In light of Jesus’ rebuke aimed at those towns where Jesus had done most of His miracles, the yoke is also a symbol of grace. Those who accept the yoke of the Savior are not wiser than others. They are “little children” whose eyes have been opened by the Father (vv. 25–27).

>> Rest, as Jesus describes it, must be done for us. We do not manage ourselves into rest or attain it by discipline. What Jesus says in today’s verse might be translated as something like “I will rest you” or “I will refresh you.” Rest in Him today!

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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