Jesus Promising Spiritual Rest
Two of the Lord's "exceedingly great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4) are found in our present verses: "I will give you rest" and "you will find rest for your souls." These promises supplement well our earlier studies on God's promises and God's rest. The first promise pertains to justification and spiritual birth. The second pertains to sanctification and spiritual growth.
The first promise is addressed to those who are struggling under the burden of guilt and condemnation related to sin: "all you who labor and are heavy laden." This is where everyone begins their earthly trek. David testified of this common starting point for humanity. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5).
In order to enjoy the benefits of this initial promise of rest, a person must bring their sin and guilt to Jesus. "Come to Me." The Lord Jesus can remove this load of guilt, because He carried that burden of sin for us on the cross. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). For all who come to Jesus in humble repentance, forgiveness is granted. The promise is fulfilled. "I will give you rest."
The second promise is addressed to those who have found the initial rest of forgiveness, but their soul is restless. They are struggling under the burden of trying to produce a godly life by their own fleshly resources. "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3). They yearn for rescue from the crushing load of walking according to the flesh. "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).
In order to enjoy the benefits of this additional promise of rest, a person must yoke up with Jesus (walk with Him in daily intimacy). "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me." This yoke is not for the purpose of pulling half of the load (like the yoke placed upon two oxen). "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." This is a yoke of relationship and communion. "Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart." Those who walk this path of growing communion with the Lord have this second promise fulfilled. "You will find rest for your souls."