Come to Me, (11:28a)
Just as man’s part in salvation is to come humbly, it is also to come in faith. Although finite minds cannot fully comprehend the truth, divine grace and human faith are inseparable in salvation. God sovereignly provides salvation, which includes the fact that man must give himself to the Lord Jesus Christ in commitment before it becomes effective. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me,” and then immediately added, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).
Salvation is not through a creed, a church, a ritual, a pastor, a priest, or any other such human means—but through Jesus Christ, who said, Come to Me. To come is to believe to the point of submitting to His lordship. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared; “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Comes and believes are parallel just as are hunger and thirst. Coming to Christ is believing in Him, which results in no longer hungering and thirsting. Other biblical synonyms for believing in Christ include confessing Him, receiving Him, eating and drinking Him, and hearing Him.
Peter declared, “Of Him [Jesus Christ] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). And the Lord Himself said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14–16).
Repentance and Rest
all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (11:28b)
All who are indicates a condition that already exists. Those whom Jesus invites to Himself are those who already are weary and heavy-laden. Although this aspect of Jesus’ invitation is mentioned after faith (“Come to Me”), chronologically it precedes faith, referring to the repentance that drives the humble, seeking person to Christ for salvation.
Kopiaō (to grow weary, or “to labor”) carries the idea of working to the point of utter exhaustion. John uses the term to describe Jesus’ fatigue when He and the disciples reached Sychar after a long, hot journey from Jerusalem (John 4:6).
Weary translates a present active participle and refers figuratively to arduous toil in seeking to please God and know the way of salvation. Jesus calls to Himself everyone who is exhausted from trying to find and please God in his own resources. Jesus invites the person who is wearied from his vain search for truth through human wisdom, who is exhausted from trying to earn salvation, and who has despaired of achieving God’s standard of righteousness by his own efforts.
Heavy-laden translates a perfect passive participle, indicating that at some time in the past a great load was dumped on the wearied person. Whereas weary refers to the internal exhaustion caused by seeking divine truth through human wisdom, heavy-laden suggests the external burdens caused by the futile efforts of works righteousness.
In Jesus’ day, the rabbinical teachings had become so massive, demanding, and all-encompassing that they prescribed standards and formulas for virtually every human activity. It was all but impossible even to learn all the traditions, and was completely impossible to keep them all. Jesus spoke of the heavy loads of religious tradition that the scribes and Pharisees laid on the people’s shoulders (Matt. 23:4); and at the Jerusalem Council, Peter noted that the Judaizers were trying to saddle Christianity with the same man-made “yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10).
Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him. The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God. He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ. Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself. To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new
Repentance was the theme of John the Baptist’s preaching (Matt. 3:2) and the starting point of the preaching of Jesus (4:17), Peter (Acts 2:38; 3:19; cf. 5:31), and Paul (17:30; 20:21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). The person who humbly receives God’s revelation of Himself and His way of salvation, who turns from the unbearable burden of his sin and self-effort, and who comes to Christ empty-handed is the only person God will save.
Anapauō (to give … rest) means to refresh or revive, as from labor or a long journey. Jesus promises spiritual rest to everyone who comes to Him in repentance and humble faith.
God’s rest is a common Old Testament theme. The Lord warned Israel, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness; when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work.… Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest” (Ps. 95:7–9, 11). After quoting that passage, the writer of Hebrews warns those who make a pretense of faith in Christ but have not really trusted Him: “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). To intellectually acknowledge Christ’s deity and lordship is a dangerous thing if it does not lead to true faith, because it gives a person the false confidence of belonging to Christ.
In the time of the early church many Jews were attracted to the gospel and outwardly identified themselves with the church. But for fear of being unsynagogued, ostracized from the worship and ceremonies of Judaism, some of them did not truly receive Christ as saving Lord. They went part way to Him but stopped before full commitment. “As a result” of such superficial allegiance, John says, “many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). Consequently they would not enter God’s rest, that is, His salvation, because they still possessed “an evil, unbelieving heart” (Heb. 3:11–12).
