During His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
This invitation has several parts to it.
First, Jesus’ invitation is to come to Him! It is not an invitation to an event or philosophy of life or a principle. It is an invitation to a person – Jesus Himself. The Christian faith (as a reminder) is about Jesus, not about a religious system. When we find ourselves tired and weary and burdened by life, Jesus invites us to sit with Him. Not to figure out a new system or structure or procedure, but to come to Jesus. The invitation is not to self-dependence, but to dependence on Jesus.
Second, Jesus teaches us that all of us get weary and burdened with life. Why? Because life is hard and challenging and overwhelming at times. Because we are sinful and rebellious and stubborn and hard-headed. Because we are compassionate and loving and want to help others and carry their burdens as our own burdens. Because we are human. We are not God. We get tired and sick and frustrated and angry. We are the created, not the Creator. Because of that, the burdens of this life can crush us. They do crush us. This life can brings great heights of joy and deep valleys – sometimes in the same day.
Third, Jesus promises to give us rest. He doesn’t mean a nap. He means a deeper rest – one of the soul. One where are hearts are at peace and our souls are at rest in God. You know what it feels like to be restless in your soul, don’t you? To not be at peace with God, yourself, others. Jesus tells us to bring that to Him. He is gentle and humble in spirit. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. He gives rest. He promises to give rest. To who? To all of us. To you – to me – today.
How does this actually work?
There is a great story in the Gospel of John, chapter 4, where we see Jesus expose the heavy burdens of this life and bring His freedom and peace. I want us to study this passage and allow God to speak anew to our hearts about the weariness we feel and burdens we are carrying. This story (of the woman at the well) is a familiar one to most of us. But don’t allow its simplicity to lull you to sleep – to miss the powerful insights from our Lord Jesus and the writer John on finding rest in God.
I want us to see three contrasts in this passage, each contrasting one way of life that drains us from another way of life that fills us up. In this passage, we will see the actual way by which Jesus brings His easy yoke and light burden into our lives.
First, let’s see the difference between stale water and living water. Let’s read John 4:1-14.
Jesus sits down at the well of Jacob in Samaria to talk to a Samaritan woman who was gathering water. Jesus is immediately crossing two cultural barriers to talk with her. He is ministering to a woman (not appropriate) who was a Samaritan (not liked by the Jews). A great reminder that Jesus’ rest is for all people. He is not a respecter of persons, of titles or bank accounts. Jesus invites all who are weary and burdened by life. And He invited this woman to experience His rest. What did He say?
He told her that if she knew the gift of God and who was speaking to her, she would ask for and receive Living Water. Let’s explore this teaching in verse 10 – very important to understanding the rest of God. What is the “gift of God?” In the gospel of John, the gift is the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor – His love poured out on us without anything in us to deserve it.
In other words, what Jesus is saying, “if you understood the grace of God and the coming of the Messiah, you would reach out for Him and He would respond to you.” You would not just see Living Water, you would receive Living Water. Why would understanding grace and believing in Jesus as Messiah cause us to reach out to Him? Because we would know that we don’t have to get our stuff together before we approach Him. That is grace. And we would recognize that He is the only One who can give us true meaning and peace. The Messiah is the One who puts the world right and puts peace in our hearts.
Jesus teaches the woman that this Living Water is different from anything else she has ever tried. Every other water that she drinks will leave her thirsty again. Is he talking about H2O? No. He is talking about everything else we look to in our lives to sustain us and give us purpose and meaning and value in this life. Jesus exposes the first source of our weariness – the attempts to gain ultimate fulfillment in things that weren’t designed to ultimately fulfill. Huge.
We know from the rest of the passage that this woman had been married many times. Why? Was she looking for a human relationship to complete her, to make her whole? Think about your own life. What stale water do you turn to, looking for peace and rest and security? Jesus Christ Himself is reminding us in His words. No person and no pursuit outside of Jesus will ultimately satisfy your soul. You and I were made to worship. We were made to be in relationship with our Creator. Nothing in creation can be that ever-flowing well that springs up for eternal life. Only Jesus satisfies. Do you believe that He is enough? That He is more than enough? Or are you always looking for someone / something else to satisfy your soul?
STOP and think. Is your soul dry? Is your heart empty? Are you weary and overly burdened? Could it be that you are feeling the effects of drinking from stale water? Are you putting unrealistic expectations on your job, your family, your hobbies, your friends, your ministry even, hoping that they will make you whole? They won’t. They can’t. Only Jesus is Living Water.
Second, let’s see the difference between confessed and hidden sin. Let’s read John 4:15-26.
After Jesus teaches the woman at the well about the Living Water that He brings, He exposes what she tries to keep hidden from Him. He tells her to go get her husband, and then when she refuses, reveals that He already knows about her five marriages, and her current live-in boyfriend. Jesus confronts her sin in order to restore her, not to condemn her. He desires to bring spiritual life to her, which is the reason for this conversation in the first place.
