Rev. Miersma is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

The words of the above text are among the most striking and moving words of Christ. I do not think that we will ever be able to calculate how often these words have reached out to call and comfort the discouraged, the disillusioned, and the disappointed. These are words that are more than the mere utterances of men, or the empty promises of politicians.

These words are words of power, which reach out to snatch the heavy laden from their positions of despair and bring them to promised rest. These words are reliable and trustworthy. All of this is in the way of coming to Christ, who has the power and ability to give rest in all of its beauty and glory.

Christ here issues a call. In it He does not address every man or woman who lives or has lived on earth. Christ is often presented as calling everyone, as if all are weary and heavy laden. His glorious words of power are turned into some sort of an appeal, which pleads for everyone to come to Him, to seek His face, to admit Him into their hearts. In responding to the appeal, Christ will give rest.

However, Christ does not speak to everyone, but to a specific group, namely, those who are heavy laden. These know and recognize themselves to be the very ones whom Christ addresses.

Concerning the laboring ones, Christ does not address a work force or people engaged in physical labor. The laboring ones of the text have a spiritual problem, which can be seen in the word labor. It speaks of effort or toil that has no end, work without any hope of rest.

Imagine the utter frustration and hopelessness of trying to empty the ocean with a teacup. Such is the situation of man as he lives and works in the world. One wants riches, another power and glory. Each labors toward the goal he seeks. Yet in all this seeking he finds no rest. He is neither happy nor content with that which he seeks. Ever he strives, but never does he really attain true rest. The difficulty is that man, with all his labor, cannot obtain a right relationship with God. He can perform no works that earn righteousness or please God. All of man’s labors are of the wrong sort, directed to the wrong goal, and end in his damnation. All is labor without rest.

The sad part of all this is that man by nature does not recognize this fact. Though all labor without rest, only some recognize the futility of man’s efforts and the inability of man to obtain proper rest. One must be born again to understand how completely hopeless is the lot of man. These are the ones whom Jesus addresses, those who know themselves to be laborers, who know that their efforts cannot attain unto deliverance or salvation.

Such a one is heavy laden. Picture a beast of burden that has kneeled down so that the owner can place a large burden upon his back. In this instance the burden is too great, the poor beast cannot get up. So also is one who is made conscious of his own sins and misery. Our sins had their beginning in the garden, when Adam sinned. Already then it was a burden that no man can bear, the weight of which will drag man to the depths of hell. Man has no love for God or the neighbor and does not want to believe that he is heavy laden with sin and guilt. If addressed as such, he would simply ignore such address. Such a one Christ does not address.

Christ speaks to those who recognize their terrible burden of sin and guilt. One who is born again and called to repentance begins to see himself and his evil nature. No longer can he deny his guilt. He begins to tremble before the justice of God, who must punish the sinner for his sins. He knows that he cannot lift this weight of sin off from himself. Yet it must be taken away if he is to escape the torments of hell.

The question then is: how do you see yourself? Do you admit that by nature you have a burden? Do you feel its weight pressing upon you? Do you tremble before the majesty of the Most High? Do you believe that there is no hope unless that burden is taken away? Do you cry out for deliverance? If your answer is yes, then Christ is speaking to you, and His message is simple and beautiful.

Rest. Just what is it to which Christ is calling us? It is not unto retirement or cessation from physical labor. As the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, so is the rest unto which He calls us. There is both a negative and a positive aspect to it. Negatively, there must be the removal of the burden of sin and guilt. If this does not take place, then no rest is possible. The same thing is true in daily life. One who carries a heavy load cannot rest until he has set aside the burden. In order for our burden of sin to be removed, there must be payment to God, a satisfaction of His justice.

Positively, rest involves praise directed to God and fellowship with Him. One who rests can see the wonder of God’s works and find joy in all of them. It is the contemplation and enjoyment of the revelation of God. One who is in the state of impenitence has no right to such rest. Only one who is reconciled to God through the blood of Christ can have true rest.

When can I experience this rest? There are various spheres in which this rest is enjoyed. One can experience it already here on earth. When one is brought to repentance, he is given peace with God. On Sunday, the day of rest, one receives a foretaste. There in the house of God you gather with God’s people to worship the Lord, sing His praises, pray to Him, and rejoice in hearing His Word preached. You find pleasure in reading and studying God’s Word. In all of your labors you know the joy of rest.

This rest is also experienced at the time of death. The wicked fear death, for it is their entrance into everlasting damnation. From this hell there is no escape. There he realizes that all his labors on earth were to no avail. For the child of God, death is the doorway into heavenly glory and everlasting rest. The soul enters immediately into a conscious state of glory. In his rest in heaven he fellowships with Christ and praises God perfectly. There is no more burden of sin, no more weary labors, only the enjoyment of the blessedness of perfection.

Finally, rest is experienced and enjoyed at the second coming of Christ. At that time the bodies of the saints shall be raised and united with their souls and brought into the new heavens and the new earth. Forevermore the saints will enjoy the wonder and blessedness of the glory of God. They will perform labor, but it will no more be tedious or wearisome. No more will there be the burden of sin and guilt. The saints will receive what Christ promises them here on earth.

To this rest each child of God is called. It is the most blessed call that one can imagine. As one contemplates the burden of sin and the unending, wearisome labor, one might conclude that there is no hope of rest for him. True, through one’s own efforts there is no hope, for man of himself cannot attain unto the rest of God. In fact, he can only add to the burden.

All this makes the call of Christ so very wonderful. Listen to it: Come unto Me. Think of what that means. Christ has already paid for all of the sins of all of His elect people who were chosen in Him even before the foundations of the earth were ever laid. On Calvary Jesus met the requirements of the justice of God. God said that every sin must be justly and rightly paid for. Jesus did exactly that. Perfect and full payment has been made. He obtained what was necessary in order to give rest to His people.

Having done that, He now calls to the weary and heavy laden. He calls in order to bring to the consciousness of His elect the fact that spiritual rest is theirs. He calls powerfully and effectively. He does not beg or plead, nor does He have to await the favorable reaction of the sinner. His call is a command: COME unto Me! A picture of this is the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Christ called him from the dead. Jesus did not seek the cooperation of dead Lazarus. No, He simply commanded the dead man to come forth; and he did. The Word of Christ compelled him to come out of the tomb. Such is Christ’s power of command to the weary and heavy laden. He works in the hearts that which He commands to do. His Word and Spirit bring the weary ones to the foot of the cross. He makes sinners aware of their awful burden and brings them to the only place where they may obtain relief from this burden — the cross of Calvary. In this way He brings to those who come to Him rest and peace which pass understanding.Do you hear these words of Christ? Are you one of these burdened ones, feeling the weight of your sin and guilt? Are you aware of the hopelessness of standing before God in your own strength? If so, hear the word of Christ: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

When the Holy Spirit has worked that in your heart, when this command of Christ is applied to your heart, then you surely will come to Christ. You will run to His cross, fall on your knees, and cry out for mercy and for forgiveness. You will confess that all of your deliverance must come from that Lamb of God.

So doing you will receive rest and peace. That which presently separates you from the face of God will be removed. No longer will you be troubled because of the burden of your sins. Jesus will give you the assurance that your sins also were removed through His shed blood on the cross. Then you will be able to come before the face of our heavenly Father with all your supplications. You can pray to Him with the confident assurance that He hears and answers. You will be assured that after this life is over there is a place prepared for you, eternal in the heavens.

Weary ones, come to Him and receive of Him that glorious rest!