Just as those Israelites who rebelled against Moses in the wilderness were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of unbelief, so those who refuse to fully trust in Christ are denied entrance into God’s kingdom rest of salvation for the same reason (v. 19). “Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest’ ” (4:1–3).
The dictionary gives several definitions of rest that remarkably parallel the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in His Son. First, the dictionary describes rest as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion. In a similar way, to enter God’s rest is to cease from all efforts at self-help in trying to earn salvation. Second, rest is described as freedom from that which wearies or disturbs. Again we see the spiritual parallel of God’s giving His children freedom from the cares and burdens that rob them of peace and joy.
Third, the dictionary defines rest as something that is fixed and settled. Similarly, to be in God’s rest is to have the wonderful assurance that our eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is to be freed from the uncertainties of running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from guru to guru, hoping somehow and somewhere to discover truth, peace, happiness, and eternal life.
Fourth, rest is defined as being confident and trustful. When we enter God’s rest we are given the assurance that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Finally, the dictionary describes rest as leaning, reposing, or depending on. As children of God, we can depend with utter certainty that our heavenly Father will “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
28 The “me” is grammatically unemphatic but in the wake of v. 27 extremely important. Jesus invites the “weary” (the participle suggests those who have become weary through heavy struggling or toil) and the “burdened” (the passive side of weariness, overloaded like beasts of burden) to come to him; and he (not the Father) will give them rest. There is an echo of Jeremiah 31:25, where Yahweh refreshes his people through the new covenant.
While there is no need to restrict the “burdens,” it is impossible not to be reminded of the “heavy loads” the Pharisees put on men’s shoulders (23:4; cf. 12:1–14; see M. Maher, “ ‘Take my yoke upon you’ [Matt. xi.29],” NTS 22 : 97–103). The “rest” (cf. use of cognate term in Heb 3–4) is eschatological (cf. Rev 6:11; 14:13) but also a present reality.
28 Jesus has spoken to God about the revelation of truth in vv. 25–26, and in v. 27 he has spoken in general terms about how the Father can be known only through the Son. Now this special revelatory role of the Son is expressed in a direct invitation to find the solution to life’s problems by coming to Jesus. The terms he uses reflect the Jewish understanding of the divine Wisdom as the intermediary between God and his people. I mentioned above (p. 441) that already in vv. 25–27 it is possible to trace conceptual links with aspects of the Jewish Wisdom tradition, and so to see Jesus as, in Matthew’s view, himself taking the place of the personified divine Wisdom, hidden from human cleverness, but able to communicate to those who seek her the truth about God which she alone truly understands. As the focus moves in vv. 28–30 from knowing the truth to finding rest, the echoes of Wisdom literature become even clearer. The most obvious source for Jesus’ language here is Sir 51:23–27 (cf. Sir 6:23–30), in which the sage invites the unlearned to come near to him to find Wisdom, to put their necks under Wisdom’s yoke so that their souls receive instruction, and informs them that in this way he himself, having toiled only a little, has found much rest. The echoes of the Greek text are clear: the words for “to me,” “toil,” “yoke,” “find,” “rest” and “soul” are all the same. But the way these themes are combined is significantly different. Whereas the sage is himself the recipient of Wisdom’s blessings, and invites others to share what he has received from her, Jesus is no intermediary but issues “Wisdom’s” invitation in his own person. Wisdom’s yoke is now his yoke, and it is he who offers rest to those who toil.
The invitation to “come here to me” is an important counterbalance to the statement in v. 27 that the knowledge of God is open only to those to whom the Son “is willing” to reveal him. That willingness is here shown to be not restrictive but open-ended, the invitation being issued to “all.” The only requirement is that those who come to him must recognize their need for help and be willing to accept his yoke and learn from him. This is an invitation which the “wise and intelligent” may well choose to ignore, while the “little children” come willingly. The invitation is there for all, but (as in vv. 20–24) not all will respond to it; many are invited but few are chosen (see on 22:14).
