Every year we celebrate Labor Day as the final chance to get away at the closing of summer. Most of us think of backyard barbeques, picnics, or trips, and laboring is the last thing on our minds during the three-day weekend. Many congregations used to have big church picnics on Labor Day.
How did we get this holiday? In 1882 Peter J. McGuire, a leader of the Knights of Labor, proposed a special holiday to honor workers. This idea was supported by the labor unions in New York City and a parade was held on September 5, 1882. Two years later the group decided to hold the parade every year on that day, and they named it Labor Day. Many states began declaring an official Labor Day, and in 1894 the United States Congress passed a resolution making the event a legal holiday.
During this special day we are to rest from our labors. God has also provided us a special rest for all of us who labor. Jesus explains it in Matthew 11:25-30.
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will."
We live in a very scientific age with many technological advancements. More and more, people are relying on "experts to determine how they live their life what kind of foods they eat, how to raise their children, how to view life, and even how to understand God. Someone will have a long title after their name and years of education, and we immediately assume that they must have all kinds of wisdom. But the fact is God reveals himself to the simple in faith. Sometimes the common laborer has more sense than all the experts and scholars. This doesnt mean that education is not important it is. But let us not allow human knowledge to be a substitute for divine wisdom.
Jesus is going to reveal something to his disciples. These were not educated men. But they were men who loved God. Jesus is offering his disciples and us a special rest. The first thing we see about this rest is that it is not for just an elite group. It is for everyone, even the babies of this world the ones who are powerless or considered unimportant. Jesus did not come to help only those who are rich or wise or in positions of power. He also came to help the poor, the outcasts, the sinners. He came for you and me. No one is too unimportant or too ignorant or too backward to be reached by Gods blessings. He loves all people, even the unlovely.
Atkinson wrote concerning the word babes, "spiritual babes, who receive Gods revelation in simple faith."
All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Next, Christ tells his disciples that all things have been delivered to him by his Father. He is giving an analogy that his followers can understand. We know how an earthly father hands down his teachings and values to his children. So Christ received everything from his Father. And now he was going to reveal these precious eternal truths to his disciples and to us.
Remember that school teacher when you were growing up who made you feel special? There was something about them that you knew they cared about you. You could tell they were there for reasons other than to just get a paycheck. These were special teachers who inspired you, encouraged you, and caused you to try harder. They made you feel special.
Christ is about to make us feel special. He is going to reveal something to us. He has chosen us to reveal it to. Because we have accepted him as our Savior, we have unique privileges. We dont have to toil and suffer as others do. Even in the midst of toil, we have special help. We have a God-given privilege. It is because of his mercy and his love toward us that he is going to reveal this to us.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Are you tired from work or are you burdened with cares and responsibilities? Jesus said, "come to me." Christ has chosen to give us a distinctive Labor Day. He has chosen to give us a special rest. But we have to come to him. When we come to him, he has promised that he will give us rest for our souls.
What task of yours is too great to bear? Do you feel worn out and crushed by the daily grind? Christ wants you to come to him for rest. He will give you peace and ease and comfort.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
In Jesus day two oxen were yoked together to help pull a burden. Gower explains, "The yoke itself was simply a rough beam tied across the necks of a pair of animals and held in place by two vertical sticks that came down each side of the neck and tied beneath. The animals used were oxen if possible.... The amount of land that a pair of oxen could plough in a day became a standard measurement."
Christ is telling us that if we have a burden to carry, he will help us pull it. We dont have to grunt and strain on our own. We will have help. As we take Christs yoke upon us, we will learn from the one who knows how to handle suffering and trials. He will show us the easy way to handle the load. And we will find that the load is not as heavy as we thought. We will gain a peace in our souls as we see the burden lifted and the work made easy.
MacDonald wrote, "This does not mean that there are no problems, trials, labor, or heartaches in the Christian life. But it does mean that we do not have to bear them alone. We are yoked with One who gives sufficient grace for every time of need. To serve Him is not bondage but perfect freedom."
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When we yoke up with Christ, we will find our labor is easy and we will find the burden is lighter than we had imagined. Notice that Christ refers to the yoke and the burden as his he says, "my yoke is easy," and "my burden is light." When we come to Jesus, he takes the load for us. We come under his yoke, and he takes our burden from us.
What responsibility has been weighing you down? What tasks seem to overwhelm you? Christ said he will take your burdens and will give you rest. Wont you let him have them? When we do, it is then that we find rest.
This study on Matthew 11:25-30 © 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Atkinson: The New Bible Commentary pg. 788, 1954 edition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Gower: The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times pg. 91-92 © 1987, Moody Press
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 63 © 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers