“I Will Give You Rest”
(Matthew 11:25-30 – Pentecost 7 – July 19, 2020)
Matthew 11:25-30 – 25At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Dear fellow Redeemed in Christ our Savior, who gives us rest for our souls:
At this time of year, many people think of getting away on vacation. Sometimes, after having one’s nose to the grindstone with the daily work, responsibilities, and stresses of life, it’s good to lay aside some of those burdens for a time and gain fresh perspective. As our Creator, God understands our need for rest, when it comes to our body and mind. If we do not take time to rest, we can become burnt out and negatively affected, physically and mentally. So we thank God for the ways He enables us to get away – whether by the gift of vacation at certain times of the year, or even in daily activities and interests that refresh us
Even more importantly, God understands our need for rest when it comes to our soul. As sinners living in a sin-fallen in world, we bear spiritual burdens that no amount of getting away physically or mentally can remove. If we do not take time to rest our soul in the grace of God in Christ, we will meet with spiritual burnout. So we thank God that He comes to us with His soul refreshing grace in Word and Sacrament. No matter what burden we bear, we hear His heart-lifting Word: “I forgive you in the name of My Son, who was crucified and rose again for you. So be at peace. As My beloved children in Christ, I am working in all things for your good.”
As our Savior who won our eternal life and salvation, Jesus addresses our deepest needs as He says, “I Will Give You Rest”: 1) Rest from your burdens, 2) Rest in My salvation.
1) Rest from your burdens
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus’ words describe a person laboring on and on, continually working with his nose to the grindstone, trying to accomplish his purpose. But finally for all his work, he only ends up heavy laden, unsatisfied, saddled with many burdens that still weigh on his heart and soul.
How often does this characterize the activity of man in this sin-fallen world? These days, it is easy to focus on all the unrest in the world; and the more we do, the more we feel burdened. News reports go on and on, like heavy waves crashing to the shore; bringing report after report of unrest in issues of health, economy, politics, crime, social conflict, wars and rumors of wars, and so on. There are waves of unrest and conflict in homes and breakup of families. There is unrest and dissatisfaction with job conditions. There is unrest and sorrow over sickness and death. We have all felt the unrest and anxiety of wondering what the future may hold for our loved ones and us. It is a broken world we live in; a world fallen in sin, subject to many evils.
“There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The descendants of Adam and Eve continue to labor on, as they have through the ages, trying to fix what is broken. And how often, their labor is man-centered; it leaves God out of the picture. For every burden and stress of life, the world offers its solutions in human accomplishments. It promises rest and happiness for our soul in what we might labor to gain for ourselves. If we can just get the right leaders in office, we might finally fix the economy and resolve social conflicts. If we can just discover the right medicine, we might finally improve the quality of life. If we just work hard enough together, we might finally make the world a better place and make the news easier to watch. Or maybe closer to home, if I can just get that job, or gain that wealth, or finally reach retirement… if I can just reach that carrot on a stick, then I will have arrived, then I can find peace and happiness.
For ages, man has dreamed of changing the world, seeking a lost Paradise, but not finding it. After laboring to gain all he could ever want, he is still left saying with Solomon: “I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
The Mayo Clinic website defines job burnout as work-related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion with a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Diagnostic questions include: Have you become cynical or critical at work? Have you become irritable or impatient with others? Do you lack satisfaction from achievements? Do you feel disillusioned about your job? Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
Might we say that, in many ways, this world is in a state of burnout? We see the loss of personal identity, the disillusionment, the cynicism, the irritability between people, the addictions, and the unfeeling hopelessness. At the pinnacle of his accomplishments man may boast that, even without God, he can do anything if he puts his mind to it. Yet after laboring on, the next generation of the children of Adam and Eve still live in a sin-broken world.
This brokenness touches us all. As hard as we try, we cannot fix the Old Adam, the sinful nature inside. Haven’t we tried? Haven’t we resolved to do what is right and become better people? We have said: “I’m going to resist that temptation and just say ‘No!’ Then I’ll feel better about myself.” Or: “I’m going to stop being so selfish, and start putting others’ needs before my own; then maybe I’ll make myself more likable.” Or we may say: “I’m going to start putting God first in my life and doing His will.” And sometimes, we may think this is the way to make ourselves more likable to God: “Look at the labors of my hands, Lord.”
Of course, this is the natural inclination of man when it comes to seeking spiritual rest. Human wisdom teaches that, just as you must work your way up the ladder in your job and earn your place in the world, so you need to work your way up and earn your place in the spiritual world. The wisdom of man offers a myriad of self-improvement courses, methods to meditate and get in touch with the divine, ways to get right with God through the works you do.