She obviously doesn’t want to go there, to talk about her failures and poor choices and sins against God. Nobody does. Who can blame her? We don’t want anyone to know that we have those kinds of thoughts or words or actions. It is so much easier to pretend that we are perfect and have our stuff together. This one wanted to perform for Jesus, to act like she wasn’t involved in any kind of immorality. But Jesus won’t allow us to simply hide our sin from him.
For good reason. When we hide sin, refuse to acknowledge or confess our sin, it kills us inside. We carry a heavy weight, a burden that crushes our spirit. When Jesus calls out her sin, the woman at the well starts a conversation about the proper geography of worship. But Jesus again won’t let her get away. This discussion is not about location, but about the heart.
Jesus tells her that now that the Messiah has come, worship is not about external issues like being in the right geography, but about issues of the heart – spirit and truth. Connecting with God on a heart level based on the truth of who He is and who we are. Spirit and Truth. Not deceit. Not hiding from God, but coming honestly before Him, because He knows about it already.
One of the most common causes of spiritual dryness and a weary soul is a failure to confess and repent of sin. Why do we hide from God when we know deep in our hearts that He knows about it anyway? Because we don’t trust the heart of God. What do you think is going to happen when you come clean before the Lord? You think He is going to disown you? Run from you? Ignore you? Punish you? Let me tell you what happens when you confess you deepest, darkest sins to God? He forgives you. He extends grace and mercy.
Confession and repentance brings life. Hiding sin from others and from God drains life. It is a heavy burden to carry sin with us, to attempt to ignore the Holy Spirit day after day. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God won’t leave you alone. He will continue to pursue your heart, day after day. And you know what you will find when you finally come clean and confess and repent? LIFE! You will find that God is more gracious that you knew and that people were more accepting that you could have imagined. No one rejected you or sent you away. God wipes you clean and renews your heart. And there is freedom!
One of the greatest tools of the enemy is to keep us bound in habitual sin, to keep us trapped in the lie that we won’t ever be able to change, that no one will understand, that we can’t tell anyone about what we’ve done. This creates a heavy burden. Bring it to Jesus Christ. Take up His easy yoke. He is gentle and humble of heart. He will free you from the sin that has you entangled.
Third, let’s see the difference between taking people to Jesus and leading them to us.
Let’s read John 4:27-30, 39-42.
The woman, after having Jesus reveal Himself to her as the Living Water and expose her lifestyle, realizes that this Man is not just another prophet. He is the Messiah! He is not another religious leader or spiritual guru. Jesus is the One and Only King, the Anointed One of Israel, the suffering servant who takes away the sins of the world. And when she realizes who she has met, what does she do? Please take note. She invites others to meet Him.
She doesn’t invite people to trust in her or follow her example. She invites them to come and see this One who told her everything she ever did. She ministers to others by bringing them to Jesus. And the Bible says that many believed in Jesus because of what the woman said. God used her testimony. But notice where John goes in verse 42 – after they encountered Jesus, they believed because of their own experience with Jesus, not her experience with Jesus. This is VERY important to understand.
So many times, we feel the burden of being responsible for people’s spiritual life. In one sense, this is good. We love people and want to see them grow. We desire for people to honor God above all things in their lives. In another sense, however, this can be bad. If we make people dependent on us for their spiritual life rather than Jesus, we will slow down their growth and carry too much weight.
The goal of our ministry is NOT to make our own disciples. It is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I know this sounds foundational, but I believe many of us are weary because we are taking on too much personal ownership of other people’s struggles and failures. It is good to be empathetic and feel deeply for people. It is not good to carry the weight of other people’s choices in life. Our job is to point people to Jesus Christ, to teach people what it means to follow Jesus, and to model whole-hearted devotion to Jesus, but we cannot make decisions for people. They have to meet Jesus on their own and experience Him first hand.
One of the reasons that we can work hard as ministers of Jesus Christ and still sleep well at night is because ultimately people belong to Jesus, not to us. He is responsible for them, and they are accountable to Him. They will not give an account to us when they die. They will give an account to God. We are witnesses to the Truth. We are not the Truth. We are called to lead people to Jesus. He is the Messiah. You are not. You will never save anyone. Jesus saves. You can have the joy of introducing people to Jesus, like the woman at the well. You can have the joy of telling them His story. But in the end, they must investigate the claims of Christ on their own and make a daily decision on how to live.
Jesus calls us all to come to Him with our weary souls and our heavy burdens. What heavy burden are you carrying today?
It could be the weariness that comes from looking for fulfillment in the wrong place.
It could be the weariness that comes from carrying sin that needs to be confessed.
It could be the weariness that comes from carrying other people’s concerns and struggles.
Whatever it is, remember the words of Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His heart is gentle and His spirit is humble. He invites you to come. Not to me, but to Him.
Respond to Him and He will meet you there.