The “toiling” and “loading” which form the background to this invitation are not explained. They may be metaphors for the difficulties and pressures of life in general,28 but in 23:4 “heavy, cumbersome burdens on people’s shoulders” is a metaphor for the legal and ethical demands made by the scribes and Pharisees. The metaphor of a yoke, which in the OT commonly denoted social or political oppression (Gen 27:40; Exod 6:6–7; 1 Kgs 12:4–14; Isa 58:6, 9; Jer 28:2–14, etc.) and had a strongly pejorative sense, came to be used in later Jewish literature for the demands of the law upon people’s obedience, usually understood in a positive sense, an obligation freely accepted by “putting on the yoke of the Torah.” It is possible, then, that here we should understand the heavy burdens in the light of 23:4 as the unreasonable demands of the scribes with their excessive concern to regulate people’s behavior; cf. Acts 15:10, where the “yoke” is an unreasonable legal demand. But the wording in this passage does not make that application explicit, and a wider reference to life’s difficulties cannot be ruled out.
Ver. 28.—Come (δεῦτε); ch. 4:19, note. There is less thought of the process of coming than in the very similar invitation in John 7:37. Unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. The toilers and burdened (οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι). Our Lord purposely did not define in what the toil and burden consisted; for he would include all, from whatever quarter their toil and burden came. But since the spiritual is the central part of man (ch. 5:3, note), the more that the toil or burden is felt there so much the stronger would our Lord’s reference to it be. He would therefore be inviting most especially those that toil in legal ways of righteousness (Rom. 10:2, 3), and are burdened under Pharisaic enactments (Luke 11:46). And I. Emphatic (κἀγώ). However others may treat you. Will give you rest (ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς). Not to be identified with the phrase in ver. 29 (see there). As contrasted with παύω (see Bishop Lightfoot, on Philem. 7 and on Ignat., ‘Eph.,’ § ii.), ἀναπαύω refers to temporary rather than permanent cessation from work, and it thus especially connotes refreshment of body and soul obtained through such rest. In conformity with this we find ἀνάπαυσις regularly used in the LXX as a translation of sabbathon (“Sabbath-keeping,” e.g. Exod. 16:23, for which σαββατισμός comes in Heb. 4:9 as an equivalent). The thought, therefore, here is not that those who come to Christ will have no more work, but that Christ will give them at once such rest and refreshment of soul that they may be fit for work, should God have any in store for them.
28. Come to me all that labour. He now kindly invites to himself those whom he acknowledges to be fit for becoming his disciples. Though he is ready to reveal the Father to all, yet the greater part are careless about coming to him, because they are not affected by a conviction of their necessities. Hypocrites give themselves no concern about Christ, because they are intoxicated with their own righteousness, and neither hunger nor thirst (Matth. 5:6) for his grace. Those who are devoted to the world set no value on a heavenly life. It would be in vain, therefore, for Christ to invite either of these classes, and therefore he turns to the wretched and afflicted. He speaks of them as labouring, or groaning under a burden, and does not mean generally those who are oppressed with grief and vexations, but those who are overwhelmed by their sins, who are filled with alarm at the wrath of God, and are ready to sink under so weighty a burden. There are various methods, indeed, by which God humbles his elect; but as the greater part of those who are loaded with afflictions still remain obstinate and rebellious, Christ means by persons labouring and burdened, those whose consciences are distressed by their exposure to eternal death, and who are inwardly so pressed down by their miseries that they faint; for this very fainting prepares them for receiving his grace. He tells us that the reason why most men despise his grace is, that they are not sensible of their poverty; but that there is no reason why their pride or folly should keep back afflicted souls that long for relief.
Let us therefore bid adieu to all who, entangled by the snares of Satan, either are persuaded that they possess a righteousness out of Christ, or imagine that they are happy in this world. Let our miseries drive us to seek Christ; and as he admits none to the enjoyment of his rest but those who sink under the burden, let us learn, that there is no venom more deadly than that slothfulness which is produced in us, either by earthly happiness, or by a false and deceitful opinion of our own righteousness and virtue. Let each of us labour earnestly to arouse himself, first, by vigorously shaking off the luxuries of the world; and, secondly, by laying aside every false confidence. Now though this preparation for coming to Christ makes them as dead men, yet it ought to be observed, that it is the gift of the Holy Spirit, because it is the commencement of repentance, to which no man aspires in his own strength. Christ did not intend to show what man can do of himself, but only to inform us what must be the feelings of those who come to him.
They who limit the burden and the labour to ceremonies of the Law, take a very narrow view of Christ’s meaning. I do acknowledge, that the Law was intolerably burdensome, and overwhelmed the souls of worshippers; but we must bear in mind what I have said, that Christ stretches out his hand to all the afflicted, and thus lays down a distinction between his disciples and those who despise the Gospel. But we must attend to the universality of the expression; for Christ included all, without exception, who labour and are burdened, that no man may shut the gate against himself by wicked doubts. And yet all such persons are few in number; for, among the innumerable multitude of those that perish, few are aware that they are perishing. The relief which he promises consists in the free pardon of sins, which alone gives us peace.
28. The last three verses of the chapter contain many echoes of the invitation of Jesus Ben Sira in the appendix to his wisdom book (Ecclus. 51:23–27; cf. also Ecclus. 6:24–31) to men to come and learn from him and take up wisdom’s yoke, so that they may find rest. No doubt Jesus and his hearers knew and valued this book, but Jesus’ invitation reveals a higher authority: it is his own yoke that he offers, and he himself gives the rest which Ben Sira had to win by his ‘little labours’.
Jesus issues his invitation to all who labour and are heavy laden. The last word is unusual, and reminds us of 23:4, where the scribes and Pharisees are accused of making the people carry ‘heavy burdens’ by their legalistic demands. Scribal religion was meant to honour God, but its effect was to condemn the ordinary Jew to hard labour. The rest Jesus offers instead is not a release from all obligations; 5:20 shows that his demands are greater. But because of who he is (v. 29), his demands are such that to respond to them is rest (‘relief’ would be an equally good translation). As with the beatitudes of 5:3–10, while there is an eschatological aspect to this promise (cf. the ‘rest’ of Heb. 4:1–10), to interpret it as wholly eschatological would deprive it of its practical value to those who are burdened by legalism. Even here and now discipleship to Jesus, for all its stern demands, is rest as compared with all human religion.
Ver. 28. Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.—
The burdened directed to Christ:—
- The persons whom our Lord here addresses. 1. As burdened with convictions of sin and the keen remorse of a wounded conscience. 2. That sinners under these circumstances labour to be released from their burden. (1) They resolve in their own strength to forsake their sins. (2) There are others who are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and go about to establish their own righteousness. (3) In looking to the mercy of God irrespective of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice.
- Our Lord’s tender solicitude for the happiness of such. 1. The invitation is condescending. 2. It is extensive and unconditional.
III. The promise annexed. 1. Rest in your conscience from the dread of Divine wrath. 2. Rest in the will from its former corrupt propensities. 3. Heavenly rest for the people of God. (R May.)
Rest in Christ for the heavy-laden:—
- What it is. “Rest,” not rest in sin, not rest from trouble. It is rest from sin—its guilt, misery, power. It is rest in trouble.
- Of whom is this blessing to be obtained. The conscious greatness these few simple words indicate. Have you ever tried to comfort a troubled heart? Beyond your power. It is the prerogative of Him who made the soul to give it rest. There is more power in Him to comfort than in the world to disquiet.
III. Who may obtain this rest from Him—“All that labour.” These words express the inward condition of man. We do indeed toil. Some weary themselves to work iniquity. The world has worn some of you out. The burden of affliction; guilt—our corruptions.
- How they who desire may obtain it—“Come.” 1. Literally, when lie was on earth. 2. Faith in operation. Hagar went to the well and drank, and was saved. Those who have found rest in Christ, remember where you found it. See on what easy terms we may find rest. Some know they are sinners, but are not weary of sin. (C. Bradley.)
Rest for the weary:—1. The promise is faithful. 2. It is a precious promise. 3. It is an appropriate promise. 4. It is one of present accomplishment. (D. Rees.)
The way of coming to Christ:—1. The most obvious is Christ historically taught. 2. Men seek to come to Him speculatively. Who can find out a being by a pure process of thought? 3. There are those who seek Christ by a sentimental and humanitarian method. This will not fire zeal. How then are men to come to Christ? Through a series of moral, practical endeavours to live the life which He has prescribed for us. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christ’s word to the weary:—There are three sorts of trouble. 1. There is head-trouble—to do what is right. 2. There is heart-trouble. The interior grief. 3. There is soul-trouble. Christ gives rest from these. (W. G. Barrett.)
