We live in a world desperate for REST. We are physically, mentally, and spiritually deprived of REST. We are spiritual insomniacs! And if you are like many I meet we actually take a twisted self-satisfaction in our busyness. The “Bratislava Boast” is how many cool (even “Christian” or “good”) things we can pack into our day. And in reality we are burning ourselves out in the name of God.
The letter to the Hebrews addresses a crowd of 1st century Jewish-Christians who were a persecuted, scattered, hurting people in need of REST. They were also struggling with how to move from the shadows of tradition (like the Sabbath) to the realities found in Jesus Christ (Heb 10:1). In Hebrews 4:1-11 we see the encouragement to simply enter into the rest offered by Jesus. It’s interesting that the Greek word for rest here can be interpreted as a “calming of the winds.” Amazing. Doesn’t life sometimes feel like a constantly blowing wind. Slowly wearing you down. Sometimes it’s a breeze, a gust and other times a hurricane. But it’s always shaping and tearing you down. Like these first followers of Jesus, we too need a “calming of the winds.” A moment of STOP. Pause (Selah). Being Still. When was the last time you just stopped and let God calm your “winds”?
The writer of Hebrews points to the Creation rest as a model for rest. I guess if it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for us! Let’s check it out: Gen 2:2-3 “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
Notice three things here. One God rested. The word is better translated “ceased.” He wasn’t tired, He was done. Another sense of the word is “completeness.” (think: wholeness, perfect). God goes on to bless (placed favor upon) this moment of pause. And if that wasn’t enough God goes ahead and sanctified it (set it apart as special). The Hebrew word here is “Kadosh” = holy. Holy is first referred to time, not space. Creation was “good”, but REST was Kadosh. It was only later that God would bestow “kadosh” on people, and even later on places and things. The great thing about this day of rest, blessings, and holiness is that God invites us into it: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8. We have an opportunity to intentionally enter into God’s completeness, favor, and holiness
Now what was Jesus’ take on all of this resting stuff? Straight away it’s good to point out that Jesus has a fairly “liberal” viewpoint vs. the Pharisees (very strict keeps of the Law). Yet, in Matthew 5:17 Jesus says, “..I have not come to abolish them [Laws] but to fulfill them.” Jesus’ teaching was not concerned with theological musings, but about doing. He cam to “fulfill,” literally to “abound, to fill to full!” the commands of God.
So what did Jesus do? How did he practice rest, a Sabbath day? In Matthew 11 we see Jesus addressing a large crowd. And the question of the day is: “is Jesus the Messiah?”
Basically some of his critics had their doubts. In vs. 19 he is basically described as a “party animal”: eating, drinking, hanging out, chilling w/ “sinners.” Not your typical rabbinical rest.
In vs. 28-30 He tips us off on His perspective on a good rest. Jesus simply says: COME all who are weary+burdened (broken, stressed) and “I will give your REST.” A godly rest was not achieved by being pious, traditional or even religious. He goes on to say that he is a “gentle and humble” rabbi / teacher. His “yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Why is he saying this? Well a “yoke” has a lot of images connected to it, but one of them is a phrase speaking about a Rabbi’s interpretation of the Law and how they would lead their disciples / students into action, into “fulfilling” the Law. Jesus basically says His way of living out the Law is pretty easy. You just come to Him and “you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus was a man of action. In Matthew 12 was see Him bring “fulfillment” to the Law and his “yoke.” In the face of the religious Establishment which had created a distorted practice of the Sabbath (“burdens”), Jesus leads his “boys” into the fields to find refreshment (they picked a bunch of grain). When confronted He simply claims to be “Lord of the Sabbath.” (i.e. the King of Rest). The message? its good for man to come to GOD and get Refreshment.
Jesus doesn’t stop there. He busts into a synagogue and openly confronts the Establishment by exposing their hypocrisy by healing a man in the middle of the service. And this broken man was “completely restored.” Lesson: Come to Jesus for Rest, Refreshment, Restoration. It’s that simple.
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” Mark 2:27
So how do we do this today?
1) Take time to Selah (pause) and find Rest, Refreshment, Restoration in Jesus.
2) Enter into a moment of Kadosh (holiness) with Jesus.
3) Throw a party & invite God! It’s for you and the King of the Sabbath!
4) “Delight yourselves in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart” Ps 37:4
Check out this clip from an interview with pastor Rob Bell (Mars Hill) as he speaks about the need for those in ministry to take a REST in Jesus: