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‘Ultimate Rest’: The Red River Cart

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As I Was Saying

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner. 


Not too long ago I was visiting with an Elder, and she gave me a small wooden replica of what is known as a  “Red River Cart.” This cart was built and used regularly by the Métis people of the prairie provinces and early settlers in Canada for transport of goods during the early 1800s. It also was used in some of the upper United States just below the prairies. This was before the railroad took over bulk transportation. This all-purpose cart was used not only for the transportation of goods but was also used as a makeshift house and was easily repaired, because everything was made of wood. As a home on the road, it gave rest to weary travelers. And it gave rest to horses pulling it when the people reached a river or large stream, as the wheels could be taken off, and the cart could be floated across the water.

Matthew 11:28 says, “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” The context of this verse comes from Jesus giving encouragement to his disciples, who knew all too well the burden and heaviness of following the Old Testament law—all the rules attached to the written laws recorded in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, but then there were 613 laws to keep everything and everybody ceremonially clean.

The Pharisees and other religious teachers were famous for wanting all the Jewish followers to keep all these laws and rules, but they weren’t the greatest at doing the same thing. In Matthews 23 it says the Pharisees put heavy burdens on people’s backs. At that time oxen used to plow fields with a yoke on their backs that pulled the plows, which were directed by the laborer in the field. Jesus uses these analogies of burdens, yokes, and labor to point to the main point of finding rest—not just any type of rest, but a spiritual rest that can only come from Jesus himself.

When Jesus lives in your heart you have access to this ultimate form of rest, a type of rest that is applied to every part of your being—physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. This rest doesn’t mean there is no work to do. It means that as you are doing the work God has called you to do, in your family, church, and community, the workload is manageable. In fact, Jesus carries the load, because his heavenly Father is the one who called you to the work in the first place. God through Jesus Christ won’t call you to something he won’t enable you to do.

The “Red River Cart” was so popular, usable, and fixable because every part of it was made of wood. Even if they didn’t have the extra parts with them, the family would take a rest in the shade, while dad went and found a good piece of wood to use.  Maybe it had to be shaved, carved, or trimmed, but nonetheless the parts were already all around them. With Jesus in our lives, he is in our hearts and never leaves us. He left his Holy Spirit to help us too. In Hebrews 7:25 it says that Jesus prays and intercedes for us.

No matter what is happening around us, we can be reminded that Jesus not only died for our sins and gives us an eternal home in heaven, but he also gives us rest as we do what he has called us to do. Just as the “Red River Cart” was able to float across the deep rivers and streams, with the water taking on the brunt of the weight, Jesus laid down his life so he could take on the brunt of the weight as we are living our lives, crossing all sorts of streams and raging rivers in life. I pray that as you have read this story you will stay in touch with Jesus, the one who gives ultimate rest.

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