A special invitation:—1. It is personal—“Come unto me.” God directs to Christ, not to His members. 2. It is present—“Come” now, do not wait. 3. So sweet an invitation demands a spontaneous acceptance. 4. He puts the matter very exclusively. Do nothing else but come to Him. Arguments which the Saviour used:—1. Because He is the appointed mediator—“All things are delivered unto me of My Father.” 2. Moreover the Father has given all things into His hands in the sense of government. 3. Christ is a well-furnished mediator—“All things are delivered unto Me.” He has all the sinner wants. 4. Come to Christ because He is an inconceivably great mediator. No man knows His fulness but the Father. 5. Because He is an infinitely wise Saviour. He understands both persons on whose behalf He mediates. 6. He is an indispensable mediator—“Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Invitation based on saving power:—In a previous verse our Lord had said, “All things are delivered unto me by My Father: meaning that all power is given unto Him for the instructing, ruling, and saving of mankind; from whence He infers those comfortable words in the text. I. A gracious invitation made by our Saviour. II. The persons invited. III. A promise of ease and benefit. IV. The way and manner of coming to Christ. V. A farther encouragement hereunto, from an inward sense and feeling of the promised rest. VI. A good reason to back and enforce it—“My yoke is easy.” (Matthew Hole.)
Ways of coming to Christ:—Coming to Christ and believing, are in Scripture used to signify one and the same thing. I. The first step in coming to Christ is by baptism. II. The next step is by prayer. III. A farther step is by repentance and confession of sin. IV. We are said to come to God by hearing His Word, and receiving instruction from Him. V. Also by receiving His Holy Supper: and—VI. By putting our whole trust and affiance in Him, relying upon Him for salvation, and placing all our hopes and confidence in His merits and satisfaction. (Ibid.)
Coming to Christ:—This implies three things.
- Absence: for what need is there of oar coming to Christ unless we are previously at a distance from Him? Such is the condition of every man. Naturally, all are without Christ as to saving influence; as to a proper knowledge of Him, love to Him, confidence in Him, and union and communion with Him.
- Accessibleness. We come to Him; we can find and approach Him. Not to His bodily presence. As man He is absent; as God He is still present. He said to His apostles, “Lo, I am with you always; even unto the end of the, world.”
III. Application. For this coming to Him is to deal with Him concerning the affairs of the soul of eternity. (W. Jay.)
- A negative description. (1) Rest, not lethargy. A condition in which the powers of the soul are quickened, rendered alive to its capacities, duties, and privileges. (2) Rest, not inactivity. Release from weariness rather than from labour. (3) Rest, not confinement. Not isolation or routine. (4) Rest, not leisure. Not a brief season of relaxation, but a lasting state of peace and strength.
- A positive description. (1) Rest, that is, peace. Conscience is at ease. The mind is satisfied. The heart is filled with love. (2) Rest, that is, fearlessness. Not only is there present satisfaction, but assured confidence in the future. (3) Rest, that is, fortitude. The burden may not be removed, but Christ gives us such a temper that we are as happy with our burden as though we were without it. (4) Rest, that is, security. He shields us from every adverse power. He gives us ground for our confidence. (Stems and Twigs.)
Christ relieving us of natural burdens:—1. Spiritual burdens. 2. Mental burdens. 3. Providential burdens. 4. Physical burdens. (Bishop Simpson.)
