23 May 2022

Come, I will give you rest

Bible study by Major Noreen Batt

Major Noreen Batt reminds us that Jesus offers us a way to work, rest and play in his Kingdom.

Key texts

An advert for a certain chocolate bar declared that eating one of them a day would help us ‘work, rest and play’. This simple slogan is embedded in my childhood memory and so the power of advertising lives on! Yet, if we ponder that phrase in the context of these verses in Matthew’s Gospel, we sense the rhythms of life and grace that Jesus offers us – to work, rest and play in his Kingdom.

Pause and reflect

  • What are the rhythms of work, rest and play in your life?

Jesus leaves us under no illusion that the bringing in of God’s Kingdom involves hard work and action. When John sends a delegation of his disciples to question whether Jesus actually is the Messiah, Jesus points them to the visible evidence of the invisible work of God – the blind can see, the lame can walk, the leper is cleansed, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised to life and the good news is proclaimed. That all takes work, time and involvement in other people’s lives. It takes exertion of energy and passion to bring fullness of life to others.

A lake in the British countryside

Matthew 11:28

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'

Read Matthew 11

Jesus had unbounded energy for life and love. He didn’t appear to spend his life outwardly resting – and yet perhaps there is rest at the very heart of him, because he knew why he was doing what he was doing: ‘My food ... is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’ (John 4:34). Perhaps his energy for life came from that deep place of rest that TS Eliot described as ‘the still point of the turning world’.

Pause and reflect

  • Why do you do all the work you do?
  • Why does your corps or centre do all its work?

Jesus knew that his work and his ministry would cause hardship for many as they refused to change their ways when the Kingdom of God was revealed among them. It was painful for him to know that his miracle-making work would be rejected; it would be more painful for the communities who turned their back on God than it had been for the people of Sodom in the days of Abraham. This is a hard-hitting truth – that the work of the Kingdom can be as painful and life-challenging as it is glorious and transformative.

I wonder if, in the words of Ignatius of Loyola, we are prepared to ‘give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds’ – or whether we long for the easier, pain-free way of not challenging the status quo and of not declaring God’s Kingdom but simply going with the flow.

Pause and reflect

  • Are we resting more than we like to admit when it comes to the things of the Kingdom of God?

While we scratch our heads and wring our hands trying to understand these Kingdom matters and what Jesus is saying, we can imagine him with a twinkle in his eye as he talks with his Father, who has already revealed Kingdom truths to little children. There is a playful side to their relationship that is disarming (see vv25–27).

Such playfulness, which is inherent to children who are allowed to play, is perhaps another source of real rest at the heart of the mysteries about God and his Kingdom. We don’t understand it all; our human wisdom and knowledge will not bring us into the depths of who God is. But childlike trust and an openness to see and hear things in an unfettered way – and enjoy God’s company in a playful way – may create that well of rest that can be a source of great energy for our lives.

Pause and reflect

  • How does playfulness in your life create a place of rest in God?

And then we hear Jesus say the words we quote so often to ourselves and to others: ‘Come to me ... and I will give you rest’ (v28). The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he never promises the kind of life he does not live himself.

He does not promise to take away our burdens but to help us learn a new way of bearing them, from a place of rest and trust; he doesn’t promise to change our circumstances but to change us as we learn gentleness and humility. Jesus does not offer rest as a commodity but as a relationship: go with him and he will give you rest.

What does the rest that Jesus offers look like for you?

Let's pray

Lord, it is sometimes difficult for us to feel at ease about resting. There are so many tasks to fulfil that can overtake and overwhelm us. Help us to hear your voice and remember that you know what is best for us.


Written by

Noreen Batt

Major Noreen Batt

Divisional Leader for Leader Development, Wales

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