Rest has been a tumultuous topic for me over the past two weeks. I went through three nights in which I couldn’t sleep, and after those I had to force myself to stay awake throughout the day. I then slept like a hibernating bear for the following two nights, couldn’t sleep the night after that, and proceeded to sleep almost the entire following afternoon. As I write/complain about my resting issues, I simultaneously recognize that I am a healthy, childless female in my mid-twenties. If you have kids or have gone through menopause you’re probably shaking your head while you read this, thinking, “Oh, you just wait!” I know, I get it. We all go through phases in which rest becomes a bit more elusive.
While I was reading Matthew 12 today I got a different sense of how Jesus understood rest. In the text, Jesus and his friends walk through a wheat field on the Sabbath, and they pick heads of wheat to eat because they’re hungry. The Pharisees see the Disciples picking the wheat and accuse Jesus, saying, “Look, your disciples are breaking the Sabbath law” (v. 1-2). They said this because, during the first Century, Jewish scholars debated the meaning of the Commandment to not work on the Sabbath. Jesus then uses the Tanakh (the Old Testament) to call the Pharisees into question. He references 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Numbers 28:9-10, and Hosea 6:6 to reveal the reasons he has authority to allow his Disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath, and why his interpretation of the Torah Commandment has authority over theirs.
This scenario occurs numerous times throughout the gospels: Jesus and his Disciples do something that constitutes “work” on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees and Scribes then question him. What distinguishes this particular story is actually what happens just before the first verses of chapter 12. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus states, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”