What is the rest Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel? We know that rest is what happens when movement stops. Taking up a yoke or bearing a burden certainly does not imply physically stopping – the load must be carried all the way to the destination. The rest that Jesus is talking about cannot be the rest of stopping and taking a break – it can’t be something physical. The rest, He explains, is rest “for the soul.” That means our souls endure a kind of motion or movement that Jesus wants to stop. Interior movements can cause a kind of exhaustion that Jesus wants to eliminate. Faith, on the one hand, gives us rest from the interior motivations that would move us in meaningless and exhausting directions. On the other hand, faith impels us to continue moving towards our final destination with Jesus.
GREGORY THE GREAT:
For “night” is this present life, and as long as we are in it, we are covered with a mist of uncertain imaginations as far as the sight of inward objects is concerned. For the prophet was sensible that he was held by a certain mist in his sight of the Lord, when he says, “My soul longed for you in the night.” As if he were to say, I long to behold you in the obscurity of this present life, but I am still surrounded by the mist of infirmity.1
The time when our external enemy the devil will be under our feet is when the internal enemy, covetousness, has been healed, and we shall be living in peace. What sort of peace? The sort that “eye has not seen nor ear heard.” What sort of peace? The sort that no imagination can conceive and no quarreling intrude on. What sort of peace? The sort about which the apostle said, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts.” About this peace the prophet Isaiah says, “O Lord our God, give us peace, for you have given us everything you promised.” You promised Christ; you have given him to us. You promised his cross and the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sins; you have given them to us. You promised his ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit from heaven; you have given them to us. You promised us a church spread throughout the world; you have given it. You promised there would be heretics to try us and put us through our paces, and the church would triumph over their errors; you have given this. You promised the abolition of the idols of the heathen; you have given it.2
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA:
And we have learned also to say in our prayers, “O Lord our God, grant us your peace, for you have given us everything,” so that if anyone becomes partaker of the peace furnished by God, he will not be lacking any good thing.3
Suppose anyone has a wound; which should we most deservedly fear, gangrene or the surgeon’s knife? The steel or the devouring progress of the ulcer? Sin is a gangrene; punishment is the surgeon’s knife. If someone has gangrene and does not have surgery, he does not merely remain ill, he gets worse. In the same way the sinner, though he is not punished, is the most wretched of people; and he is then especially wretched when he has no punishment and is suffering no distress.4
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM:
Do not listen to those who say that this body is not raised up; for raised it is, as Isaiah witnesses, saying, “The dead shall arise, and they in the tombs shall be raised.” Or, as Daniel says, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall arise, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame.” But while rising again is the common lot of all people, the manner of rising again is not alike for all. For while we all receive everlasting bodies, those bodies are not alike for all. That is to say, the righteous receive such bodies as may enable them to join with the band of angels throughout eternity, while sinners received bodies in which to undergo through the ages the torture of their sins.5
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA:
Stand apart from the inclination to love sin and to love the flesh. Turn to deeds worthy of praise. Draw near to me, so that you may become sharers of the divine nature and partakers of the Holy Spirit. Jesus called everyone, not only the people of Israel. As the Maker and Lord of all, he spoke to the weary Jews who did not have the strength to bear the yoke of the law. He spoke to idolaters heavy laden and oppressed by the devil and weighed down by the multitude of their sins. To Jews he said, “Obtain the profit of my coming to you. Bow down to the truth. Acknowledge your Advocate and Lord. I set you free from bondage under the law, bondage in which you endured a great deal of toil and hardship, unable to accomplish it easily and accumulating for yourselves a very great burden of sins.”6
- MORALS ON THE BOOK OF JOB 5.23.39. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (pp. 171–172). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 77A.2. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (pp. 175–176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- LETTER 39.2. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES CONCERNING THE STATUES 6.14. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (pp. 176–177). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CATECHETICAL LECTURES 4.31. McKinion, S. A. (Ed.). (2004). Isaiah 1-39 (pp. 180–181). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENT 149. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 232). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.