This promise doesn’t seem very real to many. The whole idea of getting ahead in life is working hard so that we can rest for a while. Yet it never seems to happen, even if and when our hopes and dreams become realities. This is the way of the world. It is all just one big dead end. Maybe that’s why they put “rest in peace” on gravestones. But Jesus has another way. His kind of work gives us rest. What a remarkable thing.
This merciful invitation is to all people. Many are working as hard as they can to prove themselves to the world, to justify themselves before their idea of God. Many are loaded down with care, concerned about all the things they know they cannot handle, yet working too hard to get a handle on them. The day to day experience is wearing them out, let alone any thoughts of their eternal situation. Jesus invites anyone who is like this to come to Him, and promises that He will give them the rest they so desperately need. We work so hard to be able to rest, but Jesus says to come to Him and He will simply give it to us, we won’t have to work for it.
Coming to Jesus means leaving one thing and following another. This is what is meant by the word repentance. What we leave is our own labor and drop our own burden and instead of doing our own thing we do His thing. The work of the unsaved soul never leads to true rest. But the work of the redeemed soul is about yoking up to the very rest and refreshing the soul can eternally feed on. It is learning to rest in that rest He has given us. He gives us rest from all our striving to save ourselves, and then in His school we learn that His way can help us take it easy, and in finding that path we find a rest for this life as well.
We don’t work for it; we find it and work in it.