Christianity, as depicted in the Gospels, is not a one-time prayer or decision, but basically enrollment in Jesus’ school of discipleship. Think about it: anyone can apply, there is no financial admission fee, the teacher is always present when the text is open, the whole world is a classroom, the course duration lasts for a lifetime, and graduation is guaranteed! Discipleship is the most restful activity and the only pathway to real peace and wholeness. A Christian “disciple” (mathetes; found over 216 times in the Gospels) is one who has made a life-time commitment “to follow” (akolouthein) Jesus as Lord. Consequently, disciples receive rest, that quality of Life Jesus promises for the rest of life! So how does one become a disciple?
Discipleship is a serious choice and a day-by-day commitment, yet in reality it is a response to Jesus’ invitation that Matthew (11:28-29) elucidates. It necessitates at least three fundamental actions directly centered on the person of Christ: First he says, “Come unto me.” Those weary and worn out by the burden of their sins, self-righteousness, or religious demands Jesus graciously invites to have a relationship with him. All who trustingly follow Jesus will experience wholeness–the rest of salvation (v. 28). This is precisely how one can have peace with God and personally know God as Father (Rom. 5:1; Jn. 1:11-12)
The next step, “Take my yoke” (Matt. 11:29), ensues with a deeper encounter with Jesus and added responsibility for him. Notice this as another kind of rest disciples find after coming to Christ. What an exchange! Giving over their burdens to Jesus and taking up his yoke, they discover rest in submission. Continuing to trust and obey, they paradoxically find his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Their new task is tailor-made and not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3), since they can breathe through and benefit from it. This is how one acknowledges Jesus as Lord of their lives and knows “the peace of God” (Phil. 4:7).
The above steps may involve a crisis yet the third is a process: “Learn [from] me.” What Jesus’ followers quickly learn in communion with Christ is that he is meek toward people. Jesus and all who follow him serve others and never dominate people. Even if not appreciated or treated unjustly, they do not take vengeance. This would be the opposite of meekness (Num.12:3; 1 Cor. 4:21) Further, disciples learn how their Master is always absolutely humble in heart before God (Matt. 11:25-27; 18:1-14). The opposite of humility is human pride, which God detests and absolutely resists (Jas. 4:6-10). Meekness and humility are the two core courses offered in Jesus’ seminary.
After receiving the rest of salvation and discovering double rest in submission, now the disciple can be at rest in Christian service. This phase has the joy of having Christ’s Spirit as Guide as we experience the presence of the God of peace (Phil. 4:9). Sadly, Christian ministry, which ought to be the most restful activity, becomes stressful. Why is this so? Could it be perhaps because the yoke is not that of Christ’s but our own making? Only the Lord’s load leads to real rest, so… come, take, and learn; become Jesus’ disciple!