Christianity lightens physical burdens:—Go to-day into heathen countries, into Mohammedan lands, and what do you find? The village on the hill top, the old walls, the spring down near the foot of the hill, the water carried by hand, the pitcher, the goat skin—just as it was in ancient times. The burden is borne by men upon their backs. Go to China, and travel from place to place. It is difficult, and oftentimes the traveller must be carried by men, and, if not by men, by a rude cart. When I was in Palestine, a year ago, there was only one wheeled vehicle in the whole territory, and that had been brought there by the Russian Embassy. Burdens were borne on the back, and in the simplest way. Turn to Christian lands, and what are they? See what you call civilization—that is, Christianity affecting the minds and occupations of men—how it works! How is this city of a million and a quarter supplied with water? A great engine pumps it up from the river; iron pipes carry it to every house. You turn the tap and have it in almost every room. There is no broken back or burdened frame carrying from some spring this water. Go into countries partly civilized, and you find a few public pumps or wells, and the multitudes go there. It is a mere physical thing, you say. Yes; but it is God working in the subjugation of nature to man’s comfort. Moreover, you turn these taps in your room without thinking of it; and yet you have here a proof that God is taking care of the labour-burdened, and ought to remember how Christ has said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Go out into the fields. What was the old way? Men, bowed down in the heat of an August sun, took the sickle in hand, and tried to reap the harvest. Now the reaping-machine, drawn by horses, moves into the field, throws out its bound-up sheaves without human toil: and the harvest is gathered without man being bowed down to the earth. What is it? “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Go into the house: long ago, needlewomen, from early morn until night, and late into the night, stitched carefully, slowly, regularly, on their endless task. Now look at the sewing-machine, and see the amount of work that can be done without, comparatively speaking, human toil. Turn your eyes over to this light, and whence comes it, and how? Look at the little lamp of old, with its lard and wick, then the tallow candle; and now, wandering through all these pipes, comes this air or gas to be lighted, and what a change in human labour! From the darkness, from the atmosphere around us, men are gathering this electric fluid, and throwing light over the darkest of streets and alleys of your city, and thus enabling thousands of men to work as by daylight in your manufactories. What a change in human labour! There must still be labour, but it is not to be of that toilsome character that it once was. (Bishop Simpson.) It is not a local coming to Christ, which is now impossible, but a movement of heart and mind to Him.
- The class of persons that our Saviour wan supposed to have in view. 1. Such as were laden with the burden of ceremonial obedience. The observances of Christianity were few and simple, neither occupying much time, nor incurring much expense. They recommended themselves by their significance and force. 2. Such as are oppressed and burdened with a sense of guilt. 3. Such as are endeavouring to erect an edifice of righteousness out of their own performances. 4. Those who are overwhelmed with worldly calamities—the victims of worldly sorrow. 5. Those who are engaged in a restless, uncertain pursuit after felicity in the present state. 6. Those who are heavy laden by speculative pursuits in matters of religion. (Robert Hall, M.A.)
A word in season to the weary:—Causes of weariness. 1. Wounded affections. 2. The disappointment of our desires. 3. Vacancy of mind and the sense of monotony. 4. The load of a guilty conscience is fatiguing. 5. The burden of earnest thought and noble endeavour. (E. Johnson, M.A.)
Desire outruns faculty and causes weariness:—The result would be something monstrous if their energies and abilities grew as fast as their aspirations or their ambitions. As the eye carries the mind in the flash of a moment over a space of country which it would require hours to traverse in the body, so the hot speed of human Desire outruns our slow and pausing faculties. And this a great cause of fatigue; we cannot keep up with ourselves; one part of our nature lags behind another. Or, no sooner is the goal which we had thought a fixed one reached, than another starts up in the new distance, and Desire is still goading us on, refusing us rest. (Ibid.)
Rest not found in mere ceremonial observances:—Both the Wesleys, and Whitefield also, fell for a time into the same mistake. In their endeavours to obtain peace of conscience, in addition to attending every ordinary service of the church, they received the sacrament every Sunday, fasted every Wednesday and Friday, retired regularly every morning and evening for meditation and prayer; they wore the coarsest garments, partook of the coarsest fare, visited the sick, taught the ignorant, ministered to the wants of the needy; and, that he might have more to give away, John Wesley even for a time went barefoot. And yet, with all this, they did not obtain the peace for which their souls craved. (R. A. Bertram.)
