Kevin Reilly – Gdansk, Poland
For many of us, we live with the idea that rest and holiday are a means of escaping the pressures of life. There is, of course, a truth in this; but a more biblical understanding of rest offers us something quite different.
Firstly, we must understand there is no rest apart from Jesus Christ – he himself makes this plain. Rest is a gift from Jesus and therefore all attempts to rest apart from him, are merely human attempts to escape life’s pressures. They may provide temporary relief, but before long, we will find ourselves weary and burdened once again.
Come to me…says Jesus…all you who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).
Biblical rest is all about proximity – Come to me Jesus says; and so real rest is found as we approach him, as we come to him. Pulling up to the holiday home will rightly excite us and will (hopefully) deliver, but if this is all it is, then our rest will be temporary and elusive.
Come to me – Jesus says…but where are we to find him?
Psalm 110 offers us some insight here. It’s a Messianic scripture and is one of the most quoted psalms of the New Testament. Jesus, Peter, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews all make reference to Psalm 110 with regard to the present position of Jesus as the all-powerful, ever-present, ascended, seated and superior King.
(v1) The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
David looks up and sees the Messiah seated at the right hand of his Father; his enemies are being subdued and in keeping with the custom of ancient kings – the Messiah sits. He is victorious. The battle is over. It is finished. He is at rest.
Where is Jesus? He is ascended. Seated. Ruling. Resting.
But then David looks around, and finds the Messiah present. Near.
(v2) The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
His power and his rule is extended from Zion – the dwelling place of God – and so we find the Messiah present in the midst of his enemies (v2).
Jesus Christ – seated and victorious. Jesus Christ – present in the earth (in the age of the church) overcoming and establishing his ever-increasing rule in the earth. The rest of heaven, being expressed in the earth through the faithful presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and the church.
When Jesus says Come to me, we are to understand that we must approach one whose victory is complete and who is now seated upon a throne of grace. But we are also to understand that we approach one who is present, standing in the midst of our pressures – the Holy Spirit, ever faithful and ever-present and ever-ruling. Our rest is found here – in a place of perfect equilibrium – Jesus seated. Jesus standing.
If God is only distant and seated, then it’s down to me to get away and escape life’s pressures, once in a while. If God is still trying to wrestle the world into submission, then how can I approach him for rest? He’s not even resting himself!
Like Jesus, we are seated and resting in heavenly places (Eph 2:6) and we are also present and labouring in the earth (1 Cor 3:9). Our rest – whether sabbath, vacation or otherwise – is found in the presence of Christ, in the reality of these two truths.
And so biblical rest is never an escape from pressure; rather it is to find the resting Messiah in the midst of life’s pressures and battles. We find our rest at a table set before us in the presence of our enemies (Ps 23).
In A Band of Brothers (a mini-series that follows members of the US 101st Airborne during WW2), Major Richard Winters responds to the news that his unit in Bastogne, France is about to be surrounded.
“We’re paratroopers, Lieutenant. We’re supposed to be surrounded.”
We’re Christians, we’re supposed to be surrounded and there’s no escaping this reality in this present age. But the ascended and resting Jesus is also present, ruling in the midst of our enemies, offering rest to those who choose to come to him.