Rest – Textual Tuesday

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28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29)

“Read Big” is a cornerstone of good Bible study, but more about that in a moment.

Let’s begin by thinking about the nature of the four accounts of Jesus’ life found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

First, they are presented as highly significant. Their value is signaled by their placement, length, and content. They stand first among the New Testament documents and compromise nearly half of its content. But their principle worth comes from their description of the incomparable deeds and words of Jesus.

Secondly, the gospel accounts are selective. For example, John admits the partial nature of his writing, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.” (John 20:30; 21:25). The deeds and words of Jesus were carefully selected for a purpose from among a catalog of possible content.

Thirdly, the selected events are carefully ordered. For example, Luke set out to write “an orderly account” of Jesus’ life (Luke 1:4). However, this order is not restricted to the chronological presentation of modern biographies. At times the author arranges the stories thematically to communicate a message. For example, Luke records Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry, but Matthew and Mark put it toward the middle (Luke 4:16-30; Matt. 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6). In addition, all four gospel accounts include Jesus feeding the 5,000, but they all place the miracle in a slightly different context to advance their message.

How do these facts impact our Bible study? Let’s go back to “Read Big.” The gospel accounts do not paint a thousand portraits of Jesus on three-inch canvases. They carefully select events and placed them in order to paint larger murals of Jesus’ character and works.

This requires the reader to step back from the individual story and ask, “Where is the story found? [limits of the section] Is there a consistent theme to the stories in this section? [purpose of the section] How does this story fit in to the author’s purpose? [purpose of the story]” To answer these questions the reader must “Read Big.” When we read a large unit around our story, we will begin to see the author’s mural take shape and allow the author to direct us to his inspired purpose.

Let’s try this on with Jesus’ familiar invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

“Where is the story found?” This invitation is only found in Matthew. Matthew shows Jesus as the one who fulfills God’s promise to Abraham to bless the nations, and God’s promise to David of an eternal kingdom (Matt. 1:1,2,6,17; 28:18-20).

More closely, Jesus’ invitation is given in a section that highlights how people respond to the gospel. Matthew gives us the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7, followed by the miracles of Jesus (Matt. 8-9). Now, Matthew shows how people responded (Matt. 9:35 – 13:58).

“What is the purpose of this section?” Jesus was motivated by compassion to shepherd the “harassed and helpless” sheep of Israel, but Matthew shows us that most people rejected his direction. The Twelve experienced this inconsistent response in Matthew 10, and Jesus experienced the same in Matthew 11-12. The section ends with parables which illustrate the different responses (Matt. 13:1-58). Clearly, the purpose of the section is to illustrate the diverse response to the gospel, and it leaves us asking “Why?”

“What is the purpose of this story?” Who could reject someone who spoke such wisdom and healed all diseases (Matt. 5-9)? The answer, a lot of people. Even people like us! We want Jesus to dance to our music (11:16-29). We grow indifferent to his works (11:20-24). We make our own rules to condone our callous behavior (12:1-21; note contrast of “rest” (11:28) with “Sabbath” (12:1,10).). We misuse our words and don’t act on what we believe (12:22-50). Yes, even we can reject Jesus.

But then Jesus invites us, “Come to me.”

Those who come will humble. Jesus prayed, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (11:25).

Those who come are weary of sin, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden” (11:28).

Those who come will learn of Jesus and yield to his will, “Learn from me…” and carry “my yoke” (11:29-30).

The promise…is REST! The purpose of this story is to ask, “Do you have his rest? If not, what is holding you back?”

“Read Big” and see how worthy Jesus is to follow!

Tim Jennings

“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)


Extra Bits:


Jesus Will Give You Rest

Fanny Crosby

Will you come, will you come, with your poor broken heart,
Burdened and sin oppressed?
Lay it down at the feet of your Savior and Lord,
Jesus will give you rest.

Will you come, will you come? How He pleads with you now!
Fly to His loving breast;
And whatever your sin or your sorrow may be,
Jesus will give you rest.

O happy rest, sweet, happy rest,
Jesus will give you rest;
Oh! why won’t you come in simple, trusting faith?
Jesus will give you rest.


Savior and Friend

J.S.B. Monsell, M.W. Bassord & C.A.R.

Rest for the weary,
Joy of the sad,
Hope of the dreary,
Light of the glad;

Refuge from danger,
Strength to the end,
Home of the stranger,
Savior and Friend.

Wealth of the giving,
Heart of the kind,
Breath of the living,
Sight of the blind;

Path of the lowly,
Crown at the end,
Bread of the holy,
Savior and Friend.

Song of the sighing,
Lamp of the led,
Prayer of the dying,
Life of the dead;

Be my Endeavor,
Unto the end,
Love me forever,
Savior and Friend.