The reality of rest:—“Come,” saith Christ, “and I will give you rest.” I will not show you rest, nor barely tell you of rest, but I will give you rest. I am faithfulness itself, and cannot lie, I will give you rest. I that have the greatest power to give it, the greatest will to give it, the greatest right to give it, come, laden sinners, and I will give you rest. Rest is the most desirable good, the most suitable good, and to you the greatest good. Come, saith Christ—that is, believe in Me, and I will give you rest; I will give you peace with God, and peace with conscience: I will turn your storm into an everlasting calm; I will give you such rest, that the world can neither give to you nor take from you. (Thomas Brooks.)
Rest only in God:—Lord, Thou madest us for Thyself, and we can find no rest till we find rest in Thee! (Augustine.)
The weary welcome to rest:—A poor English girl, in Miss Leigh’s home in Paris, ill in body and hopeless in spirit, was greatly affected by hearing some children singing, “I heard the voice of Jesus say.” When they came to the words, “weary, and worn, and sad,” she moaned, “That’s me! That’s me! What did He do? Fill it up, fill it up!” She never rested until she had heard the whole of the hymn which tells how Jesus gives rest to such. By-and-by she asked, “Is that true?” On being answered, “Yes,” she asked, “Have you come to Jesus? Has He given you rest?” “He has.” Raising herself, she asked, “Do you mind my coming very close to you? May be it would be easier to go to Jesus with one who has been before than to go to Him alone.” So saying, she nestled her head on the shoulder of her who watched, and clutching her as one in the agony of death, she murmured, “Now, try and take me with you to Jesus.” (The Sunday at Home.)
Rest for all:—There are many heads resting on Christ’s bosom, but there’s room for yours there. (Samuel Rutherford.)
Rest not inaction:—It is not the lake locked in ice that suggests repose, but the river moving on calmly and rapidly, in silent majesty and strength. It is not the cattle lying in the sun, but the eagle cleaving the air with fixed pinions, that gives you the idea of repose with strength and motion. In creation, the rest of God is exhibited as a sense of power which nothing wearies. When chaos burst into harmony, so to speak, God had rest. (F. W. Robertson.)
Rest in trouble:—I say that men want rest from their troubles, and that the only worthy rest is rest in our trouble. We have our first real impression of what toil is, when we begin, as an apprentice, to learn some trade. Our first real impression of toil brings the first real desire for rest. But all the rest the young man thinks of is the rest of laying down his tools, and leaving the workshop or the warehouse to spend the evening in manly sports. He has no thought yet of that higher rest, which will come, by-and-by, out of skill and facility in the use of tools. (R. Tuck, B.A.)
Resting on the Bible:—In Newport church, in the Isle of Wight, lies buried the Princess Elizabeth (daughter of Charles the First). A marble monument, erected by our Queen Victoria, records in a touching way the manner of her death. She languished in Carisbrook Castle during the wars of the Commonwealth—a prisoner, alone, and separated from all the companions of her youth, tilt death set her free. She was found dead one day, with her head leaning on her Bible, and the Bible open at the words, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The monument in Newport church records this fact. It consists of a female figure reclining her head on a marble book, with our text engraven on the book. Think, my brethren, what a sermon in stone that monument preaches. Think what a standing memorial it affords of the utter inability of rank and high birth to confer certain happiness. Think what a testimony it bears to the lesson before you this day—the mighty lesson that there is no true rest for any one excepting in Christ. Happy will it be for your soul if that lesson is never forgotten.