But after doing our best, we still find ourselves looking at the same old sinner in the mirror. We find ourselves again thinking wrong and shameful thoughts, saying and doing things that hurt others, putting ourselves before God. In fact, the harder we try to do all that is right, the more we must confess with the apostle Paul in our Epistle lesson: “The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice…” And we find ourselves asking: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:19, 24)
After laboring on and on, we still feel the burden of our fallen condition. Where in the world can we go on vacation when the problem comes with us? Where can sinners find rest from a burdened conscience, and rest before the all-seeing eye of God?
2) Rest in My salvation
The answer is not in running away to hide in our own solutions; the answer is in running to the grace of God, which He brings His peace and rest to sinners, through the saving work of His Son. Just when we faced burnout of the worst kind, He came to us with His gracious invitation: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Our Creator came as our Redeemer, to heal a fallen world. Jesus preached Good News for broken sinners: “What is impossible with men is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). Do not look to your sin corrupted works to save you; look to My perfect work to fulfill all righteousness for you; look to My cross, where I take away all your sin. Do not labor for that which spoils in this passing world; look to the new heavens and earth I will bring. Behold, I make all things new for you! Whoever believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Who will receive this free gift of salvation, this rest for souls Jesus has brought? Jesus prays: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” The worldly “wise and prudent” labor on, believing in the goodness and strength of man to save himself. They reject the message of the cross as foolish, asking: “Why do we need such a Savior? How can the crucified one give us the life we want?” But Jesus says His Gospel is revealed “to babes.” This describes nursing children, who in their weakness depend on their mother’s milk to provide nourishment and life. The Holy Spirit gives us childlike faith to confess that as sinners we cannot provide our spiritual and eternal life. He brings us to rest in Christ’s forgiveness and salvation. He gives us faith as children who look to our heavenly Father to provide every good and perfect gift in Christ.
Jesus invitation to such rest in His salvation goes out to the whole world: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” A yoke is a wooden beam placed across the necks of to join work animals together. What is the yoke of rest Jesus gives? It is not a new burden of laws for us to help work out our salvation. It is the Gospel yoke by which He joins us to Himself giving us all the benefits of His salvation.
Jesus already bore that heaviest yoke under the beam of His cross, when He died to take away our burden of sin. All the sins of selfish thoughts, words, and actions that have caused unrest in our relationships, He took away. All the sins of giving into temptations that led only to more unrest in our heart, He took away. All the sins of putting the things of this world and ourselves before God, so we become emptier in our souls, He took away. All our sins that have ever separated us from peace with God and true rest for our souls, Jesus has born on the cross.
So Jesus is the one who has saved us from this body of death (Romans 7:24-25). He has freed us from sin’s guilt and condemnation. He has yoked us to Himself by Baptism and faith. He has lifted us up in a brand new life and status before God. Jesus presents us to His Father, clothed in His perfect life, forgiven children, and heirs of eternal life with Him. Therefore Jesus invites us to rest in His Father’s eternal love as His dear children.
Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” As those yoked together with Him, we still face the burdens of life in a fallen world. As we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, we feel the scorn of the world wise. But our burden is light because He lifts us up. The waves of bad news may come crashing, threatening to overwhelm us; but we are yoked together with Him who is still the Creator and Lord of all. As children who learn from Him, we turn to His Word and hear Him say: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). The waves of temptation and sin still come crashing, threatening to overwhelm us; but we are yoked together with Him who is still our Redeemer and Savior. We turn to the Word of Him who is “gentle and lowly in heart,” and we hear His uplifting Word of absolution: “Take heart, your sins are forgiven; go in peace” (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48-50).
You see, it does not matter whether we are on vacation, enjoying the most serene setting in the world; or whether we have our nose to the grind stone, laboring by the sweat of our brow. Day by day, we are yoked together with Him who says: “I will give you rest.” We face each day knowing He loves us with the same love He had the day He gave His life for us. As our Brother in the flesh, He goes beside us one who truly understands the burdens of life in this fallen world; and as our God, He is powerful to answer our prayers and work all things for our good.
And one day, He will bring us to His perfect rest, in the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). Never again will there be bad news, never again any effects of sin and evil. We will be free from every burden. We will experience the perfect love of our God and Savior, face to face. We will share His perfect love with all who have passed from this great tribulation into His heavenly presence. We will join saints and angels in praise to Him who gave His life to bring us such a wonderful eternity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.