After a wind storm took down big limbs and snapped trees in our neighborhood last week, my neighbors and I wore ourselves out trying to get down a heavy wild cherry branch that was hanging dangerously just beyond the reach of our ladder and ropes.
Yet, as I think back on it now, our physical efforts were little compared to the exhaustion that can follow efforts to experience a spirituality that seems beyond our reach.
Am saying this because of a series of conversations I had this past week with Elisa Morgan and Bill Crowder. While recording for Discover the Word, Elisa helped us see some often quoted words of Jesus in a way I hadn’t seen them before.
The words are familiar: They express Jesus’ invitation for tired and over-burdened people to come to him for rest (Matt 11:28-30). They became fresh for me though when Elisa called attention to what our Teacher said immediately before (Matt 11:25-27) and after (Matt 12:1-2).
The subject-link to what followed (Jesus’ explanation of Sabbath-rest law) was easier for me to see than the seemingly obscure words that preceded his invitation to come to him for rest. Yet by the time we were done thinking about the context, I think I better understood why Jesus didn’t just say “come to me” but also “learn from me”.
The rest and comfort Jesus offers us, is what he himself found in his Father.
The Message paraphrase of the Bible puts it like this: First Jesus prayed, “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.” Then, “Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen” (Matt 11:25-27).
With that introduction, The Message, expresses our Lord’s invitation in Matt 11:28-30 like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Again, seems clear to me how important it was that he not only said think “come to me” but “learn from me”— what it means to rely on him— as he learned to rely on the faithful presence, strength, and reach of his Father.