28 Jesus has previously given an invitation to discipleship with the words δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου, “come after me” (4:19), but only here in all the NT is the direct invitation δεῦτε πρός με, “come to me,” found. Jesus furthermore here continues to call πάντες, “all,” thus including Israel, to himself. The invitation “come to me” is spoken by personified Wisdom several times in Sirach (24:19, 51:23). Sir 51:23–27 (cf. too Sir 6:23–31) serves as a particularly promising background for the present passage. Direct dependence, though probable, cannot be proved. (On the alternative theory of Davies-Allison, arguing for dependence on Exod 33:12–14, see the concluding Comment on v 27 above.) After the initial invitation “draw near to me,” Sirach exhorts his readers to “put your neck under the yoke” (51:26) and notes that after laboring “little” one may find “much rest” (51:27). Jesus thus speaks here in the way that Wisdom was regarded as speaking (rightly Suggs, Wisdom, 106–7), and we have here another important element in wisdom Christology (cf. on 11:19b; see too 23:34), where the Christ is identified with the Wisdom that existed with God from the beginning (cf. Prov 8:1–21, 32–36; 9:4–6). The invitation of Jesus is offered in particular to οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, “those who are laboring and bearing burdens.” These are not the disciples of Jesus (pace Stanton) but those who are not yet his disciples (rightly Deutsch, Hidden Wisdom; Davies-Allison). From the context that follows (see v 29) with its reference to “the yoke,” the reader naturally assumes that this refers to those who are burdened with the effort to obey the law and in this way to arrive at the goal of righteousness (cf. Sir 6:25). It was, however, not the law itself that was burdensome (the law instead was the delight of the pious Israelite; cf. Ps 119 passim) but rather the overwhelming nomism of the Pharisees. The tremendous burden of the minutiae of their oral law fits the description especially well (cf. 23:4: “They bind heavy burdens [φορτία], hard to bear, and lay them on peoples’ shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger”). The Pharisees spoke of 613 commandments, and their hălākôt (“rulings”) involved a complicated casuistry. Jesus appeals particularly to the Pharisaic scribes, the Pharisees and their disciples. Jesus promises to give rest to those who come to him and thus speaks not only as Wisdom does (cf. Sir 6:28; 51:27) but as Yahweh does to Moses in Exod 33:14: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Astonishingly Jesus calls people in the first instance to himself and only subsequently to the yoke of discipleship. It is moreover he, rather than God, who gives rest. Jesus stands not only in the place of Wisdom and truth but even in the place of Yahweh. ἀναπαύσω, “I will give you rest,” connotes here a refreshing and a fulfillment, and thus anticipates messianic or eschatological blessing (on the present experience of the eschatological sabbath, cf. Heb 4:1–11; see Bacchiocchi).
11:28 “Come unto Me” Notice the emphasis was on personal relationship, not on doctrinal content or ritual only. This same truth was repeated often in the Gospel of John.
“weary” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE. The terms in this verse describe heavy labor. They are synonymous.
“heavy-laden” This is a PERFECT PASSIVE PARTICIPLE. These two terms related to the heavy obligations of rabbinical Judaism (cf. Acts 15:10). This same idea was expressed by the Hebrew idiom “yoke” (cf. vv. 29, 30; Matt. 23:4). This was also used metaphorically for the oral tradition of the Jews (Talmud) which had become such a burden that it separated mankind from God rather than bringing them to Him. Judaism had become a barrier instead of a bridge! (Be careful, church!)
“I will give you rest” This is an emphatic grammatical construction. Jesus was saying, “I, myself, will lead you into rest.” “Rest” did not refer to perpetual inactivity but to a time of refreshment and training so as to move out into useful service for Christ.
11:28 Come. To come means to believe (Acts 16:31); to receive (John 1:12); to eat (John 6:35); to drink (John 7:37); to look (Isa. 45:22); to confess (1 Jn. 4:2); to hear (John 5:24, 25); to enter a door (John 10:9); to open a door (Rev. 3:20); to touch the hem of His garment (Matt. 9:20, 21); and to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23).
to Me. The object of faith is not a church, a creed, or a clergyman, but the living Christ. Salvation is in a Person. Those who have Jesus are as saved as God can make them.
all you who labor and are heavy laden. In order to truly come to Jesus, a person must admit that he is burdened with the weight of sin. Only those who acknowledge they are lost can be saved. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is preceded by repentance toward God.
and I will give you rest. Notice that rest here is a gift; it is unearned and unmerited. This is the rest of salvation that comes from realizing that Christ finished the work of redemption on Calvary’s cross. It is the rest of conscience that follows the realization that the penalty of one’s sins has been paid once for all and that God will not demand payment twice.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 2, pp. 274–276). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 321–322). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 447–448). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St. Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 450–451). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 42–44). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 203–204). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Exell, J. S. (1952). The Biblical Illustrator: Matthew (pp. 222–225). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
 Hagner, D. A. (1993). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, p. 323). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, p. 102). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1246). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.