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. 30 For
my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
interpretation of this text is that verse 28 is an invitation to come to Jesus.
They will find rest in the sense of having their sins forgiven. I want to make
the case here that this text is better understood as addressed to Jesus’
followers (believers). Jesus commands his followers who are weary and burdened
to turn to him and find refreshment to continue.
In other words, I
disagree that this is an invitation for unbelievers to come to Jesus and be saved.
The people invited are already following Jesus, living by his standards, and
finding that it is not easy.
First, look with me at 11:25-27
25 At that time Jesus declared, “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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All
things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son
except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to
whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Those invited to
come are the little children (not babies but those who are lowly and
humble) to whom God has revealed
himself to them through Jesus Christ (vv. 25, 27). Jesus is inviting people
who have already experienced the saving power of Jesus and are following him. As such, we see that “those who labor
and are heavy laden” are believers who are weary with the burdens of life. So
then, there is a standing invitation from the Lord Jesus Christ to those who
belong to him to continually come to him.
Second, for an invitation to be honored, the
person offering the invitation matters also. Humanly speaking, we tend to
respond to invitations from people we know or respect or value etc. Those invited
are expected to respond because they know Jesus.
Looking back at
verse 27 above, we see that Jesus has authority to give this invitation.
Jesus is the one to whom the Father has given all things. He
is the one who knows the Father. He is the one who reveals the Father to those
he chooses. The language here is similar to Matthew 28:18, where Jesus’ command
to his followers to make disciples of all nations is grounded on his authority;
an authority that has been given to him by the Father.
The invitation to come to Jesus is grounded on who Jesus is.
This is the kind of knowledge possessed by those to whom he has already
revealed the Father. Since only Jesus knows the Father, only those to whom he
reveals the Father will know that it is important to listen to his invitation
and obey. In our fight of faith, our knowledge of Jesus is an encouragement for
Third, if we take
“labor and are heavy laden” to mean those who are weary with life’s burdens,
then it is an invitation for all people who are weary in life to come to Jesus.
He promises to give them rest in the sense of refreshing them so that they can
If we take Matthew 11:28 as an invitation to those who are
already followers of Jesus then we can see that it is a command for all
believers to always turn to Jesus and find refreshment in the midst of life’s
difficulties. Thus, instead of this being a call for the unregenerate to come
to Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins, it is an encouragement for the
regenerate to find comfort in that Jesus is with them, and will walk with them
and care for them until the end (cf. Matthew 28:20).
But, why might the followers of Jesus be weary because of the burdens